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Here’s the full programme:
Vaughan Williams, Serenade to Music
Ireland, These Things Shall Be
Butterworth, Rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad
Vaughan Williams, Dona nobis pacem
The three choral works in this concert were written in consecutive years from 1936 and it is easy to attribute different reactions to the tensions of the time in them:
Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music was originally composed for 16 soloists but later arranged in a choral version, which is the one to be performed in this concert. It sets the words of Shakespeare (from The Merchant of Venice) saying that “The man that hath no music in himself [is only] fit for treasons, stratagems and spoil” and that music & harmony comes from the heavens.
Harmony, this time of the human kind, is the central theme of Ireland’s These Things Shall Be and provides an aspirational view of mankind. It is a setting of the poem by J Addington Symonds which may have raised eyebrows, particularly in 1937, with its opening reference to the rising of “… a loftier race than e’er the world hath known”, but the central tenet is that “Nation with nation, land with land, unarmed shall live as comrades free”. Ireland’s stirring music is uplifting throughout, likewise aspiring to a harmony that would have seemed distant at this time.
There is no doubting the darkness and sense of foreboding in Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem. For example, its premiere in 1936 fell two days before the anti-Fascist Battle of Cable Street in London’s Whitechapel and will have reflected such dark times and a desire to be given peace. VW’s texts were taken from the Mass, three poems by Walt Whitman, a political speech, and sections of the Bible, providing a powerful and dramatic work, ultimately leading to its uplifting and optimistic ending – “O man, greatly beloved, fear not!”.
George Butterworth’s Rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad, was written as an orchestral postlude to his song cycle and premiered in 1913. It is credited with influencing the rhapsodies of other English composers of the period, including Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Rebecca Hardwick (soprano)Susanna Spicer (mezzo)Paul Smy (tenor)Malachy Frame (bass/baritone)
Conductor: Geraint Bowen
Photo credit: Karen Friedman
Tickets from only £10 (unreserved). Up to 2 children under 16 will be admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Parties of 10 or more receive a group discount of 10%.