Shakespeare in Song: Saturday 30th April 2016

]Next Concert – Saturday 30 April 7.30pm

St Saviour’s Church
St Albans

Vaughan Williams  Serenade to Music
Vaughan Williams  Three Shakespeare songs

And works by Shearing, Mäntyjärvi, Moeran, Rodney Bennett & Milner

Conductor John  Gibbons

Readings by Rosemarie Partridge & Terry Prince

William Shakespeare’s verse has long been an inspiration and source for many composers. In celebration of the four- hundredth anniversary of his death, this concert features a selection of songs and music, setting lyrics drawn from the bard’s plays and sonnets, where the timeless beauty of his words is enhanced by song.

The programme includes the choral version of Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, which was dedicated to Sir Henry Wood. Its text is an adaptation of the discussion about music between the lovers Jessica and Lorenzo from the beginning of Act V of The Merchant of Venice. Declarations of love are juxtaposed with comparisons of the movement of heavenly bodies (the “music of the spheres”), while contemplating the beauty of music by night and by day. At its premiere in 1938, this exquisite and passionate setting moved Rachmaninov to tears.

Other Vaughan Williams works being performed include Three Shakespeare Songs, with words drawn from The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These expressive miniatures for unaccompanied choir range from the eerie portrayal of underwater bells in Full Fathom Five to the nimble and flighty Over Hill, Over Dale.

The programme also features two delightful groups of settings by composer, jazz pianist and swing-band leader George Shearing, who drew on Shakespeare’s sonnets for the words to his Music to Hear and Songs and Sonnets. Other Shakespeare songs by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, E J Moeran, Anthony Milner are also included, as is Richard Rodney Bennett’s Full Fathom Five, another of the three very different versions of Ariel’s song in the programme.

The performance is interspersed with Shakespearean readings by Rosemarie Partridge and Terry Prince of The Company of Ten, and is conducted by our Musical Director, John Gibbons.

Tickets £14 (£1 child/student)
Tel 07570 454744 or email
or online at allaboutstalbans

 Part of the St Albans Shakespeare Festival

Mystical Experiences

Next Concert – Saturday 25 October 7.30pm

St Saviour’s Church
St Albans

The centrepiece of this musical exploration of religious mysticism is the spectacular 40-part motet Spem in alium by the 16th century English composer, Thomas Tallis (c.1505 – 1585), considered to be one of the greatest of all Renaissance choral works.  In his masterpiece, Tallis makes wonderful use of the space created between the eight, five-part choirs, often interweaving the 40 different parts to create a glorious tapestry of sound that gives the listener an insight into the devotional zeal which inspired the work.

In the generation before Tallis, the Flemish composer Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/55 – 1521), was considered the greatest composer of his time. His remarkable 24-part composition Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi entrances the ear with its intricate vocal patterns that seem to pivot around a single chord.

Many commentators hear a mystical intensity in the music of Tomás Luis de Victoria, (1548 – 1611), the most famous composer of the Spanish “Golden Age”. Perhaps this is no surprise seeing that he was an ordained priest as well as a composer, and his religious conviction shines throughout all his work.  This is evident in his Missa Laetatus sum for 12-part choir, renowned for its passionate fervour and published in 1600 when Victoria was at the height of his powers.

Religious experience continues to inspire composers today, and the programme includes Woefully Arrayed, a piece by the choir’s musical director, John Gibbons,  in which he sets a powerful meditation of Christ on the Cross attributed to the Tudor poet John Skelton, and Jonathan Dove’s settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, The Far Theatricals of Day.