Saturday 23 November at 7:30pm, St Peter’s Church, St Albans.
Twentieth and twenty-first-century British composers celebrate the patron saint of music.
Benjamin Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia
James MacMillan: Cecilia Virgo
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Silence and Music
and music by Bliss, Dyson, Gardner, Howells, Jackson and Walton
Samantha Cobb – soprano Martin Stacey – organ
Conducted by John Gibbons
The legendary Christian saint, Cecilia, suffered martyrdom in Rome around 230 AD. It was said that she sang to God as she was dying, leading the Catholic Church to adopt her as the patron saint of music and musicians.
Her feast day has been celebrated on 22 November since the fourth century and for many centuries has been the occasion for concerts and music festivals, resulting in a large number of pieces dedicated to her.
Benjamin Britten, himself born on St Cecilia’s Day, composed his own Hymn to St Cecilia in 1942, setting WH Auden’s poem Anthem for St Cecilia’s Day. The broadcast of this work in 1946 prompted the Musicians Benevolent Fund (now Help Musicians UK) to revive the tradition of an annual service of celebration for St Cecilia in London. Our concert includes three works commissioned for this festival over the years: Sir George Dyson’s Live for ever, glorious Lord (1952), John Gardner’sA song for St Cecilia’s Day (1973) and Sing, mortals! (1974) by Sir Arthur Bliss.
The Choir of Royal Holloway College, London also holds an annual St Cecilia concert and we feature two of their commissions. James MacMillan uses a Latin text dating from the 1500s in his Cecilia Virgo (2012), while Gabriel Jackson’s La Musique uses French and English texts and was jointly commissioned by the choir and Dame Felicity Lott in 2013.
Where does the uttered music go? by Sir William Walton sets words by Poet Laureate John Masefield. It was written for the unveiling of a memorial window to Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Proms, in the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in London on 26 April 1946.
Ralph Vaughan Williams’ setting of his new wife Ursula’s poem Silence and Music is part of A Garland for the Queen, a cycle of part-songs commissioned from leading British composers by the Arts Council of Great Britain to honour Queen Elizabeth II in her Coronation Year (1953).
Herbert Howells also uses words by Ursula Vaughan Williams in his A Hymn for St Cecilia (1961), commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Musicians to mark his Mastership of the Company in 1959–60.
Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the Octagon.
Saturday 12 October at 7:30pm, St Albans Cathedral
Albans Chamber Choir joins its fellow members of the St Albans St Cecilia
Festival Society – The Hardynge Choir, Radlett Choral Society and St Albans
Symphony Orchestra – and Vivamus in St Albans Abbey to perform music with a
– A Sea Symphony – which sets text from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of
Britten – Dawnand Sunday Morningfrom Peter Grimes
Britten – Fanfare
for St Edmundsbury
Dove – Seaside
Postcards – sung by a Massed Children’s Choir from across Hertfordshire
post of conductor for this biennial concert is rotated among the member organisations.
This year it is the turn of Rufus Frowde, Musical Director of The
Hardynge Choir. Rufus read music at Oxford University and is currently Organist
and Assistant Director of Music at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace.
TICKETS (£28 – £10) are available from St Albans Cathedral either online at stalbanscathedral.org/Event/a-sea-symphony or from the Cathedral Box Office (tel 01727 890290) located in the Gift Shop and open 10 am–4.45 pm Monday – Friday, 10 am–3.45 pm Saturday and 1 pm–5 pm Sunday
Saturday 29 June at 7:30pm, St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.
Francis Poulenc: Figure humaine
Ildebrando Pizzetti: Messa da Requiem
and works by Milhaud, Ravel and Sandstrom
The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 brought the First World War to an end. To commemorate the 100th anniversary, we present a programme of music evoking mankind’s longing for a future lived in peace and freedom.
Francis Poulenc’s masterpiece Figure humaine (1943) was written during the German occupation of France in the Second World War. Dedicated to Pablo Picasso, it sets texts by the surrealist poet Paul Eluard which express the ‘suffering of the people reduced to silence’ and the hope of the final ‘triumph of freedom over tyranny’.
The Messa da Requiem (1922) by the Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti was a commission to commemorate King Umberto I, assassinated by an anarchist in 1900, and was written following the death of the composer’s wife. It expresses his ‘need for the hope of peace’.
Darius Milhaud’sCantate de la Paix (1937) is a tribute to the French statesman Aristide Briand, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in negotiating the Locarno Treaties in 1925 following the Treaty of Versailles.
Maurice Ravel wrote the tender song Trois Beaux Oiseaux du Paradis(Three beautiful birds-of-paradise) in 1914 shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. It presents a haunting image of three birds in the colours of the French flag bringing the news of a soldier’s death to the girl waiting for him at home.
In Across the Bridge of Hope, Swedish composer Jan Sandström sets a poem by twelve-year-old Seán McLaughlin, one of the 29 victims of the terrorist car bomb in Omagh in Northern Ireland in August 1998. Written after the Good Friday Agreement the previous April, the poem became the voice of all young victims in a world of war and violence and for their universal longing and hope for peace.
Conducted by John Gibbons, with Hattie Jolly – Flute
Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the church hall.
In the 1840s, Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax set out to invent an instrument that could combine the agility of the woodwinds with the power of the brass instruments, to fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. The result was the saxophone, nowadays said to be the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice in terms of richness of harmonics and expressivity.
Our concert showcases three pieces for alto saxophone and voices, along with two choral works by our president, Will Todd, and other lighter pieces with a city theme.
Timepieces – Three Auden Lyrics (2011) by Ian Stephens sets three poems by WH Auden (Domesday Song, Our bias and Funeral Blues) for alto saxophone and SATB choir.
Richard Sisson set Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Pied Beauty for the choir of Merton College Oxford in celebration of their 750th anniversary in 2015. It uses alto saxophone and organ.
Vocalise (1915) by Sergei Rachmaninoff is a song without words, sung using any one vowel of the singer’s choosing, and has been has been arranged for many different instrument combinations. We will be performing it in an SATB arrangement with alto saxophone and piano.
Will Todd’s Angel Song II (2008) is part of a larger choral work inspired by the idea of voices from heaven. It is another wordless piece; the text is designed to create the echo of the word ‘hosanna’ but with no consonants, so that the music feels as if it comes from ‘on high’.
Songs of Love (2012) sets three works by the Greek neo-romantic poet Maria Polydouri: I Love You, A Kiss and I Sing Because.
The lighter pieces in the programme include arrangements of Tony Hatch’s Downtown, New York, New York by John Kander and Fred Ebb and The House of the Rising Sun (trad.)