|Friday 8th November, 2013 at 7PM|
Glebe Music Festival
In conjunction with The Glebe Society Inc
THE TAVERNER CONSORT OF VOICES
Ceremony of Carols - Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)
Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols was written almost by chance by ship to Britain from the United States during World War 2. He had started writing Hymn to St. Cecilia and intended to finish it onboard, but it was confiscated by custom officials thinking it might contain a secret code. During the voyage, Britten came across a book of medieval poems and some of these he set for treble choir and harp. A Ceremony of Carols was later adapted for mixed choir by Julius Harrison.
The work has eleven short movements:
1. Procession. The words "Hodie Christus natus est" (to-day Christ is born) are sung to a plainsong melody.
2. Wolcum Yole! The choir sings a strident welcome to the harp's brisk, rhythmic accompaniment.
3. There is No Rose is a carol in praise of Mary. The mystery of the virgin birth is captured by the Latin words which are sung as a chant and which are interspersed with the English words.
4a. That Yongë Child, sung in unison by the sopranos, describes Mary's lullaby. To a haunting three-note figure in the harp, the voices proclaim that Mary's song "was so sweet a melody, it passed alle minstrelsy".
4b. Balulalow (words by James, John and Robert Wedderburn) is a gentle lullaby, Mary's love song to the infant Jesus, and the words are a translation of a poem by Martin Luther: "I sall rock thee to my herte, and never mair from thee depart". A soprano soloist introduces the melody that is taken up by the choir. The composer alternates major and minor harmony and the harp plays a descending figure in simple triple time throughout, the voices sometimes joining it rhythmically and sometimes working against it.
5. As dew in Aprille. The voices sing in delicate counterpoint, describing the falling of dew, which is likened to the coming of Jesus to his mother.
6. This Little Babe (words by Robert Southwell) celebrates Christ's coming "to rifle Satan's fold". The ensuing battle is described with the use of exciting, pounding rhythms and by the voices singing a canon that builds in density. A homphonic setting ends the song with the words "if thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly boy."
7. A pastorale for the harp sets the mood for the song that follows.
8. In Freezing Winter Night (words by Robert Southwell). Accompanied by a trembling figure, the composer uses a minor key, dissonant harmonies that press against each other, then resolve, and an uneven pulse to recreate the freezing night when Mary was forced to give birth in a stable. When the mood of the poem changes, explaining that these most humble surroundings are, in fact "a Prince's court", the music moves into the major key. The music returns to the minor key to finish with a declamatory passage and finally resolves on the major chord.
9. Spring Carol (words by William Cornish) is a duet set to a lively, leaping figure in the harp. The carol thanks God for the pleasure and sustenance given to mankind by nature.
10. Deo Gracias is a joyful song describing the fall of Adam and thanking God for it. Without Adam's fall, mankind would have no need for redemption, and "our Lady" would not be our "hevene Quene". To end the carol, the voices emulate a peel of bells to a descending glissando from the harp.
11. Recession. The opening plainsong is repeated.
The Deer’s Cry - Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)
Pärt is known for his minimalist style using self-invented compositional techniques, drawing on Gregorian chant. He converted from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodox in the 1970s and much of his work is in Latin rather than his native Estonian. His work is characterized by an unashamed beauty, using simple harmonies, single unadorned notes or triads. Steve Reich wrote, “I love his music, and I love the fact that he is such a brave, talented man .... He's completely out of step with the zeitgeist and yet he's enormously popular, which is so inspiring. His music fulfils a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion."
The Deer’s Cry (2007) is a setting of St. Patrick’s Breastplate: ‘Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me.’ The song shows his tintinnabuli (small bell) style, a step-wise melodic line accompanied by a triadic harmony.
To be Sung on the Water and Sure on this Shining Night - Samuel Barber (1910 - 1981)
Barber is known as a composer but was also a singer. In 1935 he appeared on NBC singing his setting of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’. Toscanini heard his performance and arranged for concerts of more of his work. Barber was criticized as musically conservative and ‘bourgeois’ because of typically long melodic lines and rich textures. In these two songs he uses a metrical trick: although the music streams in a steady flow, it is difficult to detect bar lines. The music critic Alex Ross called this time-suspending atmosphere ‘a modern form of Gregorian chant which was both more modern and more traditional than his contemporaries’. Barber gave up singing because, as he put it, ‘onstage I have about as much projection as a baby skunk.’
Sure on this Shining Night (words by James Agee) has become one of Barber's best-known songs.
It has an ecstatic quality, created by its soaring melody found in both soprano and tenor lines. In the heart-felt simplicity of the setting Barber's genius is clearly seen.
To be Sung on the Water (words by Louise Bogan). This is a very sensitive setting of an extremely romantic poem. The men's voices set up a rhythmic figure suggestive of the dipping of oars, as the women's voices carry a two-part melody. Partway through the piece, the roles reverse, the women singing the accompanying figure and the men taking the melody. The music builds to a climax where the voices alternate, taking a phrase of the melody in turn. As the tension eases, the original pattern returns.
Six Noels Op 32- Marcel Tournier (1879-1951)
Tournier was a French harpist, composer and pedagogue who composed important repertoire for the harp. For most of his working life, he held a post at Paris Conservatory where he taught several generations of harpists from around the world. I (Magi); II (snowflakes); III (lullaby); IV (stars); V (shepherds); VI (carillon).
A Christmas Carol and Evening Song - Zoltán Kodály (1882 – 1961)
Kodály was among the first to collect traditional songs on the phonograph cylinder in 1905 and was the one to involve Bela Bartok in this work. The ‘Kodály method’ of music teaching led to more than half the schools in Hungary becoming specialist music schools and is now worldwide. His roles as ethnomusicologist and educator have tended to overshadow his large output of instrumental, choral and chamber works and operas.
A Christmas Carol draws on a traditional Hungarian melody but is firmly in the mainstream of classical and modernist traditions. Evening Song was described by one critic as a ‘beautiful little gem, with its close harmony and evocation of day leading to peaceful night’.
Voices of a Land – Stephen Leek (b.1959)
Stephen Leek is a conductor, musician and one of Australia’s foremost choral composers. He studied with composer Larry Sitsky and cellist Nelson Cooke. With Graeme Morton, Leek was a founder, Artistic Director and then Conductor of The Australian Voices - an elite ensemble of young adult singers who have changed the nature, traditions and landscape of choral music in Australia over the last decade through their commitment to record, perform, promote and tour the work of Australian composers. Under his direction The Australian Voices has performed Australian music across the world on 10 tours and has been awarded major national and international accolades including the Bela Bartok International Choral Competition in Hungary. The title of this work, Voices of a Land, refers to giving voice to two rather neglected poets who convey key features of the Australian environment. Both poets have a focus on music, sound and metre.
Cutty Sark - Ethel Anderson was an early twentieth century Australian poet, essayist, novelist and painter. She worked with modernist painters Roi de Mestre and Grace Cossington Smith. Her writing was influenced by French literature and modernism with a focus on experimenting with metre. Another of her poems The Song of Hagar was set to music by John Antill. The poem Cutty Sark was inspired by a shipwreck that happened outside Sydney heads in 1857. The shipwreck was that of the Dunbar. In 1857, in poor weather, the captain mistook The Gap for Sydney heads and one hundred and twenty one passengers and crew perished. There is a large tomb in Camperdown cemetery containing twenty two of the victims. The Cutty Sark was a clipper built on the Clyde in 1869. She transported wool from Australia to Britain and was the fastest ship travelling the route for ten years. Eventually steamships took over the trade. In the imagination of the poet, the Dunbar, from its watery grave, hails the Cutty Sark as she sails past.
Midsummer Noon - Charles Harpur, born in 1813 of convict parents, was seen as the first Australian-born poet. Judith Wright said he was “the first to assert the independence, the specialness, of the Australian landscape”. It is said that he was the first to be able to write the countryside he observed and heard rather than copy British models. This poem from 1851 conveys the calm majesty and silence of the bush. You can visit his grave at Eurobodalla in southern NSW.
Botany Bay - ‘traditional’
Many people think this was a traditional folk song but in fact it was written in 1885 for a musical comedy, Little Jack Sheppard, in London by Stephens and Yardley and first published in 1893, forty years after the end of transportation. It shares two verses with 'Farewell to Judges and Juries' a broadside c.1820. It has since become a ‘folk song’ being recorded by everyone from Andre Rieu and Rolf Harris to John Williamson. This arrangement is by Susan Briedis. Botany Bay was arranged for Jones and Co, a professional group of six singers, and later revised for Taverners. It describes the heartbreak of being expelled from the homeland, but finally the pride in overcoming hardship to found a new society.
Verna Lee – studied harp in Sydney, Germany and the United States. She made her solo debut at age 14 and has worked professionally since 19. She has performed and recorded with Sydney Symphony, Singapore Symphony, Australian Youth and the Australian Opera and Ballet orchestras to name a few. She has also been concerto soloist with many Sydney orchestras and is an active chamber musician. Career highlights include performing the Ravel Introduction and Allegro with the Australian Youth Orchestra at the Adelaide Arts Festival and filming a scene with her harp for the movie The Matrix.
She has performed with artists such as Sumi Jo, Il Divo, the Kiev Ballet, Aled Jones, Amelia Farrugia, the English National Ballet and Deustche Kammerakademie Neuss. She is also a sought after teacher, is the founder and director of the Sydney Harp Eisteddfod, and the Australian Harp Weekend and has performed and lectured at the Australian Harp Festival in 2008 and 2012.
THE TAVERNER CONSORT OF VOICES
The Taverner Consort of Voices was founded in 1975 by Sandy Newman, who was the Musical Director until 2003. Since that time there has been a variety of directors including Phillip Chu, Paul Dhasmana and Nathan Gilkes. Sue Briedis, who has been a guest conductor for many years, has directed the choir since its 2010 season. The Consort’s repertoire was originally built on a basis of sacred and secular Renaissance music (the period of John Taverner, from whom the Consort takes its name), and the choral works of J.S. Bach. A wide range of music is performed, however, incorporating works from Palestrina to Mozart and Schubert to modern Australian, American and European composers such as Grandage, Randall Thompson and Johansen. Young soloists and instrumentalists with promise are regularly engaged to perform with the Taverner Consort at its concerts, which are held three times a year. Members of the Consort are also available to sing at weddings or other special occasions.
If you are interested in singing with The Taverner Consort of Voices and have previous choral experience, please contact Claire Falkner on 0411 586 546. If you would like to receive further information about our concerts please give your name and address to a member of the Consort or call Claire Falkner on 0411 586 546. You can find more information on www.taverner.org.au