George Butterworth The Banks of Green Willow Ronald Corp The Somme – A Lament Ralph Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music Johannes Brahms A Ge

George Butterworth – The Banks of Green Willow
Ronald Corp – The Somme – A Lament
Ralph Vaughan Williams – Serenade to Music
Johannes Brahms – A German Requiem

The opening concert in our 2016-2017 season has a sombre feel, commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Starting with The Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth, who was killed in action on 5th August 1916, aged only 31, this work is complemented by Ronald Corp’s The Somme – a lament, part of a larger work by Corp entitled Dawn on the Somme.

The mood lifts with the choral arrangement of Serenade to Music by Butterworth’s contemporary, Vaughan Williams and the programme is brought to a close with Brahms’s glorious German Requiem.

Possibly inspired by the death of his mother in 1865, Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem, To Word of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45 is the composer’s longest composition. In contrast to the traditional Roman Catholic requiem mass, which begins with prayers for the dead, A German Requiem focuses on the living, beginning with the text ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted’ from the Beatitudes. This theme, transition from anxiety to comfort is central to the work.

The text of Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music is an adaptation of the discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

There’s not the smallest orb which thou beholdst
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims.

Vaughan Williams wrote the piece as a tribute to the conductor Sir Henry Wood to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Wood’s first concert. The solo parts were composed specifically for the voices of sixteen eminent British singers chosen by Wood and the composer, but Vaughan Williams subsequently made arrangements for four soloists plus choir and orchestra, for choir and orchestra, for choir and piano, and for orchestra alone.