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Review of our May 2018 concert

MUSIC … THE FOOD OF LOVE INDEED!

The Shipston Stour Singers under their creative musical director, Richard Emms, gave us a night out to remember at St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston on Stour on the 12th May.  They were beautifully accompanied by the talented  Queen’s Park Sinfonia chamber orchestra of young graduate musicians who, with professional skill, put their heart and soul into the performance. The choir’s own musically sensitive Rachel Bird was on keyboard.

Richard had chosen a challenging and exciting programme, in terms of contrast for both choir and audience, with the Rutter Magnificat followed by the Fauré Requiem:  a vividly joyous and celebratory work by Rutter and the all-time favourite Fauré with its core serenity and sublime tenderness.  Both these works required a great deal from the interwoven voices of the choir in terms of dynamic control and timing.  In my view and according to audience response they succeeded magnificently with a full bodied performance of the Magnificat, which one person described to me as the popping of champagne corks, bubbling with vivacity.  To follow this with the quietly controlled and sustained vocal demands of the Requiem was difficult but this generally mature choir managed to achieve that intrinsic sweetness and clarity of young voices the work really needs.

But neither work could have succeeded so well  without the lovely professional voices of the soloists, Soprano, Ruth Holton and last minute replacement baritone, Andrew Mayor.  Ruth, in a varied career has developed a huge repertoire ranging from music of the Middle Ages to the Contemporary.  Her voice has a ringing, bell-like clarity, a really pure sound with which she brought a gentle flow to Rutter’s Et misericordia  and in the Requiem’s Pie Jesu a spiritual purity which brought a lump to the throat.  And from my point of view I found the Italianesque operatic approach of Andrew Mayor to the Fauré distinctly appropriate and very moving.  He also brought a strength and richness to the Requiem’s Libera Me, in its supplication to the Lord to be delivered from everlasting death.

The two profoundly religious works are to my mind about love and one would assume it was an over-riding love of God in the world and for life which inspired both Rutter and Fauré and even perhaps, under the mystical power of music for one evening, the capacity audience at St. Edmund’s.

Maggie Goren

Haydn’s ‘Creation’

The Creation 

Josef Haydn (1732 – 1809)

by Joseph Haydn

First bilingual oratorio?

Haydn’s greatest hit….

 

 

The Handel Festival, Westminster Abbey

 

In 1791, during Haydn’s first triumphant visit to London, he attended the annual Handel Festival in Westminster Abbey.  The tradition at the time was to perform Handel’s oratorios with as many as 1,000 performers, and that year Israel in Egypt and Messiah made a huge impact on Haydn. He resolved to compose something similar himself, particularly inspired by the vivid musical pictures in Israel in Egypt.

Initially a suitable libretto did not materialise, but four years later, just as he was leaving London for home for the second time, he was given a libretto, The Creation of the World, based on Genesis as it appears in the King James Bible, and on Milton’s Paradise Lost.

When Haydn arrived back in Austria he had the libretto translated into German by that great musical connoisseur and pillar of Viennese society, Baron Gottfried van Swieten.  Then he got to work on what would be one of his final masterpieces.  It took him more than a year to complete and left him ill with exhaustion.  But at the first performance, before a private audience of the great and good, the listeners were so completely bowled over by the musical picture of the creation of Light that the performance had to stop while they recovered.  The Creation proved to be an instant huge success, too, with the wider public.

In fact, Haydn had decided to publish The Creation in both German and English, making it probably the first bilingual musical composition.  He also published and distributed it himself, with the aid of subscriptions, which proved to be very lucrative.  Also, he conducted many lavish charity performances raising huge sums for the Tonkünstlersocietät, a charity supporting widows and orphans of musicians, very much in the vein of his inspiration, Handel, in his support for the Foundling Hospital in London.

Back to December 2018 concert 

Magnificat – John Rutter

The UK premiere of John Rutter’s Magnificat was given in Coventry Cathedral, but this was a year after the world premiere, which was in the Carnegie Hall, New York. Indeed, most of Rutter’s larger choral works were written for American choirs.

It is an immediate, tuneful, sunny work, which has the added bonus of being performable by amateurs. Its directness is explained by Rutter himself: he says, ‘In countries such as Spain, Mexico and Puerto Rico, feast days of the Virgin are joyous opportunities for people to take to the streets and celebrate with singing, dancing and processions. These images of outdoor celebration were, I think, somewhere in my mind as I wrote, though I was not fully conscious of the fact till afterwards.’* It should be added, that it is highly singable because Rutter happens to write very well for the voice.

His conscious model, however, was J.S.Bach’s Magnificat, specifically the earlier E flat version which has a set of so-called Lauds, or Songs of Praise, which were traditionally inserted amongst the Latin text (these included the popular German hymn, Martin Luther’s Vom Himmel hoch, and the plainsong Virga Jesse floruit). So similarly Rutter has interpolated a setting of the anonymous 15th century English text Of a rose, and he uses the plainsong tune for the Sanctus, which, again, would not normally be part of the Magnificat. (There are other bits of plainsong lurking amongst the orchestra.) Rutter has also dipped into other ‘traditional’ formal ideas, such as in the Doxology, as it was in the beginning. Here he has employed the common practice of making this a repeat of the opening music (as did Bach (Magnificat), Handel (Dixit Dominus), Vivaldi (Gloria) – and many more).

Rutter has made this piece available in a version for full orchestra and also for a smaller ensemble. Stour Singers will be using the latter version, for the simple reason, the smaller orchestra will fit in the church.

*© Collegium Records

If you would like to listen to John Rutter talking about the Magnificat on YouTube, please click on the following:

back to May Concert 2018

Requiem – Gabriel Fauré (1845-1925)

Fauré’s Requiem does not follow the traditional pattern of a mass for the dead. It was not triggered by the death of someone he knew, nor was it a commission. He said it was ‘composed for the pleasure of it’.

Gabriel Fauré

It was started when Fauré was 32, and it took him 16 years to finish. It is a wonderfully serene work, despite being composed during what might now be called a protracted ‘mid-life crisis’.

He had been appointed choirmaster at the famous Madeleine church in Paris and had become engaged to Marianne Viardot – he had been in love with her for 5 years. In October Marianne broke off the engagement because she felt, not love for him, ‘only affection mixed with fear’. It appears that behind his outwardly charming manner Fauré hid a darker side.

Fauré was devastated and immediately went away on long travels in Germany, England and Switzerland. He met Liszt twice, but it was Wagner and his operas which particularly fascinated him. Despite this obsession, strangely there is no trace of Wagner in his style of composition.

Eventually returning to Paris aged 38, he married and settled down to the tedium of organising services at the Madeleine, and teaching piano and harmony – what he called his ‘mercenary work’. But his ambition was to flourish as a composer. Sadly the daily grind ensured he only had time to compose during the summer holidays, and he despaired of ever reaching the public. Being so grossly thwarted in his real calling, perhaps it was not surprising that privately he suffered from what he called ‘spleen’, which took the form of depression and anger, perhaps violence. Things did not improve until he was 45, when he did start at last to gain some recognition. He finished work on the Requiem 3 years later, in 1893 (although he would go on to reorchestrate it in 1900).

Considering the turbulence of his spirit during its composition, the serenity of the Requiem is quite extraordinary.

Back to Concert May 2018

Alan Fairs

Alan’s background was in church and choral music.  He was a chorister at Caius College, Cambridge, then bass lay clerk at Worcester Cathedral.  He also sang with several professional choirs, especially the BBC Singers, and developed a wide-ranging oratorio repertoire, with engagements for a large number of choral societies from Truro to Aberdeen.

After winning the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ national ‘Festival Days’ competition, he embarked on a full-time solo singing career, with many years of private study in singing.  After several solo recitals on Radio 3, and further oratorio concerts, he auditioned successfully for Glyndebourne, embarking on an award-winning operatic career which has spanned three decades.  He has performed many principal roles at Glyndebourne, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Covent Garden, as well as with other opera companies in the UK and abroad.

After this long career in opera, Alan has decided to focus on oratorio – where he began.  Concerts this year have included two performances of Stainer’s Crucifixion, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Haydn’s The Seasons, the Nelson Mass, the Stabat Maters of Rossini and Dvorak, Brahms’ German Requiem, Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet, Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, a premiere of De Profundis by Piers Maxim, Dvorak’s Requiem and several performances of Messiah, with a Verdi Requiem to look forward to next year.  Over the past year, Alan has also given three performances of Barber’s Dover Beach with two string quartets.

With his wife, Heather, accompanying, he recently presented a ‘Teatime Entertainment’ – a light-hearted affair on Sunday afternoons, featuring Songs of Jerome Kern, Flanders and Swann, etc., which raised just short of £3,500 for the Save the Children Fund.  They offer the same for choral societies’ fundraising.

Besides his work as a singer, Alan is an economist, DIY enthusiast, and cook.  Since he drives a car to almost all his rehearsals and engagements, and lives far from London, he considers he must have driven well over half a million miles in his long career, and sometimes thinks of himself as being a professional driver, the bouts of singing being merely what happens between all the long journeys.  He has driven home to Bewdley, Worcestershire through Shipston very late at night on many occasions!

Richard Dowling

Richard Dowling

Richard Dowling is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music’s Opera Course, where he was privileged to perform the role of Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. He also particularly enjoyed appearing as Le Prince in Massenet’s Cendrillon, performing in the Wigmore Hall with the Academy Song Circle and as a soloist in the Academy’s complete Bach cantatas series. He is now generously supported by Opera Prelude, with whom he appears regularly in their lectures and recitals.

He recently sang the role of Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with West Green Opera and, working with the inspirational Graham Vick, performed the role of the Sailor in Birmingham Opera Company’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. He has also worked in educational outreach, singing the role of Nemorino in Donizetti’s Elisir d’amore with Jackdaws OperaPLUS.

With Garsington Opera he performed as the Glassmaker in Britten’s Death in Venice conducted by Steuart Bedford, as Selimo in Rossini’s Maometto II, and Mosquito in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen. He was pleased to be awarded Garsington Opera’s 2014 Simon Sandbach Award. He also sang the role of Count Almaviva in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville as a young artist with Mid Wales Opera.

Richard is a keen recitalist, was a participant in the 2015 Wigmore Song Competition and recently gave a recital at Leighton House, Kensington, inspired by his life and paintings. He is also an experienced oratorio artist, engagements including Britten’s Ballad of Heroes and Mozart’s Requiem in the Bridgewater Hall, Finzi’s Dies Natalis in Brentwood Cathedral, Janacek’s Otcenas in Gorton Monastery and Handel’s Messiah in Lincoln Cathedral.

He also enjoys singing with the Gabrieli consort and with the Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, including a recent tour of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio under maestro Masaaki Suzuki.

Richard originally studied Chemical Engineering at The University of Manchester and went on to complete a PhD in the field of crystallisation while working as a Lay Clerk at Manchester Cathedral.

Raphaela Papadakis

Raphaela Papadakis

London-born soprano Raphaela Papadakis, winner of the National Mozart Competition, made her professional début at Garsington Opera whilst still a student at the Guildhall School, for which she was praised by the Financial Times as giving “the most attractive solo performance” of the show.  Since then, she has gone on to perform roles with Independent Opera and Bury Court Opera, and covered at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Opera House and the Berlin Staatsoper.  Operatic highlights this year include appearing as Mozart’s Susanna as reimagined by composer Ollie Brignall in a new opera called Roles, a Metta Theatre production taking place as part of the V&A’s Opera: Passion Power and Politics exhibition, and at West Green House Opera in her house début as Duzzwadeva in Morag Joss’ new English translation of Offenbach’s one act operetta Ba-ta-clan.

A passionate recitalist and concert singer, Raphaela made her début at Carnegie Hall in 2014, and this year has appeared at the Oxford Lieder Festival, the Beethoven Woche in Bonn, Musicfest Aberystwyth, St John’s Smiths Square and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, with collaborators such as Tom Poster, Sholto Kynoch, James Cheung and the Meta4 Quartet.

Raphaela’s other awards  include the York Early Music Festival Prize at the London Handel Festival, 1st Prize and Audience Prize at the Clonter Opera Competition, and 1st Prize at the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards.  She is a Samling, IMA, and City Music Foundation Artist, and a winner of the Making Music Award for Young Concert Artists.  She is also a Selected Artist for Making Music’s brochure 2019/20.

Raphaela studied at Clare College, Cambridge, graduating with a first-class degree in English Literature.

For more information, please see her website raphaelapapadakis.com or follow her on twitter @raphaelasings

 

Robert Rice

After a choral scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge, British baritone Robert Rice gained a DipRAM in London under Mark Wildman, continuing his studies with Richard Smart, Sheila Barnes and Nicholas Powell.

Robert Rice

As a concert artist his repertoire is extensive and varied: highlights of last season included singing Humperdinck at the Berlin Konzerthaus, Mozart at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival, and concerts of Monteverdi, Bach, Dvorak, Vaughan Williams, Walton and Carl Orff.  Robert’s interest in performing contemporary classical music as a soloist began in his twenties when he tackled the modernist expressionism of Peter Maxwell Davies and Ligeti, and this led to staged premieres of works by Judith Bingham, Paul Clark and Nigel Osborne (with Opera Circus, touring the UK and Bosnia & Herzegovina).  In recent years he has been involved in premieres of diverse new works, those by Jacques Cohen, Philip Cooke, Paul Drayton and Piers Maxim being notable examples.  His future plans include further appearances as the various love interests of Alma Mahler in Elizabeth Mucha’s Art Sung project, and he debuts in April as Mydas in Franz von Suppé’s The Beautiful Galatea.  As a recitalist he often collaborates with German guitarist Erich Schachtner on programmes of lieder and lute songs.

Robert has recorded Judas in The Apostles with Canterbury Choral Society and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and his version of Cornelius’ Die Drei Könige (The Three Kings) with the choir Polyphony is a favourite on both Classic FM and BBC Radio 3 whenever Christmas approaches. When not performing, he leads workshops, adjudicates, and teaches widely, including for the National Youth Choir, Eton Choral Courses, and at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Novello & Co. Ltd have published many of his vocal arrangements, while others are sung worldwide, and have been recorded, by the King’s Singers. His nickname Berty has confused countless acquaintances. He often tries to arrange his singing engagements around skiing trips to the Alps, although aware that it should be the other way round.