Hereford Choral Society’s Autumn concert will be An English Idyll, conducted by Geraint Bowen. An evening of beautiful, but thought-provoking, 20th-century English music in its autumn concert with the Hereford Sinfonia orchestra in Hereford Cathedral on Saturday 16 November at 7.30 pm.
The three choral works in this concert were written in consecutive years from 1936 and it is easy to identify different reactions in them to the tensions of the time.
Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams was originally composed for 16 named soloists, but later arranged in a choral version, which is the one to be performed in this concert. It sets Shakespeare’s words from The Merchant of Venice saying that ‘he man that hath no music in himself [is only] fit for treasons, stratagems and spoil’ and that music and harmony come from the heavens.
Harmony, this time of the human kind, is the central theme of John Ireland’s These Things Shall Be, which provides an aspirational view of mankind. It is a setting of a 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, also aspiring to a harmony that would have seemed distant when it was first performed.
There is no doubting the darkness and sense of foreboding in Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem. Its premiere in 1936 fell two days before the anti-Fascist ‘Battle of Cable Street’ in London’s Whitechapel and will have reflected those dark times and a desire for peace. The 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!’
Soloists in the choral works are Rebecca Hardwick (soprano), Susanna Spicer (mezzo), Paul Smy (tenor) and Malachy Frame (bass/baritone.)
The concert also includes one orchestral piece, George Butterworth’s Rhapsody on A Shropshire Lad, written as a postlude to his song cycle of the same name and premiered in 1913. It is credited with influencing the rhapsodies of other English composers of the period, including Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Tickets are priced at £10-£25, with two free tickets per adult for children under 16. They are available from the Box Office at the Courtyard Theatre, Hereford, HR4 9JR, tel 01432 340555, Email firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Hereford Choral Society website: www.herefordchoralsociety.org
Booking fee of £1.50 applies, other than for Friends of the Courtyard.