Ian Shaw

Ian performed with the Cantate Choir in it’s Royal Celebrations concert in June 2012

Ian Shaw (organist), regularly performs with the choir.

Ian Shaw

Ian Shaw studied at Cambridge, where he was Organ Scholar of St John’s College. He was also a John Stewart of Rannoch Scholar in Sacred Music at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam and at Goldsmiths College in London. He has been Sub-Organist at Durham Cathedral and Director of Music at St Peter’s, Eaton Square.

As a pianist, he has worked with many companies including Opera North, Northern Ballet Theatre, English National Opera, BBC SSO and Scotish Opera, where he was responsible for eleven national tours. He has been repetiteur for Music Theatre Wales, whose production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek won the 2011 Theatre Award UK for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.

Recent compositions include a song cycle for Rebecca Bottone, A Breath of Nothing, and a commission for Magdalen College, Oxford. His work has been described as ‘redoubtable’ by The Scotsman and ‘sometimes amusing’ by the Dean or Durham.

Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 9 March 2013 – St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks

Poster from Cantate Choir's Handel's Judas Maccabaeus concert

Soloists

Hazel BrooksLeader
Sofia LarssonSoprano
Rose SettenAlto
Iain MilneTenor
Edward BallardBass

Review

Graham FifeReviewer

Programme

Handel – Judas Maccabaeus

Programme notes

Toughness found fertile soil in the hearts of Palestinians, and the grains of resistance embedded themselves in their skin. Susan Abulhawa, Mornings in Jenin.

For more than three thousand years, the area of modern Israel and Palestine has been divided, disputed, conquered and restored again and again and again. This ancient land of the ‘12 tribes of Israel’ became the two kingdoms of David and Solomon in the 10th century BC. When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his empire was divided and Ptolemy took Egypt and the lower regions, while Seleucis gained Babylon and Syria. By 198 BC the Syrians had taken Palestine and with it Jerusalem. The Jews suffered much hardship as Antiochus IV sought to impose Hellenistic culture and religion on the people. By 167 BC, all Jewish rites were forbidden and the Temple sacked.

Mattatias, a priest from Jerusalem, led the first rebellion, which was continued by his sons the Maccabees: John, Simon, Judas, Eleazer and Jonathan. Morell’s libretto for Handel’s oratorio starts here, with the death of Mattatias; “Mourn, ye afflicted children, your sanguine hopes of liberty give o’er” sings the chorus to a weary and resigned C minor accompaniment.

Part One deals with the aftermath of Mattatias’ death. Simon urges the Israelites to put their faith in God and seek a new leader. He then claims that God has chosen his brother Judas for the job. Judas steps up immediately and calls on the people to take inspiration from the struggles of their forefathers and their just cause. The Israelites offer prayers for their new leader and for the return of liberty. ‘Disdainful of danger’ they prepare for battle, ‘resolved on conquest or a glorious fall’.

Like all the best dramas of the past, the action then takes place offstage and out of sight. Would that modern film makers could show similar restraint! Part Two opens with the Israelites returning from battle pumped up with their victory, “Fall’n is the foe!” they shriek in every possible permutation of this little phrase. Like a returning football crowd they are full of Judas’ performance on the field. Judas accepts their tributes, while modestly thanking God for his triumph. But news arrives from a Messenger that “new scenes of bloody war in all their horrors rise”. General Georgias is marching from Egypt. Immediately, the people are thrown back into despondency and the Israelitish Woman, a device used throughout to represent the mood of the people, sings “Ah, wretched Israel” in C minor again – back to square one! Once again, Simon exhorts them to have faith in God and Judas calls on them to fight. He promises to restore the temple and the people vow never to worship heathen idols, “We never will bow down to the rude stock of sculptured stone”.

Part Three opens with a Festival of Thanksgiving, for the Temple has been regained and reconsecrated. This first festival has continued down the years as Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, in the Jewish tradition. The Messenger returns with more news of Judas’ victories, this time at Capharsalama. Judas returns in triumph and is greeted enthusiastically by his fellow people. The famous choruses “See, the conqu’ring hero comes” were not in Handel’s original 1747 score but he borrowed them from his oratorio Joshua for his 1758 revision. Judas asks the Israelites to remember the fallen heroes, especially his brother Eleazer who was killed when a war elephant fell on him. In the final scene, Eupolemus, their ambassador, returns from Rome with a treaty, which guarantees the protection of Judea as an independent nation. At last, the people can look forward to “Endless fame” as says the Israelitish Man and “O Lovely Peace” as sings the Israelitish Woman. “Hallelujah”, of course, says Handel.

Fame certainly came to the Maccabees. For over one hundred years, scholars have searched for the lost tombs of the Maccabees and in 2012 using latest radar techniques, they think they may have found them. The city of Mod’in, now in Israel and once home of the Maccabees, celebrates Hanukkah every year with particular fervour. And Handel has certainly done justice to their story in this superb oratorio. But lasting peace, as we all know, still seems a long way off for this troubled land.

Handel composed this oratorio in 1746 based on a libretto written by Thomas Morell. The oratorio was devised as a compliment to the victorious Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, upon his return from the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746), the last pitched battle on British soil. It was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Morell was a saddler’s son but educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge. He was a religious scholar and provided several libretti for Handel. Both Handel and Morell moved in illustrious circles at this time having royal, artistic and literary connections. It was intended that the public saw parallels between Judas’ story and the heroism of the Duke.

Handel has always been revered by other composers even though his popularity with audiences has waxed and waned over the centuries. J S Bach desperately wanted to meet him and Mozart said of him “Handel understands affect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt.” Beethoven emphasised above all the simplicity and popular appeal of Handel’s music when he said, “Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means”. Handel, as a successful society composer, could afford the luxury of experimentation with his orchestras and introduced many new and varied instruments and combinations into both his operas and oratorios. In Judas Maccabeus he uses both recorders and flutes, even though the Baroque flute was wooden and softly spoken too. Horns and trumpets are used sparingly despite the themes of battle and rebellion. Brass instruments are designed for celebration and triumph in Handel’s view. Bassoons are increasingly becoming permanent fixtures and allowed more independence than simply copying the bass line in the loud bits.

Our performance tonight with Vivace will be at Baroque pitch since the instruments they play are originals or replicas of that time. But what is ‘Baroque pitch’? Pitch is measured in hertz and is standardized purely for convenience. Around the world today the A in the treble stave is fixed at 440Hz so that performances and recordings will be the same wherever you go. This is known as Concert Pitch. However, in the Baroque Era, pitch levels as high as A-465 (17th century Venice) and as low as A-392 (18th century France) are known to have existed. String players could easily re-tune but wind players could be limited to playing only with people from their own area. Modern ‘Baroque pitch’ is generally standardized as 415hz, which is about a semitone below Concert pitch. The sopranos and tenors love it but the altos and basses can find themselves going down where they have rarely been before!

Sara Kemsley

Music for a summer evening

7.00pm, Saturday 14 June – St Martin’s Church, Brasted

Front cover

Soloists

Robin WalkerConductor
Iestyn EvansOrgan

Programme

T. Campion 1557—1620 – Never weather-beaten sail
J. Bartlet fl. 1606—10 – Of all the birds that I do know
R. Jones fl. 1597—1615 – Farewell, dear love
G. Finzi 1901—56 – My spirit sang all day
E. Elgar 1857—1934 – As torrents in summer
C.H.H. Parry 1848—1918 – Music, when soft voices die
C.V. Stanford 1852—1924 – The blue bird
F. Delius 1862—1934 – To be sung of a summer night on the water (two unaccompanied part-songs)
G.B. Pergolesi 1710—1736 – Magnificat
A. Hollins 1865—1942 – A Trumpet Minuet
J. Jongen 1873—1953 – Petite Prélude
M. Lanquetuit 1894—1985 – Toccata
Eric Whitaker b. 1970 – Sleep
G.F. Handel 1685—1759 – My heart is inditing

Programme notes

View programme notes

Thomas Tallis – Spem in alium

7.30pm, Saturday 22 March 2014 – St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks

Poster for Spem in Alium concert, March 2014

In March 2014, Cantate were joined for the first time by one of the world’s leading period ensembles, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, who have for many years been a highlight of the early music scene through their many recordings, radio performances and concerts. They delivered a wonderful programme of Renaissance music from Italy, Germany and Britain.

Cantate and HMSC performed alone and together in music by great composers of the period and the concert will build to a climax with Thomas Tallis’ extraordinary Spem in alium, a motet written in 40 parts, and a landmark piece in musical history.

View Programme Notes

Christmas with Cantate

7.30pm, Saturday 14 December 2013 – St Mary’s Platt Parish Church

Poster for The Cantate Choir's Christmas concert in December 2013

Soloist

Jemima Stephensonorgan

Programme

Audience carol – O come, o come, Emmanuel
16th French tune Arr. Willcocks – Ding Dong! Merrily on high
14th century carol Arr. Willcocks – Resonemus laudibus
H. Berlioz 1803 – 69 – The Sepherd’s Farewell
Organ solo J.S. Bach 1685 – 1750 – Nun komm der heiden heiland BWV 659
J.G. Ebeling 1637? – 76 – All my heart this night rejoices
Audience carol – Good King Wenceslas
J.S. Bach 1685 – 1750 – Singet dem Herrn
Audience carol – Once in royal David’s city
W.J. Kirkpatrick 1838 – 1921 – Away in a manger
J. Rutter b. 1945 – Nativity Carol
J. Rutter – What sweeter music
Audience carol – O little town of Bethlehem
Organ solo O. Messiaen 1908 – 1992 – La Nativité du Seigneur – Les Bergers (the shepherds)
M. Lauridsen b. 1943 – O Magnum mysterium
W. Mathias 1934 – 92 – Sir Christèmas
Audience Carol – Hark the Herald angels sing

Programme notes

View programme notes

Christmas with Cantate – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 14 December 2013 – St Mary’s Platt Parish Church

Poster for The Cantate Choir's Christmas concert in December 2013

Soloist

Jemima Stephensonorgan

Programme

Audience carol – O come, o come, Emmanuel
16th French tune Arr. Willcocks – Ding Dong! Merrily on high
14th century carol Arr. Willcocks – Resonemus laudibus
H. Berlioz 1803 – 69 – The Sepherd’s Farewell
Organ solo J.S. Bach 1685 – 1750 – Nun komm der heiden heiland BWV 659
J.G. Ebeling 1637? – 76 – All my heart this night rejoices
Audience carol – Good King Wenceslas
J.S. Bach 1685 – 1750 – Singet dem Herrn
Audience carol – Once in royal David’s city
W.J. Kirkpatrick 1838 – 1921 – Away in a manger
J. Rutter b. 1945 – Nativity Carol
J. Rutter – What sweeter music
Audience carol – O little town of Bethlehem
Organ solo O. Messiaen 1908 – 1992 – La Nativité du Seigneur – Les Bergers (the shepherds)
M. Lauridsen b. 1943 – O Magnum mysterium
W. Mathias 1934 – 92 – Sir Christèmas
Audience Carol – Hark the Herald angels sing

Programme notes

What sweeter music can we bring than a carol, for to sing the birth of this our heavenly King? John Rutter

This year’s programme is very much celebrating the season with songs of rejoicing. The heavens resound with jubilant praise and we sing to the Lord a new song with timbrel and harp. Church bells ding dong merrily and Sir Christémas bids us joyfully sing nowell, nowell.

However, the tradition of special songs for Christmas is not as old as we like to think. The word carol refers originally to dancing songs or circle dances, which could be used at any time of the year. The earliest known were in Latin and hence deeply unpopular with ordinary people. It was St. Francis of Assisi who restored the popularity of Christmas with his nativity plays, which told the story through song, dance and theatrics. The development of rhyming verse in the Middle Ages led to songs with verse and refrain and this remains a dominant structure for popular seasonal songs.

Resonemus Laudibus is an excellent example of this. The 14th century Latin carol has delicious regular rhymes but the refrain based on plainchant ends up with seven and six beats in a bar. David Willcocks’ arrangement brings a modern excitement to the piece, which would not have been out of place all those centuries ago.

1. Resonemus laudibus cum jocunditatibus ecclesiam fidelibus. Let us make the church resound with the joyful praises of the faithful.
Apparuit quem genuit Maria He whom Mary bore has appeared.
2. Deus fecit hominem ad suam imaginem et similitudinem. God made man in his own image and likeness.
3. Deus fecit omnia caelum, terram, maria cunctaque nascentia. God made all things, heaven, earth, the seas and all creation.
4. Ergo nostra concio in chordis et organo benedicat Domino. Therefore let our congregation praise God with strings and organ.
5. Et Deo qui venias donat et laetitias nos eidem gratias. And to God, who gives favours and happiness, we give thanks.

The church remained unhappy with such unauthorised and doctrinally suspect songs, especially as the common folk seemed to like them! The tradition of groups of carol singers in the streets came about because the songs were banned in church. The waits, often led by a civic dignitary, were groups of singers who were allowed to collect money in the street without the fear of arrest for beggary. They sang on Christmas Eve, which is ‘watchnight’ or ‘waitsnight’, remembering the shepherds who were watching in the fields and saw the star.

Music was banned completely by the Puritans in the 17th century and it was the Victorians who restored and developed Christmas as we know it today. Many of our best-loved carols were written at this time; Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger and Once in Royal David’s City almost certainly were popularised in the 19th century.

In among the popular carolling, we have absolute jewels of art music written by many of the greatest composers, who take some aspect of the doctrine of God made Man, which is at the heart of the Christmas story. Hector Berlioz was a French composer well-known for his massive works for orchestra and singers. The Shepherds’ Farewell from his oratorio L’Enfance du Christ is such a slight and tender piece that it could easily have been overlooked. It is probably this very simplicity and charm that has ensured its lasting place in choral programmes.

The simple hymn All my heart this night rejoices by Johann Georg Ebeling is probably a Lutheran carol, written for a service. It would have disappeared along with many other earlier works but for the efforts of editors, composers and arrangers like William Sandys and Davis Gilbert in the 19th century, Vaughan Williams and William Matthias in the early 20th and John Rutter and David Willcocks in the present period.

The motet Singet dem Herrn was written by J S Bach in about 1726 and may originally have been a funeral piece. Another theory is that he wrote his six motets as demonstration pieces for his students, “here’s one I did earlier!” If true, the complexity of this one in particular would, I suggest, have sent all but the most determined student looking up alternative professions in the Leipzig Situations Vacant pages! Written for double choir in three sections, it elaborates the words from psalms 149 and 150 and a poem by Johann Gramann. It is a virtuoso tour-de-force both in terms of composition and the performers. More than once one choir develops the text in fugal form, which the other choir accompanies. This had never been done before. When Mozart visited Leipzig in 1789, a performance of Singet dem Herrn was put on for him. Afterwards, he is said to have exclaimed, “That is really something from which one can learn a great deal!”

Part 1 psalm 149 vv. 1-3
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, die Gemeine der Heiligen sollen ihn loben. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
Israel freue sich des, der ihn gemacht hat. Die Kinder Zion sei’n fröhlich über ihrem Könige, Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Sie sollen loben seinen Namen im Reihen; mit Pauken und mit Harfen sollen sie ihm spielen. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

Part 2 words by Johan Gramann
Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet Gott, Like a father, may God have mercy on us
Nimm dich ferner unser an, And comfort us further,
Über seine junge Kinderlein, Just as with his young child,
So tut der Herr uns Armen, So the Lord acts for us poor people,
So wir ihn kindlich fürchten rein. And, pure and childlike, we fear him.
Er kennt das arm Gemächte, He knows us poor beings,
Gott weiß, wir sind nur Staub, God knows we are like dust,
Denn ohne dich ist nichts getan For without You is nothing done
Mit allen unsern Sachen. With all our affairs.
Gleichwie das Gras vom Rechen, Just as grass loses its flower and leaf
Ein Blum und fallend Laub. By the rake.
Der Wind nur drüber wehet, The wind just blows over it
So ist es nicht mehr da, And it is no longer there.
Drum sei du unser Schirm und Licht, Therefore, be our protection and light
Und trügt uns unsre Hoffnung nicht, And let not our hope be deceived,
So wirst du’s ferner machen. That thus will you do in the future.
Also der Mensch vergehet, Therefore does man pass,
Sein End, das ist ihm nah. His end is near.
Wohl dem, der sich nur steif und fest Happy is he who strongly and firmly
Auf dich und deine Huld verlässt. Relies on you and your grace.

Part 3 Psalm 150 vv.2 and 6
Lobet den Herrn in seinen Taten, lobet ihn in seiner großen Herrlichkeit! Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn Halleluja! Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Alleluia.

Morten Lauridsen is the most-performed, living American composer. He is sometimes described as a mystic for his works, particularly his sacred choral pieces, seem to conjure up an other-worldly, meditative state. O magnum mysterium is possibly his best-known. His skill lies in fusing the simplest lines of melody and harmony (almost like medieval plainchant) with enough modernity to engage the listener in his sound world. And listen you must, for the nuances are so quiet and slight that, if you even breathe, you may miss them.

O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, O great mystery and wondrous sacrament,
Ut animalia viderunt Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio! That animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in their manger!
Beata virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

If Sir David Willcocks has had a profound effect on the musical life of choirs in this country, then we can safely say that John Rutter CBE has done so around the world. A quick tally of the index of Carols for Choirs Bk.2 alone (known in choir circles as ‘the orange one’) shows them on 23 apiece out of the 50 in the book. However, John Rutter is not just a skilled arranger but a composer of original words and music too. Willcocks described him as the most gifted composer of his generation. What sweeter music and Nativity carol are two contrasting but very typical pieces from his considerable oeuvre. Sweetness and sentimentality characterise the modern Christmas season and so does his music – to perfection!

Happy Christémas!

Sara Kemsley

Jemima Stephenson

Jemima performed with the choir at its Christmas with Cantate concert in December 2013

Jemima Stephenson, Organ

As a chorister at Sheffield Cathedral, Jemima Stephenson developed a fascination with the organ in choral accompaniment, the liturgy and solo performance. Now 23, Jemima is Assistant Director of Music and Sir George Thalben-Ball Memorial Organ Scholar at St Michael’s Cornhill whilst undertaking postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music. This follows two years as Organ Scholar of Peterborough Cathedral, and three as an Organ Scholar at Queens’ College Cambridge.

Jemima currently studies organ with Susan Landale, having previously been a pupil of William Whitehead and David Sanger, and won prizes in both the Fellowship and Associateship diploma exams of the Royal College of Organists.

When not immersed in music, Jemima enjoys good food, good wine and taking other people’s dogs for walks.