Hail! Bright Cecilia: Saturday 23 November 2019

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)

Call 07570 454744 or e-mail tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now

Shakespeare in Song: Saturday 30th April 2016

]Next Concert – Saturday 30 April 7.30pm

St Saviour’s Church
St Albans
AL14DF


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 tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk
or online at allaboutstalbans

 Part of the St Albans Shakespeare Festival

Wynde, whirlwinds & flight: 28 February 2015

]Next Concert – Saturday 28 February at 7.30pm

St Peter’s Church
St Albans
AL1 3HG

St Albans Chamber Choir will whirl you away at their concert Wynde, Whirlwinds and Flight on Saturday 28 February at St Peter’s Church, in an imaginative programme that spans almost half a millennium, from the court of Henry VIII to the invention of powered flight. 

The Tudor composer John Taverner took the popular love song Westron wynde when wyll thou blow? as the basis for his Western Wynde Mass.  Despite using the delightful melody no less than thirty-six times in all, Taverner varies it with such brilliance that the ear never tires of his inventive figurations and counterpoints. 

Flying on to Renaissance Italy, contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre vividly depicts in sound Leonardo da Vinci’s dreams of a man acquiring the ability to overcome gravity and fly like a bird in the Tuscan sunrise.  Whitacre drew his inspiration for Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine from the inventor’s famous notebooks, and this atmospheric work has deservedly become his most popular composition for unaccompanied choir. 

Ralph Vaughan Williams is best known for his evocations of the English countryside through the use of folksong and traditional melodies, and Valiant-for-Truth (1940) and The Voice out of the Whirlwind (1947) are typical examples of his style.  In the last years of his life, though, his compositions take on a far darker and more enigmatic mood, and in A Vision of Aeroplanes (1956) he provides a highly imaginative setting of the prophet Ezekiels apocalyptic dream of the four creatures flying over the earth in wheeled chariots. The choral writing is very virtuosic, while the organ part is positively cataclysmic, described by one critic as being like the roar of an aircraft squadron!