For most of our concerts, our Musical Director Ronald Corp, explains a little about the work, its composer and its history
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.
Our annual Christmas concert invites the whole community to join us, with the St Michael’s School junior choir and also the New London Children’s Choir and make merry! Carols and music will include some old favourites as well as some you may not know. It’s just the event to begin the run up to Christmas, so join us!
Ronald Corp speaks about Delius and Elgar ahead of the HCS concert of their works on 11 March.
Our first concert of 2017 is an all-British affair featuring two towering figures of 20th-century music, Delius and Elgar.
The concert begins with the highly attractive Walk to the Paradise Garden, an orchestral interlude from Delius’s opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet. The motion of waves is suggested throughout by the orchestra in Sea Drift, while the choir sings the tale of a pair of mocking birds nesting on the sea shore in a setting by Walt Whitman.In The Music Makers Elgar also sets an entire poem, Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, to much original music punctuated with quotes from previous compositions including The Dream of Gerontius, Sea Pictures, the First Symphony, the Enigma Variations and Rule, Britannia.
Throughout 2017 the 50th anniversary of the death of Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály is being marked. In 1945, while hiding with his wife and many others in the cellar of the Budapest Opera House during the Nazi occupation, he completed his Missa Brevis, which had originally been an organ mass. Its first performance was in the cloakroom of the Opera House, later receiving its official première at the 1948 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester.
By the time of this concert Highgate Choral Society will have been on its tenth tour abroad, to Naples, Sorrento and Pompeii, where they will have performed sacred and secular pieces by Finzi, Mascagni, Rossini, Vaughan Williams and Verdi, as well as Campion, Palestrina and Tallis.
The soloist in the Missa Brevis will be young soprano Iúnó Connolly, who will also sing a selection of English and Italian songs accompanied by organist Edward Batting.
When the first recording of Mass in Blue was released in 2006, MusicWeb International ended its review thus: “Choral singers and directors on the lookout for enriching their choir’s choice should get this, as should anyone who appreciates a well-themed piece of sung music that brings off the balance between accessibility and sustained creative delight.” Premièred in 2003, Mass in Blue, scored for soprano solo, choir, piano, bass and drum kit, has gone on to receive performances throughout the world.
Perhaps this will happen to Two or Three Angels too? To complement the Mass, Highgate Choral Society has commissioned an exciting new work for soprano and double choir from “one of the brightest young talents to emerge in recent years”, Russell Hepplewhite (Evening Standard Top 1000 most influential Londoners). Consisting of 12 movements, Two or Three Angels sets to music poetry by William Blake, Rabindranath Tagore, Emily Dickinson, W B Yeats, Stephen Crane, James Henry Leigh Hunt, John Keats and Henry van Dyke. 1 July 2017 will be its first performance.
HCS is pleased to announce dates for its 2017/18 season as listed below.