On Wings of Hope, 9th March 2024

John Gibbons, our musical director, once again put together a magical sequence of pieces for this concert, this time matching the darker aspects of life with ones of hope and aspiration.

The evening opened with the energy of Stanford’s Magnificat lifting the building, the audience, and the choir. This was followed by the beautiful and intricate Mass for Double Choir by Frank Martin filling 9th Century Lady Chapel with swooping praise. After the intermission there was the haunting poem “Why?” by Emily Dickenson, set to music by John himself. Following this with George Lloyd’s setting of Psalm 130 “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee” was a poignant and deeply beautiful reminiscence of his experiences of surviving the sinking of his ship, the loss of comrades and the fragility of life. And then ending the concert we had the lovely “Lark Ascending” – a choral work of the original poem by George Meredith, which inspired Vaughan Williams and then re-arranged by Paul Drayton – the violin solo was played by our very own Jenny Wigram and as the last notes lifted into the rafters you could hear a pin drop in the Abbey. A superb evening.

Some Audience comments:

What a wonderful concert. Blown away by the arrangement of Lark Ascending, and we’re going to take a deeper dive into George Lloyd

A level music student Alexander was a little exercised that George Lloyd had written three symphonies by the age of 19!😂

Why?: very atmospheric. Re the concert: … truly wonderful concert. I really enjoyed it. You were all so good.

Details

A concert of hope and optimism with uplifting pieces of music from European composers spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, including Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, composed in 1914 and most commonly heard in the orchestral version with beautiful solo violin. Paul Drayton’s arrangement transcribes the orchestral accompaniment into an intricate vocal web using the words of the poem by George Meredith that were the inspiration for the original work. Regularly in the top three of the Classic FM ‘Hall of Fame’, the work is also used heavily in film and TV, even as accompaniment to a poignant moment in Coronation Street.  

Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, written in 1922, is one of the great masterpieces of unaccompanied choral music. Fervently religious, Martin initially considered it as a work just for himself and God and kept it in a drawer. Only in the 1960s was it premiered. 

In the 1930s George Lloyd was hailed, alongside Britten, as one of the great talents of the age. He nearly died during WWII as a Royal Marine on HMS Trinidad doing Arctic Convoys to Murmansk. His late setting of Psalm 130 ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee’ is a poignant and deeply beautiful reminiscence of his experiences of surviving the sinking of his ship, the loss of comrades and the fragility of life.  

The final piece is Stanford’s wonderful setting of the Magnificat, in Latin, for double choir. Known in Cathedrals for many arrangements of the Evening Canticles, this version is notable for its luxurious sound world, soaring melodies and rich harmonic textures. A glorious statement of hope and light in a world full of darkness. 

Vaughan Williams/Paul Drayton – The Lark Ascending
Frank Martin – Mass for double choir
Why – Emily Dickinson / John Gibbons
George Lloyd – Psalm 130
Stanford – Magnificat for double choir