Glebe Music Festival
In conjunction with The Glebe Society Inc
Coro Innominata concert at St Scholastica's Chapel,
Avenue Road, Glebe Point, Sunday 17 November 2002 at 1500hrs.
Alleluia: John taverner (c. 1490 - 1545).
Coro Innominata, Guest Musical Director Christopher
Coro Innominata was formed in late 1991 by singers from several of Sydney's larger choirs who wishes to further explore a cappella and chamber choir repertoire. The choir stages a number of concerts at venues in Sydney each year and sings regularly at church services, weddings and other functions. In 2000 Coro Innominata particpated in the performance of Mahler's 8th Symphony as part of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival and was also invited to join the massed choir performing at the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Earlier in 2002 members of Coro Innominata joined a tour of England singing with the Sydney Philharmonia at The Proms.
Christopher Allan is lecturer in Vioce and Academic Studies at the Faculty of Music, University of Newcastle. Well-known as a soloist appearing with major choral societies in Sydney, including Coro Innominata, Christopher has been a regular guest artist with The Song Company and is a member of the Australia Chamber Orchestra Voices and Cantellation. He performs regularly as a chorus member with Opera Australia where he has taken understudy work in such operas as Billy Budd, Tannhauser, The Barber of Seville, Turandot and Don Carlos. Chritopher is also the Artistic/Musical Director of the Newcastle University Choir and for four years he was director of the NBN Television Choir. He has also directed the Conservatorium Choir and The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir. Christopher has taken vocal workshops for such groups as The Newcastle University Choir and The Hunter Singers. He recently delivered a series of workshops in North Queensland working with choristers and soloists, and is currently undertaking PhD studies in vocal pedagogy through the University of Newcastle.
Bernard Kirkpatrick received his early music training in Tasmania before moving to Sydney in 1984. In 1991 he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Sydney, where he completed a performance major in organ. During this time he was University Organ Scholar and also Director of Chapel Music at St John's College. He continued his studies in Paris with the celebrated organist Tutulaire de la Basilique de Sacre-Coeur, Naji Hakim. Bernard has twice been the winner of the Sydney Organ Competition and has appeared in concerts at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Town Hall, the Melbourne Autumn Festival as well as in radio broadcasts. For the past eleven years Bernard has held the position of Assistant Organist at St Mary's Cathedral and is currently Director of Music at St Francis of Assisi, Paddington, Sydney.
For the composer of religious music, a continual source of inspiration has been texts devoted to the idea of the heavenly host praising God - "Holy, Holy, Holy", the Cherubim and Seraphim continually cry. Composers have, throughout the ages, attempted to translate into music the majesty, awe and splendour that these texts suggest.
The programme features music of earlier times as well as many works of the 19th and 20th centuries. We begin with a delightful setting of Alleluia by John Taverner (1490 - 1545). Organist at Christ Church, Oxford, Taverner was a master of the polyphonic style similar to that of Palestrina. The setting of Alleluia see the upper part having the role of a cantus firmus whilst the three lower parts weaver their polyphony, of especial note is the alto part which is particularly florid. Hans Leo Hassler (1562 - 1612) was a composer of masses, madrigals and other vocal works who studies in Venice with Gabrieli. His setting of Laentatur Caeli shows a great use of Renaissance dance rhythms and a considerable amount of word painting. The four part setting is charged with changes of meter and rhythmic complexity. Fransisco Guerrero (1528 - 1599) was born and worked in Seville where he rose to be choir master ot the Cathedral of Seville (after some 23 years there as assistant!). His setting of Duo Seraphim for triple choir is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of the Spanish Renaissance.
The programme also focuses on some of the fabulous settings of the Te Deum (We Praise Thee, O God) by two of England's finest 20th century composers: Benjamin Britten and ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams' setting is for double choir - the parts interweaving and overlapping in exciting antiphonal style. The music is celebratory and in the minor modes which Vaughan Williams liked to use. Britten's setting, on the other hand, is written for single choir with an extended section for solo soprano. His idiomatic style suing rhythm as strongly as melody gives us a feeling of many voices rising together, from the bass lead at the opening to the full choral shout of "holy, Holy, Holy". The central section for solo soprano and choir, "Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ", has a muted choir accompanying the soloist, the choir echoing her final words. The opening music returns in a slightly different guise, the multitude of voices lifted in praise, and then changes to a quiet and reflective close at the words "Let me never be confounded".
William Harris' evocative motet Faire is the Heaven is perhaps his most famous work. Organist at St George's Chapel, Windsor, for some thirty years, Harris produced this work at the peak of his powers in 1925. It has been likened to the view of light coming through stained glass - each colour separate, yet mixing together to give a glorious whole. Scored for double choir and set antiphonally for the greater proportion of the work, it is full of rich post-romantic harmony giving tremendous climaxes coupled with sublime effects and results in a feeling of awe and contented rest at its finish.
As this performance is close to the day of St Cecilia, (the patron Saint of music - November 22 - also Britten's birthday), and stretching our premise of music of the heavenly host just a little to include the Saints, it seemed right to include a performance of Britten's setting of W H Auden's words - Hymn to St Cecilia. The work is an extended a cappella cantata for two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass. Auden's text mixes an alternation of devotional texts with worldly thoughts interplaying some interesting images of St Cecilia entrancing the angels so that they come "out of their trance into time again", while "blonde Aphrodite" rises up excited and even the wicked in Hell have their pains eased a while. Each of the three major sections ends with a prayer to Cecilia to "appear in visions to all musicians, appear and inspire". The work has an extended soprano solo in the central section and is typical of Britten's output. Rich harmonies alternating with often blatant bi-tonality, inventive and exciting word setting and strong use of rhythmic elements.
Edgar Bainton's setting of And I Saw a New heaven contains typical Victorian harmony with a few twists - unexpected major chords at the end of minor scale sections, for example, and one of the most sublime choral tenor melodies in the repertoire. The text is from Revelation (Chapter 21: 1 - 4) and Bainton gives us a warm and loving look at the new heaven once the first earth and heaven have passed away. The flowing accompaniment and vocal lines leave us with the feeling of being carried away to the New Heaven gently and with great comfort.
Bairstow's highly charged setting of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence has long been a favourite of choristers with its stark sepulchral opening progressing to an enormous climax at the word "Alleluia". The anthem closes as it opens, quietly with widely spaced chords and a pianissimo dissonance and resolution on the word "trembling".
One of the most interesting works that we perform today is I Saw the Lord by John Stainer (1840 - 1901). Holding many teaching positions in harmony and organ, Stainer wrote a great deal of church music, including his oratorio Cricifixion. I Saw the Lord is a motet for double choir and organ which attempts to graphically portray the text. The opening statement "I saw the Lord sitting upon the throne", for example, is a rising arpeggiated figure (as if looking to heaven). The lines "The house was filled with smoke" has all eight parts building with a rising motif towards an enormous 7th chord. The second section of the work has a very beautiful theme extolling the virtues of the Trinity. Interestingly this begins as a four part section before eventually splitting into eight parts for the conclusion of the work.
©Christopher Allan 2002