Taking its title from a set of brilliant improvisations by Antony Saunders of George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm for choir and piano, this concert showcases jazz-enriched choral music.
John Rutter celebrates another jazz great – George Shearing – in his choral suite Birthday Madrigals, written for his friend’s 75th birthday. Five poems from the era of the Elizabethan madrigal and two by Shakespeare are set to jazz rhythms combined with the styles of the English madrigal and part-song.
In the Beginning by Aaron Copland takes text from the Book of Genesis (King James Version) to describe the six days of creation followed by a day of rest. It is scored for choir and mezzo-soprano soloist.
Mystic composer Morten Lauridsen uses poems in French, Spanish and English by the twentieth century poets Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda and James Agee with the common theme of night in his song cycle Nocturnes for choir and piano.
In Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, composer Eric Whitacre and poet Charles Anthony Silvestri create a soundtrack to Leonardo da Vinci’s imagination as he dreams about the possibility of flight.
Heitor Villa-Lobos believed that if Johann Sebastian Bach had been born in twentieth century Brazil, he would have composed music like the Bachianas Brasileiras suite, fusing his own style with Brazilian folk and popular music. No 9 is written for an ‘orchestra of voices’.
Please join us after the concert for summer refreshments in the garden
A collection of a cappella choral music for Lent on the themes of grief and suffering and the promise of Paradise in the afterlife.
The legendary Miserere by Gregorio Allegri, with its mixture of plainsong and glorious ornamentation, has a complex history. Originally composed in 1638 for the Sistine Chapel Choir, the story goes that transcribing it or performing it elsewhere was prohibited by the Pope on pain of excommunication. The fourteen-year-old Mozart on a visit to Rome in 1770 is alleged to have transcribed it from memory and allowed it to be published. In 1831, Felix Mendelssohn heard it sung a fourth higher and so produced the section including the famous top Cs. Consequently, the version sung nowadays has been described as a patchwork derived from many different sources.
As senior choirmaster at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice in the early eighteenth century, Antonio Lotti composed much high-quality sacred music. His eight-part setting of the Crucifixus from the Credo of the Mass depicts the pain and exhaustion of crucifixion using musical devices such as suspensions, chromaticism, discords and modulation.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was one of the most prolific and highly acclaimed musicians of the sixteenth century. His work is seen as setting the standard for Renaissance polyphony. The intricate Stabat Mater dolorosa for double choir, written for the Sistine Chapel Choir around 1590, has many changes of rhythm and mood to describe Mary’s suffering at the foot of the Cross.
Palestrina’s influence, along with that of Wagner, can be heard in the motet Christus Factus Est composed by the devoutly religious Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. First performed in 1884, it depicts Christ’s journey of ‘obedience unto death’.
The wingbeats of angels bearing us to Paradise are represented by a solo viola and cello In Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ piece In Paradisum (2012). The words from the Requiem Mass antiphon sung as the body is taken from the church for burial are voiced by the choir.
Similar words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet are used in John Tavener’s piece Song for Athene, sung at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, together with text from the funeral service of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In All Shall Be Well (2009), for double choir and solo cello, Roxanna Panufnik sets 14th century texts from the plainsong hymn Bogurodzica sung by Polish knights as they went into battle and from the Revelations of Divine Love by the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. The knights’ pleas that they go to Paradise are answered by Julian’s comforting words: “at the last day, you shall see it all transformed into great joy”.
In this concert, our first since February 2020, we present music for solo violin and choir, a choral masterwork from the 19th century and a piece of musical storytelling.Seating for this concert will have families seated in the front rows, with socially-distanced seating for others at the rear of the church
Ralph Vaughan WiIliams’The Lark Ascending written on the eve of the First World War is seen as a rural idyll of an England soon to be lost forever. Paul Drayton’s 2018 choral arrangement of this popular piece has the original solo violin part soaring high above a chorus representing the landscape beneath, sometimes wordless and at other times singing lines from George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name, the original source of inspiration to the composer.
Cecilia McDowall’s five movement cantata Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo tells the extraordinary story of Nujeen Mustafa, a Kurdish teenager with cerebral palsy forced by conflict in 2014 to flee her home in Syria in a wheelchair and travel 3,500 miles to a new life in Germany. With words by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the piece contains a wealth of musical effects including chorales, rhythmic spoken sections, body percussion, and a solo violin part infused with Middle Eastern flavours.
Written for a cappella double choir is Josef Gabriel Rheinberger’s magnificent Mass for double choir in E flat (Op. 109) (Cantus Missae), composed in 1878 and regarded as his prime achievement. Rheinberger spent his working life in Munich at the Royal Court of Ludwig II of Bavaria, teaching at the Royal Conservatory, playing the organ at several city churches, conducting the Munich Oratorio Society and coaching the soloists at the Royal Opera. The Mass recalls the old compositional style of spatially separated choirs used by Renaissance composers such as Gabrieli and Monteverdi in Venice and led to Rheinberger being awarded the Order of St Gregory by Pope Leo XIII to whom it is dedicated.
Alan Ridout’sFerdinand for speaker and solo violin is an adaptation of a 1936 children’s story Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf written shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War about a young bull who would much rather sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers than compete in the bullfights with all the other bulls. Originally seen as a pacifist allegory and banned by Franco and Hitler, it still has many resonances nowadays in the context of discrimination and social exclusion.
Conducted by John GibbonswithMidori Komachi violin
Join us to experience the mystical music, literature and art of Spain’s Golden Age
Saturday 1 February at 7:30pm, St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.
Tomás Luis de Victoria: Vespers
Geoffrey Burgon: Dos Coros
Geoffrey Burgon: Nunc Dimittis
with readings from the writings of St Teresa of Ávila and St John of the Cross
Louisa Kataria: saxophone
Conducted by John Gibbons
The Spanish mystics were influential reformers of the Roman Catholic Church in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain. They were also the authors of spiritual masterpieces, attempting to express in words the soul’s deep longing to be united with God.
Dos Coros (1975) by Geoffrey Burgon is a choral setting of two poems by St John of the Cross (1542-1591), widely considered to be the greatest of the Spanish mystic poets. St John and his spiritual mentor St Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) – herself a significant writer – founded new convents and monasteries throughout Spain dedicated to a simple, austere and meditative life.
Spanish mysticism also finds expression in the music of the greatest Spanish composer of the Golden Age of Polyphony, Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). The Second Vespers of the Feast of the Annunciation is a collection of ten significant pieces of sacred music devoted to the Virgin Mary, published in Rome between 1581 and 1583. They might have been used at the Vesper (evening) service on the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March).
We are delighted to welcome saxophonist Louisa Kataria to perform Geoffrey Burgon’s Nunc Dimittis with us. This piece was written in 1979 for the BBC’s acclaimed dramatization of John le Carré’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
The music will be interspersed with readings from the mystic poets while images by the great religious painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) (1541-1614) – another Roman Catholic reformer and mystic – will be displayed.
Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the church hall