Hail! Bright Cecilia
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’s A 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.
Tickets £15 (£5 child/student)
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