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Anne Page

Anne played for the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Anne Page, Harmonium

Anne Page is known in the UK and abroad as a musician who combines virtuosity and versatility. Born and educated in Perth, Australia, the music of Bach first awakened an interest in the organ. Her teacher at the University of Western Australia, Annette Goerke inspired her to study French organ music from the 18th century to Messiaen, and to travel to Europe for lessons with Marie-Claire Alain. Anne subsequently studied with Peter Hurford for whom she deputised in a teaching role at the Royal Academy of Music. Her London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988 playing 20th century masterpieces marked a commitment to contemporary music which led to commissions and premieres of new works. Lessons with Jacques van Oortmerssen on historic instruments, their repertoire and playing techniques were to inform both her playing and teaching.

As a member of the British Institute of Organ Studies she has been closely involved with the Historic Organ Sound Archive, playing an essential role in its organisation as well as researching and performing over 10 hours of recordings for the project. The HOSA project has been a pioneer of free internet access to classical music. She continues to give talks to organists’ associations about this innovative resource for the study of English organs and their music and has contributed articles on its use to several organ journals.

She has been at the forefront of the revival of interest in the harmonium, an instrument only recently receiving attention from scholars, composers and musicians as a serious medium for historical performance as well as for contemporary music. Swiss organist and composer Lionel Rogg has dedicated a suite of pieces for harmonium to her. She is acknowledged as one of the country’s leading experts and has appeared as soloist at the Edinburgh, Three Choirs and Oundle Festivals.

In 2002 the Royal Academy of Music invited her to establish a course in Harmonium, the first in modern times at any conservatory in the UK. She therefore succeeds Lemmens as Professor of Harmonium, who was appointed at the RAM in 1869. In 2008 she gave a full-length harmonium recital in the Purcell Room, the first time the instrument has been featured in a solo role on the South Bank. During eight years (1987-1994) as Artistic and Executive Director of the Cambridge Summer Recitals she programmed many first performances of new works and invited several distinguished recitalists from abroad to give UK debut recitals. Gaston Litaize, Louis Thiry and Olivier Latry gave masterclasses in addition to their concerts. Anne has more recently been instrumental in founding the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies which presents regular study days with distinguished scholars and teachers and an annual summer course in Cambridge. She teaches a wide range of students including organ scholars at the University of Cambridge and gives classes on the RCO Easter course and the Oundle summer school.

Iain Ledingham

Iain played for the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Iain Ledingham

Iain Ledingham gained a degree in music at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he was Organ Scholar. He subsequently studied piano, harpsichord and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. He was appointed a Professor of Piano there in 1981 and was awarded a Fellowship for the academic year 1983-1984.

He has broadcast frequently on BBC Radio 3 as an accompanist for singers and instrumentalists and has accompanied many recitals for music clubs both here and abroad. Artists he has accompanied in recitals and broadcasts include: the singers Alison Hargan, Faith Wilson, Annabel Hunt, Patricia Rozario, David James, Maldwyn Davies, Jacek Strauch and Mark Wildman, flautist Richard Dobson, oboist Keith Marshall and violinist Paul Manley.

In 1981 he joined the music staff of Glyndebourne Festival Opera and has played harpsichord continuo for a number of productions there with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, including Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in Glyndebourne’s 50th anniversary season. In 1984 he made his Queen Elizabeth Hall debut in harpsichord concertos by Bach.

He formed the South Bucks Choral Society in 1980 and has performed many major choral works with that society and with the Thames Chamber Orchestra and subsequently the Amersham Festival Chamber Orchestra including The Creation, Elijah, Messiah, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Verdi’s Requiem.

From 2000-2003 he was Director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music, responsible for planning and overseeing the first two years of the Academy’s new opera course, Royal Academy Opera. The course rapidly achieved an excellent reputation, attracting outstandingly talented young singers from far and wide. During that time he conducted performances of Falstaff (at the RAM) and Le Nozze di Figaro (in the 2002 Amersham Festival of Music) with singers from Royal Academy Opera as well as preparing students to work with distinguished guest conductors including Sir Charles Mackerras. In 2003 Iain returned to full-time work as a coach, pianist and conductor, and is greatly enjoying working with many young singers and accompanists at the RAM. In November 2003 he conducted performances of Haydn’s delightful comedy Il Mondo della Luna and more recently in November 2005 Mozart’s remarkable early opera La Finta Giardiniera both for Royal Academy Opera.

Susan Moore

Susan sang with the choir during its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Susan Moore, Mezzo-soprano

Susan Moore studied at Trinity College of Music, London with Hazel Wood, receiving the 1st prize in the Elizabeth Schumann Lieder Prize; she now studies privately with Susan McCulloch. Recent operatic roles include: Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro for Longborough Festival Opera, Buttercup in HMS Pinafore and Mrs. Partlet in The Sorcerer for Opera della Luna, the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, Tangia in Le Cinesi, Nancy in Martha, Thirza in The Wreckers, Sally in A Hand of Bridge and Delilah in Samson & Delilah (all for Opera Minima) and Filipyevna in Eugene Onegin at St. John’s, Smith Square with I Maestri orchestra. Future plans include: Widow Browe in Peter the Great for Opera South, returning to the King’s Head Theatre and Charles Court Opera’s HMS Pinafore as Hebe but also playing Buttercup in several performances, and making her directorial debut for Opera Minima with a production of Trial by Jury at Oakham Castle.

Kevin Kyle

Kevin sang with the choir during its Handel’s Messiah concert in March 2009 and its Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle concert in March 2011.

Kevin Kyle, Tenor

Kevin Kyle began his career in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. He subsequently won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied on the opera course with Joy Mammen. He graduated with distinction having won a number of awards including the Kendall Prize and the EMI Award.

In 2004, he was a finalist in the London Handel Singing Competition and, in the same year, he made his BBC Proms Debut under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. In 2005, he performed the role of Jason in the world premier of Howard Goodall’s Jason and the Argonauts at the Royal Albert Hall. In 2006, he worked for Lille and Chatelet Opera and in 2007 he toured the USA playing the role of Frederic in the Carl Rosa production of The Pirates of Penzance. Last year, he was featured in War Oratorio, a newly commissioned feature length film for Channel Four. Kevin has also recorded for BBC Radio Three, Classic FM, Sony and BBC television. Other career highlights include; an invitation to perform at Clarence House and performances for Lord Lloyd Webber and The Queen. In 2009, his debut CD of Schumann’s Dichterliebe was released on the JCL label and a following album Songs was released early last year.

Rossini – Petite Messe Solennelle – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 19 March 2011 – St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks

Poster for the Cantate Choir's March 2011 Concert - Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle

Soloists

Iain Ledinghampiano
Anne Pageharmonium
Suzanna Marks-Perrysoprano
Susan Mooremezzo-soprano
Kevin Kyletenor
James Gowerbass

Programme

Rossini – Petite Messe Solennelle

Programme notes

Thou knowest, O Lord, as well as I, that really I am only a composer of opera buffa. Rossini, dedication to Petite Messe solennelle (1864)

This is also the man who variously said, “Give me a laundry list and I will set it to music”, “Every kind of music is good, except the boring kind” and, my favourite, “One can’t judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend to hear it a second time.” Are you getting a picture of whom we are dealing with here? Gioacchino Rossini has to be one of the most outrageous figures in the composers’ archive.

He was notoriously idle and slapdash. His successes were approximately equal in number to his failures. A third of his operas at least are just rehashes of earlier works. Everywhere he went, he ran into trouble with critics, audiences, mistresses, even the Austrian secret police and he seems to have scarpered all over Europe at various times escaping this or that ‘local difficulty’. His productive life as a composer was short, only about twenty years, during which time he wrote 38 operas, 19 sacred works, some 13 instrumental works and numerous songs.

From about 1829 after the composition of William Tell, he fell into a period of ill health, both mental and physical. He did not write another opera or barely another note until his old age. At the same time, he seems to have amassed a fortune and gained numerous rewards and honours. He had a knack, it would seem, of getting a lucrative contract to produce a work, which never materialised. By the time this might be a problem, he had re-located elsewhere in Europe. The less he did, the more people liked him. He lived like a modern celebrity, if you ask me, getting away with extraordinary infelicities because we just love his tunes and he makes us feel good!

The Petite Messe Solennelle was written in 1863 to inaugurate the private chapel of the Count and Countess Pillet-Will and had its first performance on 14 March 1864. Scored for chorus, soloists, piano and harmonium, Rossini described it as the last of his ‘sins of old age’. The harmonium was invented and patented by Alexandre Francois Debain in 1841, used for the first performance and it is a Debain harmonium of the same period, which is played tonight by Anne Page. Thus we are directly linked to the composer’s sound world in this performance. The harmonium was created to give a reed organ capable of expression, ‘une orgue expressif’.

A five octave keyboard, with four sets of reeds, the bellows are directly controlled by the player through the pedals and thus she can control the air pressure passing through the reeds. For much of the work, it provides the legato glue in the piano’s bouncy and percussive contributions.

It has been said that this piece needs just a small hall, piano, harmonium, a small group of choristers and the four greatest soloists on earth! Certainly, they need extraordinary stamina for they are expected to double up with the chorus in their seven numbers and sing their own solos and ensembles in the other six. So take a deep breath and let’s get going!

Part 1 begins of course with Kyrie (Lord have mercy upon us), a teasing opener with long suspenseful lines in the chorus over a constantly chugging piano bass. Suddenly, this stops and Christe eleison (Christ have mercy upon us) is a surprising piece of polyphonic, a capella writing in Renaissance style. The Kyrie returns and moves now into a major tonality, as if Rossini is getting comfortable with this Mass business.

The Gloria (glory to God on high and peace on earth to men) is assertive and operatic and spiritual in a kind of Sound of Music way. Close your eyes and you can picture the scene. This is followed by a trio for alto, tenor and bass with piano, Gratias agimus tibi (we give thanks to You). This begins in a pleasant enough manner but builds into a richly contrapuntal texture that is most satisfying.

Domine Deus (Lord God, King of heaven, only begotten son) is a tenor solo. Such a piece might be the kind which prompted Beethoven to tell Rossini to stick to writing comic operas! Especially as the tune is almost a perfect copy of one found in Beethoven’s string quartet Op.18 no.4. Is he ‘aving a laugh?

Soprano and contralto soloists restore a suitable mood in Qui tollis (who takest away the sins of the world) and we can picture here two strong but worried women on stage grieving for the state of the world but placing their faith in God. The bass picks up his aria as the wise counsellor coming onto stage for Quoniam (Thou, Lord, only art holy). Always so reassuring to have a man around in troubled times! The chorus returns to the opening Gloria music and extends it for Cum sancto spiritu (with the Holy Spirit, the glory of God the Father). This is the most chirpy and life-affirming Amen you will ever hear.

Part 2 begins with the Credo (I believe in one God). This feels like more orthodox 19th century sacred music but Rossini cannot resist some dramatic recitative style at ‘and was made man’. This sets up the next aria Crucifixus to be sung by the soprano in a lyrical, amoroso style. Now our heroine is kneeling at the foot of the cross for sure. The chorus puts a stop to this with the words Et resurrexit (and arose on the third day) and then takes us on a lengthy romp through the remaining words of the creed.

The instrumental Preludio religioso is the most heartfelt section of the whole piece. Why this complete change of mood? Was the elderly Gioacchino beginning to think that you cannot entirely laugh off life, death and that which is to come? Certainly the choral Sanctus which follows is short and unconvinced compared with most Masses. Rossini inserts O salutaris hostia at this point. This is not normally in the Mass. It is a hymn of benediction but he only sets the first verse which has us beset by foes and hoping for the best. Oh dear!

The final section Agnus Dei (Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world) needs to come up trumps for us, and for a while…..but, no, I will not give away the ending!

Sara Kemsley

Camilla Pay

Camilla Pay, played the harp for the Cantate Choir’s Ceremony of Carols concert in December 2010.

Camilla Pay, Harp

Camilla Pay leads an unusually diverse musical life. She appears regularly alongside a wide variety of artists on television, but she is equally at home in the studio or on the concert platform.

Music Scholar at both King’s School Canterbury and The Royal Academy of Music, Camilla studied with acclaimed professors Skaila Kanga and Daphne Boden. Since graduating in 2001, she has performed as soloist from Prague to Amsterdam and throughout the U.K., notably in St. David’s Hall and Canterbury Cathedral (for the Canterbury Festival). She has performed Mozart’s Flute and Harp concerto with many orchestras in venues including St Martin-in-the-Field and also Canterbury Cathedral.

Camilla’s home county is Kent, where she has a particularly strong following – whether as soloist, with Willow (flute & harp) or with her trio The Korros Ensemble (flute, clarinet & harp) – at numerous music festivals. Indeed, in recognition of her fundraising concerts in Kent, she received an invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party!

Her chamber work includes guest appearances with the Locrian Ensemble and Southbank Sinfonia (Wigmore Hall). She has also played with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra.

Camilla is one of the UK’s leading session harpists. She is in high demand for recordings, TV, and for live shows at venues which include Blenheim Palace, Abbey Road Studios and Birmingham Symphony Hall. She has supported an unending list of well-known artists such as Barry Manilow, Kanye West, McFly, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and on TV with Michael Bublé, Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins, Aled Jones and Enya. TV shows include Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, GMTV, Parkinson and Strictly Come Dancing, as well as being in the Dave Arch Orchestra for the new ITV programme Popstar to Operastar and in the house band for BBC’s search for a new Dorothy in Over the Rainbow.

Albums on which she has played include those by Morrissey, Sinead O’Connor, Incognito and Tony Christie. Her most recent recording available is Britten’s Ceremony of Carols for Harp and High Voices, recorded in Canterbury Cathedral with the Cathedral Choristers and Choirboy of the Year. A personal highlight was her duet with Sir James Galway in The Royal Albert Hall for The Classical Brit Awards, accompanied by The English Chamber Orchestra.

Ceremony of Carols – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 11 December 2010 – St Marys Platt, Nr Borough Green

Poster for the Cantate Choir's December 2010 Concert - Ceremony of Carols

Soloist

Camilla Payharp

Programme

G. Palestrina – Matin Responsory
H J Gauntlett – Once in Royal David’s City
arr. Willcocks – Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
H. Darke – In the bleak mid-winter
M. Grandjany 1891-1775 – Aria in a classic style - Harp solo
R.R. Bennett – Susanni
arr. Willcocks – Il est né le divin enfant
J. Rutter – Wexford carol
Austr. trad. arr. Willcocks – He smiles within his cradle
arr. Willcocks – Angelus ad Virginem
S-R. Marcel 1882-1955 – Variations pastorales sur un vieux noël - Harp solo
arr. Willcocks – Sussex carol
Pearsall – In dulci jubilo
arr. R. Jacques – The holly and the ivy
arr. Willcocks – I saw three ships
arr. R. Jacques – Good King Wenceslas
B. Britten – Ceremony of carols

Programme notes

Wolcum, Wolcum, Wolcum be ye that are here,
Wolcum Yole, Wolcum alle and make good cheer,
Wolcum alle another yere, Wolcum Yole, Wolcum!
(Anon)

In 1939, Benjamin Britten was tired of the musical scene in England and in Europe. Though successful, he was not accepted as a foremost English composer as he deserved. Following on from Edward Elgar, there was a flowering of British composers working in a pastoral, neo-nationalist style: Bliss, Delius, Bantock, Finzi, Bax, and of course, the giant Ralph Vaughan-Williams. Britten’s style was altogether different; sparse and angular, influenced by the work of Berg, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, composers considered most unsuitable for a young English composer to admire.

Inspired by the work of the poet W H Auden, he set off for America. The two shared interests in politics, moral philosophy and the role of artist-in-society. Both had a technical mastery of their chosen medium bordering on the virtuoso. They collaborated on a number of successful co-ventures, notably his early operetta Paul Bunyan and the Hymn to Saint Cecilia. But Britten found America to have “all the faults of Europe and none of the attractions” and so, in 1942, he set sail to return to England. En route, he stopped in Nova Scotia, where he came upon The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, a collection of medieval texts. Despite the difficulty and terror of a transatlantic crossing at the height of U-boat activity, he began setting some of the poems for boys’ choir and harp. These later became the collection we know as A Ceremony of Carols.

Britten had been studying the harp with a view to writing a concerto for that unique instrument. It was to be another twenty-seven years before he wrote his challenging Suite for harp, for his friend Osian Ellis. However, the writing in

A Ceremony of Carols is already masterful and entirely idiomatic. It is also a turning point when Britten looked to his English musical roots and a more populist and melodic style. Though he never lost his individuality and modernity, this won him a lasting place as a musical genius.

It is worth knowing something about writing for the harp in order to appreciate more fully this fabulous instrument and Britten’s handling of it. It is not just that thing which (normally) attractive young ladies play to pretty up ballet music with all the impressive flourishes. It is steeped in history and indeed mythology. Wasn’t Apollo, the god of music himself, a player of the harp? There are harps painted on the walls of Egyptian tombs. The small Celtic harps which adorn various types of ale are gentle souls, well suited to the accompaniment of folk tales and ballads. The modern pedal harp however is a complex and enigmatic creature. Orchestral musicians know to keep well clear, not just because they are beautiful and so, so expensive but because the owner invariably surrounds herself in an invisible sphere of mysterious doings; the lengthy and loving packing and unpacking; the solitary tuning of all forty-seven strings before each and every session; the studied setting of the pedals before each entry; the ability to read a novel (never a newspaper) without missing that one vital solo in the third movement! And, what’s more, they do not even use all their fingers! The pinkies can be held as daintily as the vicar’s wife with a tea-cup, for they will never be called upon to play a single note.

The double-action pedal harp was invented in 1810 by Sébastien Érard. It has seven pedals, one for each note of the diatonic scale. In the basic position, all the strings are flats: Cb, Db, Eb and so on. The first pedal position tightens all the strings to naturals and the second position to sharps. You do the ‘math’ on the possible combinations which can be achieved!

After the opening unaccompanied procession, Hodie Christus natus est, the harp opens up in very practical style; simple arpeggiated chords and evenly matched figuration between the two hands for Wolcum Yole!. In No.3 There is no rose we hear the resonant ostinato bass in octaves, which underpins this beautiful setting of these anonymous words.

Fully chromatic scales are difficult to produce on the harp but amazing effects can be created by tuning strings to the same note, for example ‘trilling’ on C# and Db creates a rapid repetition of one note. This effect is heard in No.4a That yongë child. In No.4b Balulalow, Britten makes good use of the natural resonance of harp strings. With other instruments, the note stops when you cease to blow or bow or the piano damper falls. The notes of a harp ring on unless you deliberately ‘stop’ them. The swinging phrases in alternating minor and major blur and blend in this lovely, luminous lullaby.

The closeness and smallness of the upper strings makes the whispering effect called bisbigliando very easy to achieve. In No.5 As dew in Aprille, it is just enough to suggest the near silent falling of the dew. Playing closer to the sounding board gives a bright, hard sound made more percussive with the rapid use of both hands as in No.6 This little babe. This suits well the aggressive words of Robert Southwell portraying the Christ-child as an avenging angel who will rout out evil and protect all those who follow Him. Playing in the key of Cb major, when all the strings are at their longest, gives the greatest resonance. This is the key Britten chooses for No. 7 Interlude for solo harp. Big chords are placed over dazzling, bell-like harmonics, another special feature of the harp.

In No.8, we hear again the nervous fluttering of harp tremolos in a repetitive 5/4 figure, which exactly captures the shivering and stamping of anyone watching the scene unfolding In Freezing Winter Night. No.9, Spring Carol for two sopranos, finds the harp at its most playful. The ability to skip around, especially in the upper register, is meat and drink to the harpist and captures the skittering and singing of the birdès and other creatures to perfection. The final accompanied Deo Gracias brings many techniques together for an exciting climax of thanksgiving, culminating in the exhilarating use of glissandi. Adam at last gets the credit he deserves, for if he had not taken that apple then Mary would not have produced the Son of God on earth. ‘Blessed be that time that appil takè was. Therefore we moun singen Deo gracias.’ Alleluia to that and a happy Christmas!

Sara Kemsley

Ceremony of Carols

7.30pm, Saturday 11 December 2010 – St Marys Platt, Nr Borough Green

Poster for the Cantate Choir's December 2010 Concert - Ceremony of Carols

Soloist

Camilla Payharp

Programme

G. Palestrina – Matin Responsory
H J Gauntlett – Once in Royal David’s City
arr. Willcocks – Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
H. Darke – In the bleak mid-winter
M. Grandjany 1891-1775 – Aria in a classic style - Harp solo
R.R. Bennett – Susanni
arr. Willcocks – Il est né le divin enfant
J. Rutter – Wexford carol
Austr. trad. arr. Willcocks – He smiles within his cradle
arr. Willcocks – Angelus ad Virginem
S-R. Marcel 1882-1955 – Variations pastorales sur un vieux noël - Harp solo
arr. Willcocks – Sussex carol
Pearsall – In dulci jubilo
arr. R. Jacques – The holly and the ivy
arr. Willcocks – I saw three ships
arr. R. Jacques – Good King Wenceslas
B. Britten – Ceremony of carols

Programme notes

View programme notes

A Summer Seranade

7.30 pm, Saturday 13 June 2010 – St Martin’s Church, Brasted

Poster from Cantate Choir's summer concert in June 2010

Soloist

Iestyn Evansorgan

Programme

Madrigals
Greaves- Come away, sweet love
Vautor – Mother, I will have a husband
Weelkes – Come, sirrah Jack, ho!
Morley – Sing we, and chant it

Folksongs
Willcocks – Bobby Shaftoe
Grainger – Londonderry Air
Rutter – Dashing away with the smoothing iron
Elgar – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
Elgar – Doubt not thy Father’s care
Elgar – O hearken Thou
Elgar – They are at rest
Brahms – Hungarian Dance No. 5 (organ duet)

Popular Classics from the ‘30s and ‘40s
Youmans/Caesar – Tea for two
Kern – Smoke gets in your eyes
Porter – Let’s do it

Gillian Keith

Gillian performed with the Cantate Choir in the Mozart Requiem concert in March 2006, the Haydn Creation concert in March 2010 and the Handel’s Messiah in January 2016.

Gillian Keith, Soprano

Canadian soprano Gillian Keith has emerged as one of the leading lyric sopranos of her generation. Her superb voice and musicianship are at home both on the opera stage and on the concert platform, making her one of the most stylish and versatile artists on the stage today.

A past winner of the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Award‚ she made her Royal Opera‚ Covent Garden debut as Zerbinetta in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and has gone on to repeat the role with great success at Ópera de Oviedo and Welsh National Opera. Other operatic appearances include Tytania in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at ROH and at English National Opera‚ Nannetta Falstaff and Pretty Polly in Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy‚ both for ENO‚ and Pretty Polly in Geneva. She has sung Lucinda in Conti’s Don Chisciotte for Netherlands Opera under Rene Jacobs‚ Tiny in Britten’s Paul Bunyan for the Bregenz Festival‚ Elmira in Opera North’s Croesus‚ Ginevra in Handel’s Ariodante in Halle‚ Philine in Thomas’ Mignon, and Iphis in Handel’s Jeptha, both for Buxton Festival, The Woodbird in Scottish Opera’s Siegfried, and Poppea in Basel and in Boston.

Concert highlights include Mozart’s C Minor Mass in Boston’s Symphony Hall‚ La Resurrezione with the Wiener Akademie‚ Mahler 8 with the RPO‚ Haydn’s Creation with CBSO‚ B Minor Mass at London’s Barbican Hall, Handel’s Messiah and Silete venti with The Sixteen in Hong Kong and New Zealand, and Purcell’s The Indian Queen with The Sixteen at the Edinburgh International Festival‚ under such conductors as Sir John Eliot Gardiner‚ Daniele Gatti‚ Sir Richard Armstrong‚ Peter Schreier‚ Richard Hickox, Gianandrea Noseda‚ Harry Christophers and Sir Mark Elder.

Recent appearances include the title role in H.K. Gruber’s Gloria: A Pigtail at Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio Theatre, Buxton Festival and Bregenz Festival, Bach solo cantatas with Northern Chamber Orchestra, Kurtág’s Scenes from a Novel with the Psappha Ensemble, Handel’s Messiah in Washington National Cathedral, Bach’s St Matthew Passion (Handel and Haydn Society, Boston),
Miss Wordsworth in Britten’s Albert Herring with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the role of Ruth Ellis in Tom Randle’s new opera Love Me To Death at The Barbican’s Pit Theatre, and the premiere of works by David Matthews and Cecilia McDowall at the Presteigne Festival.

This season includes performances and a multi-disc recording of Bach solo cantatas with Armonico Consort, as well as concerts of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

She has recorded the role of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Sir Richard Armstrong, as well as orchestral songs by Dallapiccola, Nielsen’s 3rd Symphony, and Casella’s Le convent sur l’eau with Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic, all for Chandos. Other recordings include Handel’s Gloria and Bach Cantatas with John Eliot Gardiner,
Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s C Minor Mass with Harry Christophers, and Handel’s Nine German Arias with Florilegium. Her recital discs include Schubert Lieder on Marquis, and with pianist Simon Lepper Debussy: Early Songs, and Debussy Songs For His Muse for Deux-Elles, as well as Gillian Keith – bei Strauss for Champs Hill Records.

www.gilliankeithsoprano.com
@gillianksoprano

Haydn – Creation – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 20 March 2010 – St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks

Poster for the Cantate Choir's March 2010 Concert - Haydn Creation

Soloists

Robin Walkerorgan
Gillian Keithsoprano
Kevin Kyletenor
Gavin Horsley – bass
Hazel Brooksleader

Programme

Haydn – Creation

Programme notes

What if earth be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein each to other like, more than on earth is thought? John Milton, Paradise Lost

Keen readers of these notes will know from our last concert that Haydn wrote his masterwork The Creation late in his life. His then patron Prince Esterhazy was not musically inclined and left Haydn to his own devices, thus freeing him up from the social constraints of a resident composer to write ‘for himself and for posterity’. He had recently returned from a trip to England in 1795, where impresario Salomon had given him a long libretto called The Creation using text from the Bible and John Milton’s 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost. It had apparently been offered to Handel but he found it lengthy and lacking in the operatic drama he required for his oratorios. But Haydn had no such qualms and immediately asked his friend Baron van Swieten to translate it into German for him and began to compose.

The translation of the words has been a source of conjecture and controversy over the years. Both the Baron and Haydn were determined that the printed score should have both German and English words, so van Swieten translated it back into English when it was printed in 1800. We all know how much can get lost in translation. Sign outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.” The biblical passages survive the process well. It is the Miltonic verses, which have arrived back almost unrecognisable. Several editors have tinkered over the years to improve the underlay (the way the text fits the music) and the un-English order of the sentences, “In splendour bright is rising now the sun” for example. Most choirs and audiences are so accustomed to this, however, that a wholesale revision would be received much as new versions of prayer books; it’s easier to understand but not the same somehow.

The Creation takes us through the six days it took God to do His work and into the seventh, when Adam and Eve take time to marvel at their new home. It does not go into the murky depths of what happened next and therefore the whole spirit of the piece is uplifting, joyous and, yes, playful. This was Haydn’s character too and he allows his creative and humorous juices to flow throughout, as his music describes every detail of the new created world which springs up.

From Paradise Lost the unknown author takes the characters of three archangels: Uriel (Tenor), Raphael (Bass) and Gabriel (Soprano). These take turns to narrate the bible passage from Genesis in recitative and then, through an aria, to describe in poetic detail what has been created. The role of the choir is rather that of a Greek chorus and it provides an awed response to what has occurred and praises God for His achievements. Only once is the choir directly involved in the action and what a moment that is! No sooner has Raphael started with ‘In the beginning…’, than the choir takes over in hushed tones with ‘And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, (wait for it!) Let there be LIGHT’!!! All heaven breaks out in the choir and orchestra. This must surely be what gave scientists the idea for the Big Bang Theory! From this moment on, we know that we are in for an exhilarating, roller-coaster ride through creation.

PART ONE

The Representation of Chaos

This is a sensational orchestral prelude, which captures in 18th century terms the formless void. Imagine you have never heard any music written since, no romanticism, no modern, no jazz, no pop. Haydn’s audience would have been spellbound and mystified by the extraordinary quiet of this opening, the rhythmic uncertainty and the rootless, shifting harmonies that seem unable to settle. Where are the four-bar phrases? Where are the rules of classical harmony? Where is the structure? Exactly!

Day One – Let there be light

Into this primordial state comes the still, small voice of Raphael hardly daring to interrupt in case, in doing so, the spark of life is snuffed out before it truly begins. The bleak C minor becomes an ecstatic C major as light pours onto the scene. The tenor (Uriel) enters in high excitement that ‘God saw the light, that it was good’. His aria is then in A major, a key as far removed from C minor as blue and red in the light spectrum, as night and day, as chaos and order of which he sings. He and the choir then tell how the evil spirits are plunged down into Hell and into endless night. This is done with disjointed arpeggios and chromatic scales so that the contrast is all the greater when the choir sings in jaunty A major of the ‘new created world’.

Day Two – Firmament, water, sky

In this short section, Raphael recites the creation of land and sea and gives the very first weather report. Always the orchestra depicts the events before the narration, as if to show that God’s work comes first and only then can man perceive it. Gabriel and the choir round off day two with ‘The marv’llous work behold amazed’ once more in C major.

Day Three – Seas, mountains, fields, flowers

‘Rolling in foaming billows’, Raphael’s next aria, gives the orchestra the chance to exercise its Sturm und Drang muscles with tempestuous and continuously agitated semiquavers. Now we are in D minor, which can become a smoother, rocking D major as we come in land via the rivers to the ‘limpid brook’. The description of the green and verdant land is given to Gabriel, the soprano, in a lyrical aria in Bb major, ‘with verdure clad the fields appear’. This is for the first time in 6/8 rhythm, a metre very much associated with pastoral scenes in the classical portfolio. Once again, the choir rounds of the section with a hymn of praise for the third day, ‘Awake the harp, the lyre awake’.

Day Four – Day and night; sun, moon and stars

This section is opened in accompanied recitative by the tenor, Uriel, who describes how day and night are characterised by sun, moon and stars. No aria follows this time but choir and soloists unite in perhaps the best-known movement of the entire work, ‘the Heavens are telling the glory of God’ back now in C major. One third of Haydn’s symphonies are in C major. It is his key of happiness and celebration. It was also the only key for trumpets and kettledrums until the late 18th century.

PART TWO

Day Five – Birds and whales, all living creatures

Now that living creatures start to appear, Haydn can turn to his experience of writing opera and to make full use of the dexterous soprano voices of the day. The aria ‘on mighty pens uplifted soars the eagle aloft’ makes full use of the ability of the high voice and its sister instrument the flute to represent the various warblings of lark, dove and nightingale while violins dart hither and yon. The bass then exhorts all the fish and fowl to be fruitful and multiply in a short but resonant piece. The trio of soloists greet this with an ecstatic A major movement describing all the wonders now around and all attributed to God. The choir joins the trio to confirm that ‘the Lord is great’ and that his might will last for ever.

‘Straight opening her fertile womb’, the earth now brings forth various animals. Once again, the orchestra depicts the movements before Raphael announces first the tawny lion, then the flexible tiger, the nimble stag and the noble steed. A pastoral 6/8 again accompanies the grazing cattle and sheep. Little stabbing staccatos announce the swarms of insects but best of all is Haydn’s joke as ‘in long dimension creeps the sinuous worm’.

Day Six – And God created man

God’s work seems almost done and Raphael takes stock in his aria ‘Now Heaven in fullest glory shone’. But something is missing. He pauses to consider and realises that someone is needed who can appreciate all this creation and praise God in his gratitude. Uriel announces the creation of man in God’s image. This time, C major is used for a heroic aria ‘In native worth and honour clad’ to describe this god-like vision of man, who must rule over all Nature. The accompaniment is now thrusting, assertive and strong, moving effortlessly through a range of keys in mature Classical style. When woman is added, the same melody is made more gentle by the addition of extra quavers, a more liquid accompaniment and more constant harmonies. The aria ends softly in ‘love, and joy and bliss’.

At the end of the sixth day God sees everything he has made and that it is good. The choir concurs with the mighty chorus ‘Achieved is the glorious work’. Though not long, this chorus manages to combine the strength of homophonic writing (all parts moving together) with the intricacies of fugal entries, where parts copy and overlap each other to create a rich texture. This, in miniature, represents the world which has just been created. The trio of soloists then describes the relationship of God to all the creatures on earth, how ‘on Thee each living soul awaits’. Food and wellbeing flow from the hand of God but, if withheld, then all suffer and are fearful. The choir reiterates its chorus in a longer version to close Part Two.

PART THREE

Praises to God

This is dawn of the first morning on earth, the seventh day, the day God rested. We know immediately that this is new for we are in E major for the first and only time in a luxuriously warm and rosy introduction. Uriel now takes the role of narrator. The Bass and Soprano portray Adam and Eve and the choir is the angelic host. Together they marvel at the world around them, their happiness in it and their unbounded gratitude to God for his creation. In an unbroken sequence of musical scena, they extol the merits of the sun, the stars, the elements, fountains, forests, birds and beasts, mountains and valleys ending with ‘The heavens and earth Thy power adore; We praise Thee now and evermore.’

Adam is confident that they have performed their duty to God. He now turns his attention to Eve, whom he wants to be the partner of his life. The duet ‘Graceful consort, at thy side’ is a tender love duet in which each makes vows to the other. The pace picks up as the young lovers bubble over with the excitement of it all. Uriel pops back to sound the briefest note of caution. ‘O happy pair and happy still might be if not misled by false conceit. Ye strive at more than granted is and more desire to know than know ye should’. But that is for another time, for now the angelic host sums up in praise of God: ‘Sing the Lord, ye voices all.’

Sara Kemsley

Celebrate! – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 28 November 2009 – St Mary’s Church, Platt

Poster for the Cantate Choir's November 2009 Concert - Celebrate!

Soloist

Robin Walkerorgan

Programme

J. Haydn 1732–1809 – Te Deum
F. Mendelssohn 1809–1847 – Organ Sonata No. IV in B flat major
F. Mendelssohn 1809–1847 – Sechs Sprüche zum Kirchenjahr – opus 79
A. Bruckner 1824–1896 – Mass No. 2 in E minor

Programme notes

Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows. Napoleon Bonaparte

If you peruse the quotations of Napoleon Bonaparte, they are invariably short, pithy and cynical. They seem to tell us all we need to know about this man’s sense of self and his vaunting ambition, which took him and his troops across Europe and into Russia. And yet, something about music must have moved even his dogged soul. His actions and the aftermath affected the lives of all three of tonight’s composers directly or indirectly.

Much of Joseph Haydn’s career was spent working in the service of the Austro-Hungarian Esterhazy family. He said that the isolation of working for them forced him to be original. As his fame spread, he was allowed the freedom to travel and spent many successful years in London as guest of impresario Johann Peter Salomon. When he returned to Vienna in 1795 after such a visit, a new Esterhazy prince headed the household, who did not like music but enjoyed the caché of having Haydn as his staff composer. He sacked most of the musicians and required no specific duties from Haydn. This new freedom allowed Haydn to write for himself and for posterity in his final years. He wrote his greatest choral work The Creation in 1798 followed by The Seasons in 1801. He also penned the famous melody known as Austria, recognised today as the German national anthem. Between 1798 and 1800, he composed the Te Deum in C major and dedicated it to Empress Maria-Therese, second wife of Franz II of Austria. The first documented performance was in the presence of Lord Nelson, who had defeated Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Some historians claim that this late period of Haydn’s career shows him developing a style which incorporates a social and political awareness, which prefigured the work of Beethoven and the move to romanticism. Certainly this Te Deum is a jubilant setting, without soloists, which creates a powerful and democratic statement of belief. The choice of C major and large orchestra also reminds us of that great chorus from the Creation, ‘The Heavens are telling the Glory of God’. Whether inspired by religion or politics, this work brims full of confidence and triumphalism.

Felix Mendelssohn was born into a wealthy German Jewish family, which converted to Lutheran Protestantism in 1816, when they moved from French-occupied Hamburg to Berlin. His grandfather was the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and Felix enjoyed all the advantages of belonging to a family of intellectuals. His precocious talent was encouraged, he travelled extensively in Europe and studied the works of masters, thereby ensuring that in his short thirty-eight years of life, his output was impressive. Both the Organ Sonatas and the Sechs Sprüche were written between 1843 and 1846. With his wonderfully inventive and light-touch orchestral works behind him, these later works seem to develop the interest he had in the music of Bach and of the Renaissance choral traditions.

The four movements of the Organ Sonata No. 4 in Bb major form a symphony in miniature blending techniques of piano, orchestral and contrapuntal writing with Mendelssohn’s uniquely lyrical abilities.

Allegro con brio is a toccata with flamboyant trumpet-like passages. The Andante religioso is a simple, expressive melody reminiscent of Bach’s chorale movements. The third movement has a simple melody accompanied by an obbligato of continuous semi-quavers. The final Allegro maestoso e vivace is perhaps a surprisingly majestic movement after the more intimate movements which preceded.

The Sechs Sprüche zum Kirchenjahr Op. 79 are short settings of words from the Psalms and New Testament. Each uses one or two sentences appropriate to the season of the Church’s Year and concludes with Hallelujah. The 8-part writing lends a richness to each piece however gently and simply the words are set. At the fullest and most contrapuntal points, it is a truly awesome sound.

Advent is a joyous G major evocation in Renaissance style but with lush chording from the 8-part choir.

Christmas in the same key seems to bring something of the German carol tradition in the simplicity of the melody and block harmony.

New Year switches to D minor and is pensive at first. The build up as the words describe the creation of the world is dramatic but the certainty about God needs only the quietest utterance.

Passiontide cannot decide on major or minor – optimistic or pessimistic. It is a 24-bar gem of call and response ideas.

Good Friday is the most intense setting of all not surprisingly. Like a plainchant prayer, at first it explodes on the words ‘Therefore God exalted him’.

Ascension Day is a fitting choice to end the set. The key of Bb major is beloved for jubilant and festive music, which this is to be sure.

Anton Bruckner never quite lost his rural, introspective voice having grown up in northern Austria as a devout Catholic. Born in Ansfelden, educated at the St Florian Monastery School, organist at Linz (all within a five-mile radius of each other), with the rumblings of the Austro-Prussian war not so very far away at the border, perhaps it is not surprising that he chose to keep himself to himself. His style is forged out of the chromaticism of his hero Wagner and the more technical and austere lessons of harmony and counterpoint taught at that time. In the E Minor Mass of 1868, he forges the two into a uniquely expressive harmonic language and texture. It is also unique in liturgical music for combining the forces of eight-part chorus and wind band.

From the opening Kyrie we know we have entered a new sound world. It draws on the polyphonic style and antiphonal contrast of voices and instruments of Renaissance Italy. But this is polyphony suffused with the sumptuousness of 19th century melody and chromatic harmonies. Napoleon would have been impressed!

Sara Kemsley

Celebrate!

7.30pm, Saturday 28 November 2009 – St Mary’s Church, Platt

Poster for the Cantate Choir's November 2009 Concert - Celebrate!

Soloist

Robin Walkerorgan

Programme

J. Haydn 1732–1809 – Te Deum
F. Mendelssohn 1809–1847 – Organ Sonata No. IV in B flat major
F. Mendelssohn 1809–1847 – Sechs Sprüche zum Kirchenjahr – opus 79
A. Bruckner 1824–1896 – Mass No. 2 in E minor

Programme notes

View programme notes

Part, Parry, Purcell and Palestrina – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 6 June 2009 – St Bartholomew’s Church, Otford

Poster for the Cantate Choir's June 2009 Concert - Part, Parry, Purcell and Palestrina

Soloist

Iestyn Evansorgan

Programme

H. Purcell 1659–95 My Heart is inditing
H. Purcell Voluntary in G major
G.P. Palestrina 1525–94 Exsultate Deo
G.P. Palestrina Ricercar del quinto tuono
G.P. Palestrina Tu es Petrus
A. Pärt b. 1935 Pari Intervallo
A. Pärt The Beatitudes
C.H.H. Parry 1848–1918 Songs of Farewell
C.H.H. Parry Chorale Prelude on “Croft’s 136th”

Programme notes

The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away.

Arvo Pärt wrote this in the mature years of his life after a lengthy period of self-imposed silence as a composer. His new style, the style we largely know in his popular choral works, developed at this time and is unrecognisable from his early works. All traces of discord and complexity are gone. He is fixated on the triad (doh-me-soh) and its variations. He moves the vocal parts subtly through the inversions of simple chords, which technique he referred to as tintinnabulation, the sound of bells.

It is thought that Edgar Allen Poe was the first to use ‘tintinnabulation’ to describe the sound of bells, specifically the tinkling and jingling of bells, in his poem ‘The Bells’, which was famously set in a Russian translation by Rachmaninov. Pärt goes on to say, ‘I work with very few elements — with one voice, two voices. I build with primitive materials —with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells and that is why I call it tintinnabulation.’

So how does this sit with the rest of our programme? What are the common threads? Well, to be sure, our four composers all have family names beginning with P! All were mature and accomplished choral composers when they wrote the pieces we perform tonight and as such we are hearing arguably their best and most defining work. All held positions of distinction and influence in their musical worlds of the time. Palestrina was Maestro di Capella in Rome’s great churches St. John Lateran (1555-60) and St. Maria Maggiore (1561-6), writing for the Pope and cardinals. Purcell was organist at the Chapel Royal from 1682 and wrote music for many royal occasions, including ‘My Heart is Inditing’ for the coronation of James II. Hubert Parry joined the staff of the newly opened Royal College of Music in London and was its Director from 1894 until his death. He also succeeded Stainer as Professor of Music at Oxford University in 1900. Arvo Pärt was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996 and named International Composer of the Year in 2000 by the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry had an interest, some say Darwinian, in the evolution of the arts and of music in particular. He wrote books and essays on the subject charting the progress from the simplest utterances to the supreme achievements of composers and musicians. “The story of music has been that of a slow building up and extension of artistic means of formulating in terms of design utterances and counterparts of utterances which in their raw state are direct expressions of feelings and sensibility.” He argued that the vocalising of feelings is something common to all sentient beings, for example a dog greeting a master, the chorus of hounds when spying the fox, a cow wailing for her lost calf or the exuberant baby with gurglings and percussive rattle.

This takes us right back to Palestrina’s Exsultate Deo, composed in 1584 on the words of Psalm 81:

Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute.
Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon,
At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob.

In no other art form than choral music, whether sacred or secular, is it possible to express so directly sentiments and feelings: joy, sorrow, praise, despair, longing, satisfaction, this world and the next. And in expressing ourselves so directly, we can move others who listen to the same sensations be it reverence, cheerfulness, praise or prayer. “Get out there and bang something!” the psalmist is saying.

All four composers had a reverence for the music and traditions which had gone before them, in particular for the forms of madrigals and motets. These are short pieces for multiple voices which build layers of tone, harmony, texture and melodic interplay from often simple motifs designed to capture some element of the meaning of the text. The Pope was tickled pink by Palestrina’s upsurging ending to ‘Tu es Petrus’ (I shall make you the guard and keeper of the gate of Heaven.) Pärt’s ‘Beatitudes’ (Blessed are the poor in spirit etc.) get steadily higher and stronger until the final resounding Amen. Purcell chose some curious words for his coronation anthem but my goodness he sets them with gusto. It is full of bouncing dotted rhythms and syncopations that make you want to laugh out loud with the sheer joy of it all.

However, Parry’s ‘Songs of Farewell’ form the most substantial contribution to this panoply of giants. Written separately over a period of some nine years, he died before hearing them performed as a complete set. He long admired the English Poets from the Elizabethans to his late Victorians. Here he chose Henry Vaughan (1622-1695), John Davies (1569-1626), Thomas Campion (1567-1620), John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854), and John Donne (1572-1631). Parry was a rationalist and agnostic but valued biblical texts and spiritual writings as a part of his cultural heritage of which he felt very proud. These poems are not overtly religious but provide mystical hints of the transitoriness of life on earth and the possibilities of life beyond. These settings steadily build in complexity in a Darwinian trail of evolution from simple chordal SATB settings, adding one more vocal line with each motet until the mighty double choir setting of ‘Lord, let me know mine end’, which sets Psalm 39, the only biblical text in the set.

‘Traces of this perfect thing’ are present in all these works and during this concert, we trust that ‘everything which is unimportant falls away’.

Sara Kemsley

Part, Parry, Purcell and Palestrina

7.30pm, Saturday 6 June 2009 – St Bartholomew’s Church, Otford

Poster for the Cantate Choir's June 2009 Concert - Part, Parry, Purcell and Palestrina

Soloist

Iestyn Evansorgan

Programme

H. Purcell 1659–95 My Heart is inditing
H. Purcell Voluntary in G major
G.P. Palestrina 1525–94 Exsultate Deo
G.P. Palestrina Ricercar del quinto tuono
G.P. Palestrina Tu es Petrus
A. Pärt b. 1935 Pari Intervallo
A. Pärt The Beatitudes
C.H.H. Parry 1848–1918 Songs of Farewell
C.H.H. Parry Chorale Prelude on “Croft’s 136th”

Programme notes

View programme notes

Fflur Wyn

Fflur sang with the choir during its Handel’s Messiah concert in March 2009.

Fflur Wyn, Soprano

Fflur Wyn graduated with a Dip.RAM from the Royal Academy of Music Opera Course where she studied with Beatrice Unsworth and Clara Taylor. Her awards include First Prize and Audience Prize at the National Handel Competition 2005, the London Welsh Young Singer of the Year 2005, the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary, the Bryn Terfel Scholarship and the MOCSA Young Welsh Singer Prize.

Her operatic performances include Pamina (The Magic Flute – Holland Park Opera); Clerida (Croesus by Keiser), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel) Papagena (The Magic Flute) all for Opera North; Iphis (Jephtha – Welsh National Opera); Karolka (Jenufa – St Endellion Festival with Richard Hickox); Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro – Court Opera); creating the role of Adele in Michael Berkley’s opera Jane Eyre with Music Theatre Wales, with appearances at The Linbury Theatre Covent Garden (BBC Radio 3 / CD Recording).

Her oratorio and concert appearances include Handel’s Messiah (Harry Bicket/English Concert), Bach Christmas Oratorio (Jan Willem de Vriend/Combattimento Consort), Haydn’s Creation (Paul McCreesh/The Gabrieli Consort), her Proms debut in Mozart’s Thamos at Cadogan Hall for the Proms Saturday Matinee series, Handel’s Jephtha (Daniel Reuss/Cappella Amsterdam), Mozart Exsultate Jubilate with both the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The European Union Chamber Orchestra, Mozart Mass in C minor (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra), Bach St John Passion (David Hill/Opera North Orchestra).

Future performances include Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro at La Monnaie.

Review of Handel’s Messiah concert

Poster from Cantate Choir's concert in March 2009, Handel's Messiah

Reviewer – Steve Coles

More often than not in my experience, performances of Messiah catch the unwary out. There are just too many hidden obstacles to surmount and standards these days of period performance concerts seem to get higher and higher. Choice of soloists, that is those singers who are Handelian, choice of cuts and probably most important, and choice of speeds, (for there is nothing worse than a dragging Messiah with endless pause to boot between the items), are three such considerations. Then again one must remember that here is a work that needs much more concert day rehearsal time than time or finances permit.

What strikes me, however, is that on every occasion one hears Messiah, something new comes through, whether it is a certain musical phrase one hears differently or a particular tingle factor moment from a soloist or player and one is never disappointed as one is drawn by the music into that special world when the music makes time stand still.

Having put all these obstacles in the way, The Cantate Choir presented Messiah with four young soloists who gave more than creditable performances and a lively band Vivace! formed to work with them and conductor, Robin Walker, and it was The Cantate Choir who were the stars of the show. Their remarkable attention to detail and nuance must surely rate them as one of the top chamber choirs in the South East, if not farther afield. What they lack in professional timbre, (which for me is often itself a negative point), in fact gives them a quality which remains refreshing from beginning to end.

I must confess a personal interest as provider of the keyboard instruments for the gig but would like to mention Robin Walker’s intuitive harpsichord continuo playing, assisted by the German organist, Martin Knizia, who persuaded me to offer Werkmeister III as the unequal temperament which sat well especially in the more distant keys that Handel uses. The strings and oboes ably sustained their formidable unison passage throughout the work which in itself is far far harder than might seem. Rob Farley’s trumpet always enthrals. I know it is a hard work to play but I really miss the B section, arguably the best few bars of the whole work, and then the potential firework opportunities of the recapitulation, but then something also would have to go!

Singing is probably the most subjective art form there is but for my own taste I found Fflur Wyn and Kevin Kyle’s renderings occasionally rather un-Handelian, surprisingly so as they were both finalists at the London Handel Competition, indeed Miss Winn, who has a most striking voice, was a former winner. The alto Owen Willetts certainly had the most formidable power but seemed to lack the transparent quality that the music so often suggests, whilst the bass, Oliver Dunn, passed the finishing line with flying colours; he was certainly able to cope with the range of the two big contrasting arias that Handel demands.

A capacity audience was not disappointed and it was a pleasure to witness a performance, directed as Handel would have done, from the harpsichord by Robin Walker, who with his team and especially his choir, should be proud of taking us all so ably to that place where time, for a moment, stood still and allowed us to reflect on one of the seven wonders of musical history.

Steve Coles
Artistic Director
Tudeley Festival

Oliver Dunn

Oliver sang with the choir during its Handel’s Messiah concert in March 2009.

Oliver Dunn, Bass

Man of Kent, Oliver Dunn is currently studying on the Opera Course at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studies with Mark Wildman and Iain Ledingham. Previously to this he completed a degree and two Post Graduate years of study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester under the tutelage of Robert Alderson.

On the concert platform he has appeared extensively across Britain with a variety of orchestras and ensembles including, The Hallé, The Hanover Band and Manchester Camerata. Oratorio performances include Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, Bach St Matthew Passion and St John Passion (Christus), Mendelssohn Elijah, Handel Messiah, Haydn Nelson Mass, Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle, Puccini Messa di Gloria, Purcell King Arthur and Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, conducted by the composer. Oliver also performed concert excerpts of Disney’s The Jungle Book and The Lion King with the RNCM Wind Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall in which he played the roles of Baloo and Scar.

Since his arrival at the Royal Academy Oliver has taken part in masterclasses with Chevalier José Cura, Dennis O’Neill and Robert Tear, as well as performing excerpts of Cosi fan Tutte and Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims in the ‘5 days, 100 Concerts’ opening festival of the new King’s Place Concert venue close to King’s Cross Station.

Handel’s Messiah – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 21 March 2009 – St Nicholas’ Church, Sevenoaks

Poster for Cantate Choir's March 2009 concert, Handel's Messiah

Soloists

Fflur Wyn – soprano
Owen Willetts – alto
Kevin Kyle – tenor
Oliver Dunn – bass
Oliver Sandig – leader

Review

Steve Colesreview

Programme

Handel – Messiah

Programme notes

2009 is the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death, and what better way to celebrate the work of England’s most famous and enduring composers than to hear Messiah, the dramatic musical drama of Jesus’ life.

Handel famously composed Messiah in only a few hectic days, creating a work which has been performed every year since it’s first performance, a unique achievement. It is no surprise the work has found such fame, containing as it does so many memorable pieces, including possibly the most famous and recognisable of any, the Hallelujah chorus. Messiah is really Opera for the church, and the drama of the narrative carries us through chorus, aria and recitative for a thoroughly engaging and entertaining evening.

In a small London house on Brook Street, a servant sighs with resignation as he arranges a tray full of food he assumes will not be eaten. For more than a week, he has faithfully continued to wait on his employer, an eccentric composer, who spends hour after hour isolated in his room.

Morning, noon, and evening the servant delivers appealing meals to the composer and returns later to find the bowls and platters largely untouched.

Once again, he steels himself to go through the same routine, muttering under his breath about how oddly temperamental musicians can be. As he swings open the door to the composer’s room, the servant stops in his tracks.

The startled composer, tears streaming down his face, turns to his servant and cries out, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” George Frederic Handel had just finished writing a movement that would take its place in history as the Hallelujah Chorus.

(from Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh)

George Frederic Handel was born in Saxony in Germany in 1685 but from 1712 he resided almost solely in England, patronised by Kings George I and II so that he has rather been adopted as an English composer (and, heaven knows, we have few enough great composers as of right!) He had enjoyed enormous critical and financial success as a composer of operas but by 1741 his fortunes had fallen mightily. His operas were regarded by many as scurrilous and the Covent Garden Theatre, which he ran, a ‘den of rascals’. He was close to ruin and the debtors’ prison.

Out of the blue, two letters arrived, which changed Handel’s position and musical history forever. First came an invitation from the Duke of Devonshire to come to Dublin and provide a series of benefit concerts ‘For the relief of the prisoners in the several gaols, and for the support of Mercer’s Hospital in Stephen Street, and of the Charitable Infirmary on the Inn’s Quay’. Then, a letter arrived from Charles Jennens, a literary scholar and editor of Shakespeare’s plays, who had previously written libretti for Handel. The letter contained Old and New Testament texts, which Handel read and re-read and was so moved that he immediately embarked on writing a sacred opera using them. Messiah premiered on April 13, 1742 in Dublin as a charitable benefit, raising £400 and freeing 142 men from debtor’s prison. It has not been out of performance for a single year since, a record unsurpassed by any other classical work.

Handel believed that God spoke to him and required him to write the piece down. It was performed again and again for charitable concerts and Handel would not take a penny from the ticket sales, believing that God, not he, had written the piece. At his death, he bequeathed the manuscript and parts to the Foundling Hospital, founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, which continues to benefit to this day from performances of the Messiah. Charles Burney, 18th century music historian, remarked that Handel’s Messiah “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan.”

Why then, is Messiah such an enduring and monumental piece? Why is it performed every year all over the world? Why are there choral societies committed to performing nothing else?

For one thing, it is a work whose three parts take in the entire sweep of the traditions and beliefs of the Christian faith:

Part One — Prophecy of Salvation, the birth of Christ Jesus
Part Two — Crucifixion and Death
Part Three — Resurrection and the promise of eternal life for believers

A complete performance requires nearly three hours and therefore it is common to hear cut versions, particularly those around Christmas time, which focus on Part I with other good bits thrown in.

The second reason for its recurrent popularity is that it is simply full of good tunes and rousing choruses, which enable us as Everyman to grasp something of the ineffable mysteries of these sacred texts and to go away feeling spiritually uplifted regardless of our beliefs and understandings.

The main reason, however, has to be the sheer genius of the man (or perhaps it really was his divine inspiration). Handel paints the texts so vividly and gloriously that it seems impossible not to be profoundly moved by each and every aria, chorus and instrumental interlude. The contents page reads like a Classic FM 50 greatest hits countdown and this is no accident. Each and every piece is immaculately conceived in melodic, harmonic and textural terms and thus is as unforgettable as Michaelangelo’s David or Da Vinci’s Last Supper. But theirs were single pieces and this is a mighty collection of such works.

To begin the countdown, who can forget the affirmative ‘And the Glory, the Glory of the Lord’ as it strides upwards in A major to its home note? Or, after the ferocious portent of his coming ‘as a refiner’s fire’, the chorus delicately sprinkling water upon us in ‘And he shall purify’? Next, ‘For unto us a child is born’ uses the melody of a love song previously used in one of Handel’s operas and is simply the joyous babble of the christening party. In Part II, can there be a more gut-wrenching portrayal of misery and betrayal than the aria ‘He was despised and rejected of men’? It relentlessly pursues the falling semitone, long acknowledged to be as close to a human sigh as mere notes can be.

We all know the Hallelujah Chorus and it is traditional to stand for it as King George II spontaneously did when he first heard it. But it is the words which begin Part III, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’, which were inscribed on Handel’s tomb in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey when he died in 1759. Written in the optimistic, bright and certain key of E major, the opening two notes (dominant rising to tonic) sum up for me the entire piece; without any shadow of a doubt, with no possibility for confusion, Handel says, ‘I believe’.

Sara Kemsley

Oliver Sandig

Oliver led the orchestra for the choir’s Handel’s Messiah concert in March 2009.

Oliver Sandig, Violin

Oliver Sandig studied in Trossingen and the Royal College of Music. It was through the European Union Baroque Orchestra that he started his career in Early Music. He regularly plays with Florilegium, The Sweelinck Ensemble, Vivace and with Charivari Agréable with whom he recorded Torelli’s Brandenburg Concertos in 2008. He is a regular player with Café Mozart and with them recorded a CD of the music of the Earl of Abingdon and works.

Oliver also pursues a career in making and tuning harpsichords.

Owen Willetts

Owen sang with the choir during its Handel’s Messiah concert in March 2009.

Owen Willetts, Alto

Owen began singing as a choral scholar at Lichfield Cathedral. He then went on study at the Royal Academy of Music, where he spent four years studying with Noelle Barker, Iain Leadingham and David Lowe.

Owen has worked on the concert stage with many of the leading names in historical performance, including John Elliot Gardiner, Emmanuelle Haim, Laurence Cummings, Richard Egar and Christian Curnyn. With the Irish Baroque Orchestra Owen has performed Vivaldi and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Bach’s St. John Passion.

In opera, Owen has performed the role of Ottone in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea with Laurence Cummings and the Royal Academy Opera and for the Rekjavik Summer Opera; Anfinomus and Humano Fragilitata for Graham Vick and the Birmingham Opera Company, and covered the role of Pastore Uno for Emmanulle Haim in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. Owen performed the role of Satirino in Cavalli’s La Calisto, for the Iford Festival, with Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company. Owen covered the role of The Innocent in Harrison Birtwistle’s new opera The Minotaur, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and again at the ROH, the role of Satirino in Cavalli’s La Calisto. For the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Owen covered the role of Ottone in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronzione di Poppea. Again with Emmanuelle Haim, he performed Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, which toured France, Belgium and the Netherlands. This Summer Owen will cover the role of Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and will sing the role of Ottone in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione de Poppea for Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company.

David Matthews

David narrated for the Cantate Choir during its O Magnum Mysterium concert in December 2008

David Matthews, Narrator

David Matthews

After reading English at Cambridge, David taught the subject for 32 years, becoming Head of English and Drama at Nottingham High School and the Manchester Grammar School and then Deputy Head at St. Olave’s, Orpington. Since retiring, he has taught WEA literature classes at Tonbridge and Westerham, has directed plays for churches in Otford and Orpington, and in 2007 read war poems as part of the Sevenoaks Philharmonic Choir’s performance of The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins.

O Magnum Mysterium

7.30pm, Saturday 13 December 2008 – St Martin’s Church, Brasted

Poster from Cantate Choir's December 2008 concert, O Magnum Mysterium

Soloists

Riccardo Bonciorgan
David Matthewsnarrator

Programme

Kjell Mørk Karlsen b.1947 – O Magnum Mysterium
Carols from Georgian England
Hark! how all the welkin rings,
Hallelujah 1767
Nativity 1816
A Christmas anthem c. 1830
I saw a maiden
Silent night
O come, all ye faithful
The twelve days of Christmas

Programme notes

View programme notes

O Magnum Mysterium – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 13 December 2008 – St Martin’s Church, Brasted

Poster from Cantate Choir's December 2008 concert, O Magnum Mysterium

Soloists

Riccardo Bonciorgan
David Matthewsnarrator

Programme

Kjell Mørk Karlsen b.1947 – O Magnum Mysterium
Carols from Georgian England
Hark! how all the welkin rings,
Hallelujah 1767
Nativity 1816
A Christmas anthem c. 1830
I saw a maiden
Silent night
O come, all ye faithful
The twelve days of Christmas

Programme notes

O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. – Responsorial chant from the Matins for Christmas

And, all o’ ye, whatever ye do, keep from making a great scuffle on the ground when we go in at people’s gates; but go quietly, so as to strike up all of a sudden, like spirits. – Thomas Hardy – Under the Greenwood Tree

There are two sides to Christmas, which are hopefully brought out in these two quotations and in our programme for you tonight. On the one hand we are reminded of the mystery of the story of the immaculate conception and birth of Jesus in the very poorest and humblest of circumstances, surrounded by animals and poor working men. On the other, we have a glorious evocation of the amateur musical efforts of later generations of yokels, who sought to give thanks for this blessed event through singing and playing in a tradition often known as West Gallery Music. While their sincerity shone through their often bumbling skill, it has left us a heritage of humour in our carol singing which lives on today.

West Gallery Music is a difficult genre to pin down but usually refers to certain English music of the 18th and 19th centuries, simple in nature and based on hymns and psalms for performance in and around church by voices and instruments (whatever came to hand). Sally Drage, who co-arranged the items of this type which we sing tonight, describes it as ‘the sacred music of provincial parish churches and nonconformist chapels, performed by and often written specifically for amateurs.’ The music has charm and sometimes humour and certainly is the kind to which Hardy referred or which Washington Irving recalled in Old Christmas: “…he has also sorted a choir, as he sorted my father’s pack of hounds…for the bass he has sought out all the ‘deep solemn mouths’ and for the tenor the ‘loud ringing mouths’, among the country bumpkins; and for ‘sweet mouth’, he has culled with curious taste among the prettiest lasses in the neighbourhood; though these last, he affirms, are the most difficult to keep in tune; your pretty female singers being exceedingly wayward and capricious, and very liable to accident.” Sounds pretty much like a Cantate Choir rehearsal to me!

Kjell Mørk Karlsen (b. 1947), by contrast, is a versatile and thoroughly professional musician but one who also ensures that he is inclusive of his audience. An oboist, organist and recorder player, he graduated from Oslo Conservatoire and has enjoyed a varied career as oboist with the Norwegian National Opera and as a keyboard musician with various orchestras and ensembles, such as the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Collegium Musicum. He has taught at the Conservatoire, been cathedral organist and his interest in medieval and Renaisssance music led him to found Pro Musica Antiqua in 1969. It is hardly surprising therefore that, as a composer, he is drawn to sacred music, nor that it is a readily accessible mix of traditional texts set in subtly modern ways. His use of choral sonorities and organ ‘voluntaries’ pays tribute to the great traditions of Renaissance and Baroque church music but with a freshness and perhaps a coolness, which we might expect from his modern Scandinavian roots. The use of a narrator, however, is entirely his own and brings a directness to the telling of the Christmas story and engages the audience, where more formal vocal traditions of oratorio perhaps do not.

O magnum mysterium – Kjell Mørk Karlsen

The narration provides a detailed account of the prophecy, conception, birth and first few days of Jesus’ life using bible texts. The organ’s role is to accompany and amplify the storytelling. The choral sections are unaccompanied meditations using well-known latin texts:

O magnum mysterium – O great mystery
Universi, universi – Lord, let none who await you be ashamed
Ave Maria – Hail mary, full of grace
Magnificat – My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour
Puer natus est – A child is born to us and a son is given
Gloria in excelsis – Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth
Quem vidistis? – What did you see shepherds? Tell us.
Nunc dimittis – Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace

It is perhaps telling that the only times the organ and choir come together is for the words Gloria Patri et Filio Sancto – Glory be to the Father, the Son and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

A Christmas Celebration is a collection of carols from Georgian England in the West Gallery style. Our second half begins with three:

Hark how all the welkin rings arranged by Thomas Butts using words by Charles Wesley. Welkin is the vault of Heaven, implying a very loud sound if you can set it ringing. I never knew that!

The Branch, the mighty branch behold, attributed to John Reynolds, is a wordy little number which would have taxed the bumpkins in the extreme (and still does!). It tells of the nativity.

A Christmas Anthem by William Matthews of Nottingham is an exhilarating setting of words by Charles Montgomery, which you will recognise.

The final set for the evening takes four settings from the tried and trusted collection of Carols for Choirs, edited and arranged by Reginald Jacques and David Willcocks. Not enough homage is paid to these two connoisseurs of the English caroling tradition. Four books of fine compositions and arrangements that allow every Christmas to be different yet reassuringly the same.

Happy Christmas!

Sara Kemsley

The Voice of Melody – Programme notes

7.30pm, Saturday 7 June 2008 – St Mary’s Church, Platt

Poster from Cantate Choir's June 2008 concert, The Voice of Melody

Soloists

Nimrod Borensteincomposer
Iestyn Evansorgan

Programme

Benjamin Britten 1913-1976 – O be joyful in the Lord
Arvo Pärt b.1935 – “I am the true vine
John Rutter b.1945 – Loving shepherd of thy sheep
Ernest Bullock 1890-1979 – Give us the wings of faith to rise
Jyrki Linjama b. 1962 – Salve Regina
William Harris 1883 – 1973 – Faire is the heaven
Nimrod Borenstein b. 1969 – Three psalm settings
The voice of melody
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
Idols
Arnold Bax 1883-1953 – Lord, thou hast told us
Charles Wood 1866-1926 – Great Lord of Lords
Nimrod Borenstein – “To be or not to be” (World Premiere)

Programme notes

Sing praise with the voice of melody (Psalm 98)

Melody and the human voice are almost synonymous in our minds and in our bodies. The human vocal folds (cords) are distinctively different from those of any other species and a human spoken voice that cannot produce differences in pitch will sound artificial, robotic. Language itself depends on the different inflections to a greater or lesser degree. Compare the musical Welsh lilt with the uplifting and questioning Australian. In Chinese, get your inflection wrong on the syllable mu and you could be calling your mother a cow!

The instrument built to try to recreate what the human vocal pipe can do is the organ but it requires hundreds of tongued pipes to reproduce the single flexible physiology of the human organ and it is this very flexibility which it cannot copy. Hardly surprising then that composers have chosen to use the combined human voices of our choral tradition, occasionally accompanied by its mechanical equivalent, the pipe organ, to give expression to our highest thoughts and aspirations as set down in hymns, psalms and songs of praise.

Melody is defined in the Grove Dictionary of Music as ‘a series of musical notes arranged in succession, in a particular rhythmic pattern, to form a recognizable unit.’ It goes on to aver that ‘the breakdown of the tonal system in the 20th century, and the freer use of chromaticism and large leaps, has made melody less easy to apprehend.’ Well, this concert should give you a view of melody such as you have never had before and completely put the lie to the assumption that modern composers cannot ‘do’ melody.

Throughout this programme think of melody as the skin: that marvellous stretchy, sinuous, tactile, breathing, enveloping layer which can constantly renew itself. Below it may be bones and blood, organs and gooey bits but it is the skin which we see and which we so lovingly paint and adorn and nurture. Skin can be delicate, thin and fragile or thick, strong and tanned as leather. So it is with melody in the hands of all our composers. The words are the make-up, the tattoos or the freckles which accentuate the natural expression of the skin.

Benjamin Britten in his Jubilate (O be joyful in the Lord) remembers the natural pitch difference of about a fourth, which distinguishes the tenor from the bass and the soprano from the alto voices. He works them in pairs in this way for much of the anthem. In the middle and at the end, all combine on close chords in the rhythms of speech as if chanting a psalm.

Arvo Pärt, born in Estonia in 1935, says that a single note well played is enough. His music is spare and subtle and his setting of I am the True Vine (John 15 1-14) is an intensely beautiful masterstroke. Written in 1996 for the 900th anniversary of Norwich Cathedral, there is but one set of words thrown oh so gently from voice to voice. Singly or in pairs or trios, the words and syllables are scooped back and forth and up and down like some slow motion tennis match. One continuous skin, thick and thin. Just listen to how he ends it!

John Rutter and Ernest Bullock were immersed in the English choral tradition and knew well how to breathe life into simple melodic lines and enrich them with the Botox of luscious inner parts, making the words shimmer and glow.

Jyrki Linjama from Finland wrote his setting of Salve Regina in 2005. This is melody pulled and teased and massaged from a single note A. Despite any amount of twisting and turning, the grip of that note can scarcely be broken until the very end when we realize that A was the question and the answer is D. Brilliant!

Faire is the heaven by William Harris to words of Edmund Spenser is one of those unforgettable choral experiences. Double choirs vie with each other on one constant melodic journey which pours ecstasy on top of bliss. This is not just melody, this is M & S melody! ‘The image of such endlesse perfectnesse’.

Cantate have featured work by Nimrod Borenstein before. This distinctive young Israeli composer, working in Britain, brings a refreshing simplicity to the setting of words and is not afraid to turn them around to his musical purpose. Busy organ accompaniments provide the circulatory system upon which the vocal lines can prosper and grow. The words of these three psalm settings are familiar but the guise is new.

Arnold Bax is better known for his large-scale and exciting orchestral works. Lord thou hast told us is a hymn setting of such perfect simplicity and beauty that it is hard to believe it is from the same pen. It reminds us that many of our best-loved hymn tunes were written by first-rate English composers.

Charles Wood (1866-1926) stood in the shadow of Charles Villiers Stanford as organist, choral trainer and composer in Cambridge. His church work is similarly potent as this great double choir anthem demonstrates. It leaves out sopranos to give a weight and richness to the sound, which the words demand.

Our final work is a world premiere by Nimrod Borenstein. Written especially for his friend Robin Walker, this is a setting of Hamlet’s To be or not to be speech by Shakespeare for choir and organ. It is as if four people, not one, are on the stage musing on whether to die, to sleep, perchance to dream. Each voice goes its own way, makes its own comment, in scales, in arpeggios, slowly, quickly, up and down. If this is skin, then it is skin with an itch: to be or not to be…

Sara Kemsley

The Voice Of Melody

7.30pm, Saturday 7 June 2008 – St Mary’s Church, Platt

Poster from Cantate Choir's June 2008 concert, The Voice of Melody

Soloists

Nimrod Borensteincomposer
Iestyn Evansorgan

Programme

Benjamin Britten 1913-1976 – O be joyful in the Lord
Arvo Pärt b.1935 – “I am the true vine
John Rutter b.1945 – Loving shepherd of thy sheep
Ernest Bullock 1890-1979 – Give us the wings of faith to rise
Jyrki Linjama b. 1962 – Salve Regina
William Harris 1883 – 1973 – Faire is the heaven
Nimrod Borenstein b. 1969 – Three psalm settings
The voice of melody
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
Idols
Arnold Bax 1883-1953 – Lord, thou hast told us
Charles Wood 1866-1926 – Great Lord of Lords
Nimrod Borenstein – “To be or not to be” (World Premiere)

Programme notes

View programme notes

Nimrod Borenstein

Nimrod’s piece, If I Rise, will be sung by the choir for its third performance since its premier in London in 2006. It was sung during its Remember! concert in November 2006

Nimrod Borenstein, Composer

Vladimir Ashkenazy recently heard Nimrod’s music for the first time and has given him his full support. Nimrod Borenstein has won several international composition competitions and his works are gaining a worldwide reputation with performances throughout Europe, Canada, Australia and the USA.

Nimrod Borenstein holds postgraduate diplomas from the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music where he was a Leverhulme Trust Fellow and is now listed amongst the alumni, as an illustrious past student. He is a Laureat of the Cziffra Foundation of France. Nimrod Borenstein has publishers in Europe and the USA.

Nimrod’s latest works for orchestra are receiving exceptionally enthusiastic reviews from the press and becoming part of the repertoire of many orchestras in Europe and the USA. The Shell Adagio for Strings, commissioned by the Oxford Philomusica (UK), was performed over 30 times by 16 different orchestras during the last season, including a very moving performance by the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain in August 2006. World premieres in 2007 include Elves and Mirrors for solo violin & orchestra (USA, South Dakota, February) and Lynx for orchestra (USA, Virginia, May).