We have been invited to sing the 'Hallelujah Chorus' at a concert being held on 15 August at Nativity for the inauguration of their new organ. There will be a practice at Nativity for this at 7pm, Thursday 13 August.
Incidentally, we are also looking forward to welcoming back David Barnard, the very popular accompanist for last year's Messiah, who will be playing on this wonderful new organ at our December concert.
The list of music for our December concert continues to grow. Here is the latest:
Five Mystical Songs, Vaughan Williams*
Fantasia on Christmas Carols, Vaughan Williams
Let the Bright Seraphim from Handel's Samson
Zadok the Priest, Handel
Hear my Prayer, Mendelssohn
* See notes by Elaine Harmer below
Gabriel Fauré was born in a turbulent century when France was continually redefining itself constitutionally after its initial revolution. He was born into the Second Empire, which fell and became the Second Republic, followed by the Third Empire and then Third Republic. In 1870, France attacked Prussia but was crushingly defeated, which resulted in the siege of Paris. Astonishingly, France’s cultural life seemed to carry on in spite of all this.
The young Fauré fought in the siege of Paris and other battles, eventually escaping to Switzerland for a time. Later he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. In 1914 he was in Germany on a composing retreat when war was declared. Once again he had to escape through Switzerland.
Fauré earned his living as an organist and teacher, but was always trying to find time for composing. Eventually he became Professor of Composition at the Paris Conservatoire, and finally the Director. He had a forward-looking approach both in music and life generally.
His much-loved Requiem omits the 'Dies Irae' (Day of Wrath), and adds the beautiful 'In Paradisum'. His comment on his requiem was “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”
By the end of his life Fauré was regarded as the greatest French composer of his age.
The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1959) is probably familiar to most of us for music redolent of the English countryside. He followed a tradition set in the 19th century, where people concerned about the loss of the old oral cultural treasures tramped around the countrysides of Britain and Europe, collecting both folk songs and fairy tales, which were being lost as the effects of the Industrial Revolution increased.
In 1806, great-great-great grandparents of mine signed their wedding register with an X. Those were the times when people gathered by fire and candlelight at night and heard oral stories, sang and danced to folk music. When they worked, they sang work songs, sea shanties being the prime example. But with the move to mechanised factory work in cities, cheaper printing and paper, and above all, to gas and later electric light, populations learnt to read and could spend the evenings reading the books they had never had access to before.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was born when this movement was well underway. As well as rediscovering English folk music, he felt the great German composers of the previous 200 years had influenced English academic composition too much. He was concerned about finding an authentic English voice again in music. So, he not only used old English folk tunes, but also explored Elizabethan and Jacobean musical forms, which led to his interest in a Welsh-born poet, George Herbert (1593–1633).
An Anglican priest, Herbert wrote in the metaphysical tradition, where 'conceits', (concepts) were worked out in elaborate form throughout the poem. The Antiphon, in 'Five Mystical Songs', uses the form where two choirs sing in response to each other, as part of a whole. The concept is that the whole world is one choir made up of these answering parts while at the same time, like a microcosm, it is each person’s own being that is singing in parts.
Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King takes the words of George III in a mono drama for a solo voice and a small instrumental ensemble, and it premiered in London in 1969. But this production exchanges George III for a modern-day chief executive of a large corporation - clearly one in some trouble. It is a clever decision that removes the need for any expensive scenery and costumes and involves only a large boardroom table on which the deeply troubled executive wreaks havoc.
And the NZ baritone Robert Tucker offers a virtuoso display of disintegration in which his voice moves from the alto to upper bass in a manner that is nothing short of astonishing. Coupled with a physical, out-of-control movement, one wonders just how he will survive doing the role 12 times in six days. And that is because in this production by Thomas de Mallet Burgess, we hear the Eight Songs twice, with the audience divided in half. Firstly, one half is in the hall with the other half outside eavesdropping. Then those outside go inside and those outside go inside and we hear it again. ... The small Stroma ensemble under the vital direction of Hamish McKeich offers brilliant support to Tucker, and the RNZB Dance Centre - in what was the Fowler Centre car park - offers a richly vibrant acoustic for a production well worth experiencing.
Photo from stuff.co.nz
… Thomas de Mallet Burgess, General Director of NZ Opera, has acknowledged the challenge in staging exciting modern productions to attract a larger (and younger) audience, without losing the loyalty of long-time fans of the genre. Choosing to direct this show is extremely brave in that context, as it’s a confronting piece in subject matter as well as delivery. He split the audience in twain, one outside the windows, and one inside, with the outside half experiencing the performance through headphones. After completion of the piece, a short interval, and then the two audiences switched places for a repeat. I started outside, and I think it was the best way around. With the headphones on and a very limited view of the action, I could only really focus on the audio. And dear God, what an experience that was.
Robert Tucker is wildly talented. In a conventional part, his deliciously resonant baritone warms your cockles, and his charismatic and sensitive characterisation brings a part to life. He is, truly, a brilliant operatic star. As King George, his freakishly large range becomes apparent. Maxwell Davies intended the performer to illustrate King George’s mental state through an extended vocal technique, including howls, growls, whines and shrieks. With all senses dulled except my hearing, I sat almost immobilised by Tucker’s voice …
You can read the full review at:
See also an extended article about Robert's performance in the NZ Listener, which you can read here:
We featured in a full-page article in the local paper on 5 December, with the above headline! It's not often we get such great publicity before one of our shows, so well done to those who organised it. More was to come, with the review of our performance saying the '... ASB Theatre was lit up with a choir of angels, aka the Marlborough Singers ... worthy of the standing ovation they got at the end of the concert.'
Let's hope we can rise to even greater heights in 2020. Happy New Year everyone.
A group from the choir went carol singing before Christmas, visiting the Springlands Lifestyle Village (above) and Ashwood Park Retirement Village.
Some of the singers stopping off between gigs for a
well-earned, festive glass of Pimms.
Gwenette provided the accompaniment and Rien, with Robert,
one of the two lone male voices.
Our youngest choir member, Iona Panoho, has distinguished herself again, this time with the award of an ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music) in singing – what's more, with distinction!
The award is a step beyond Grade 8, and involves putting on a 30-minute recital in up to four different languages, as described below.
Iona was given her certificate by Eileen Guard at a recent practice and received a standing ovation from her fellow choir members. We are all very proud of her.
“ARSM is unique in focusing solely on practical performing skills – nothing more, nothing less. It’s about the art and craft of musical communication through a half-hour programme which you put together according to your own individual musical strengths and enthusiasms. As well as focusing on the playing or singing of your repertoire, ARSM also involves assessment of the performance of your programme as a whole, giving you valuable feedback from two complementary perspectives.”
ABRSM Chief Examiner
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