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 Ezekiel’s 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’!