Venue: Rochester Cathedral 26.09.2014 The King’s Singers
David Hurley, Countertenor
Timothy Wayne-Wright, Countertenor
Julian Gregory, Tenor
Christopher Bruerton, Baritone
Christopher Gabbitas, Baritone
Jonathan Howard, Bass
Acclaimed for their life-affirming virtuosity and irresistible charm, The King’s Singers are in global demand. Their work – synonymous with the best in vocal ensemble performance – appeals to a vast international audience. They perform over 120 concerts each year, touring regularly to Europe, the United States, Asia and Australasia. The King’s Singers are admired for their musical excellence and recognised as consummate entertainers – a class act with a delightfully British sense of humour. Their generous spirit and magical ability to move audiences have remained constant since the group’s foundation in 1968.
They have premiered more than 200 new works, including landmark compositions by Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, James MacMillan, Krzysztof Penderecki, Toru Takemitsu, John Tavener and Eric Whitacre, and commissioned thrilling arrangements of everything from jazz standards to pop chart hits. The King’s Singers are double Grammy® award-winning artists, honoured in 2009 for their Signum Classics release, Simple Gifts, and again in 2012 for their contribution to Eric Whitacre’s Light & Gold album on Decca. In June 2013 they were chosen as one of only two vocal ensembles to enter the Gramophone Hall of Fame, honoured for their unique discography of over 150 albums.
The King’s Singers are among Britain’s greatest musical exports. In recent seasons they have appeared at many of the world’s most prestigious venues, from the Berlin Philharmonie and New York’s Carnegie Hall to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Sydney Opera House. Their concert schedule in 2014 has taken them to the United States, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Latvia, Hungary and Poland. Highlights of the group’s 2014/15 season include an invitation to perform at the American Choral Directors Association annual conference in Salt Lake City, where they will give the world premiere of a new work by Jake Heggie.
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William Byrd Sing Joyfully
Thomas Tallis In manus tuas
William Byrd O Lord make thy servant
Thomas Tallis The Lamentations of Jeremiah part 1
Francs Poulenc Quatre petites prieres de Saint-Francois d’Assise
Claude Debussy Trois Chansons de Charles D’Orleans
Trad. arr. Howard Goodall Star of the County Down
Trad. arr. Langford The Oak and the Ash
Trad. arr. Bertie Rice Suo Gan
Trad. arr. Simon Carrington O my love is like a red, red rose
Bob Chilcott A Thanksgiving
Famous English Poets:
Gerald Finzi (words by Robert Bridges) My spirit sang all day
Edward Bairstow (words by Percy Shelley) Music when soft voices die
Barry Ferguson (words by Thomas Hardy) Afterwards
Stanley Wilson (words by Frances Cornford) To a lady seen from a train
Close Harmony A selection of music from the lighter side of The King’s Singers repertoire.
Programme Notes The two foremost composers of the English renaissance, Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585) and William Byrd (1543-1623), had much in common. Both served as Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal; both contributed some of the finest liturgical music ever written; both were granted a joint exclusive and lucrative publishing licence by Queen Elizabeth I; both remained adherents to the Roman Catholic Church, despite England’s “conversion” to the Protestant faith; and both lived into their 80s. Of the two, Byrd is perhaps considered the “Master” of the period, and all available evidence indicates that he was recognised as such by his contemporaries, but he himself considered Tallis to be the supreme composer of his day. It is clear from the preface in the collection of Byrd and Tallis’s music, “Cantiones Sacrae” (1575), that Byrd was a pupil of Tallis’s, but subsequently they worked as colleagues, both enjoying the benefits of their publishing monopoly, one that covered all polyphonic music. There were strict rules that outlawed the selling of imported music – “we straightly by the same forbid...to be brought out of any forren Realmes...any songe or songes made and printed in any foreen countrie”, which strengthened the monopoly further. Despite this, their early publications were not hugely popular, possibly because both were known to be Catholics, and some may have feared the consequences of an association, however far removed, with recusants. However it seems that neither suffered for their faith, for both kept favour in the courts throughout their lives. It was helpful that both seemed happy to compose works in English for the Anglican rite, but it is Tallis’s Latin music that will feature in tonight’s concert, In manus tuas and the extraordinary setting of Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet. Towards the end of Tallis’s life, Byrd embraced an ever more complex compositional style, using fragments of text from many Biblical sources, whilst Tallis remained true to the setting of texts from the Liturgy.
Francis Poulenc, who died only fifty years ago, is renowned for treating all manner of themes in his writing. Born in Paris, Poulenc studied with Ricardo Viñes and Charles Koechlin, and became a member of the group known as "Les Six," who reacted against the excessive refinement of the impressionists, and whose objective was, in the words of their spokesman Jean Cocteau, "the sophistication of the graceful." Composed in 1948, Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise was dedicated to the monastery choir at Champfleury, in particular Frère Jérome, a monk there who was also Poulenc’s great-nephew. Based on the texts by Saint Francis, Poulenc describes these four pieces as “musical settings of his poignant little prayers” which see the composer combining the dynamic textures of plainchant and early polyphony with twisting choral colour within a homophony framework.
Charles d'Orléans was one of the leading figures of French literature of the early fifteenth century. He was captured by the English at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, and held at Windsor Castle for the next 25 years, and it was during this time of enforced leisure that he wrote most of his courtly verse. Claude Debussy wrote his three settings of Charles d'Orléans’ poems for a cappella chorus between 1898 and 1908. This was a period, lying between the moral propriety -- and hypocrisy -- of the nineteenth century and the harsh realities of human nature exposed by the first World War, when it was fashionable for educated and wealthy people to indulge themselves unashamedly. Debussy was a man who, one might say, lived this fashion to the full, and it is in this spirit that he approaches and selects from d'Orléans' poetry. The first poem praises the beauty of a woman, the second contemplates the pleasure of lying in a warm bed in the morning without having to get up, and the third wishes cold winter to be banished for ever for the loveliness of spring. Debussy sets these in a pseudo-Renaissance style, suffused with the luscious harmonies that are his trade-mark.
The folksongs we know in Britain today have been part of our heritage ever since simple medieval hymn tunes were given secular words, and minstrels started on their musical rounds. They have served as a basis of musical masterpieces from the thirteenth century to the present, and much of the (now barely understood) imagery in their words finds its parallel in Renaissance painting. In the early part of the twentieth century, the pioneering work of folksong collectors such as Cecil Sharp brought forth a wealth of beautiful material, much neglected, but familiar through the widely varying regional versions of many texts and melodies, like a musical version of "Chinese Whispers" played over the centuries. Folksongs have been an integral part of The King's Singers' repertoire since their early performing days, and the collection sung tonight represents but a portion of the rich treasure collected and arranged for The King's Singers over the years.
English composer and conductor, Bob Chilcott (born 1955) began his musical education as a chorister and choral scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, where he is best known for singing Pie Jesu on the choir’s 1967 recording of Fauré’s Requiem. For twelve years, Chilcott sung tenor with The King’s Singers, leaving in 1997 to focus on composing. For a May 2008 concert, Bob also wrote a setting of the Prayer of St Richard. A Thanksgiving sets words by the 13th-century Bishop of Chichester, Richard de Wych. It is believed that St Richard recited the prayer on his deathbed. The original Latin version was transcribed by the Bishop’s confessor, Ralph Bocking, and later translated into the well-known English language prayer.
Sir Edward Bairstow (1874 – 1946) is equally known as an organist and composer. He served as organist at York Minster from 1913 until his death. His Yorkshire roots held him in York even when he was offered the organist job at Westminster Abbey. He had a reputation for bluntness, and did not always endear himself to others. However he was widely admired for both his church music and his secular partsongs. Bairstow was respected as a teacher, although he was a hard taskmaster. One of his more illustrious pupils was the composer Gerald Finzi (1901 – 1956) who was tutored by Bairstow for five years from the age of sixteen. Finzi is best-known as a song-writer, but also wrote in other genres, including some fine partsongs. His particular skill was in the empathy he showed to the poetry he set, as you can hear in the piece to be sung this evening.
Barry Ferguson writes of his piece written for the group that ‘for me, the mixture of Thomas Hardy and The King’s Singers is potent indeed. I discovered Hardy’s novels at school, and his life-changing poetry a short time later – emphasized by the song cycles of Finzi and Britten. I knew several of the founder members of The King’s Singers when I was up at Cambridge in the 1960s. And the poet and the singers brought together this evening, such stuff as dreams are made on. My setting is inscribed ‘for The King’s Singers, in admiration.’ Hardy’s ‘Afterwards’ reveals the loving heart of a compassionate man: not a pessimist but a realist. Everything passes, he seems to say. Notice it, cherish it while you can. Amen to that I say, Barry Ferguson.’
Stanley Wilson (1899 – 1953) is a less well-known English composer. He studied composition with Stanford at the Royal College of Music, and after the First World War he began a long and distinguished career as a music teacher. In 1945 he was appointed Director of Music at Dulwich College, a post he held until his death.
We end tonight’s programme with a selection of material from the lighter side of our repertoire.
Text and Translations Sing Joyfully
Sing joyfully to God our strength; sing loud unto the God of Jacob!
Take the song, bring forth the timbrel, the pleasant harp, and the viol.
Blow the trumpet in the new moon, even in the time appointed, and at our feast day.
For this is a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.
O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen to rejoice in thy strength
O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen to rejoice in thy strength: give her her heart's desire, and deny not the request of her lips; but prevent her with thine everlasting blessing, and give her a long life, even for ever and ever. Amen.
In Manus Tuas
In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.
Redemisti me Domine, Deus veritatis. — John 6:30.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. Lamentations of Jeremiah 1
Incipit lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae:
ALEPH. Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo: Facta est quasi vidua domina gentium; princeps provinciarum facta est sub tributo.
BETH. Plorans ploravit in nocte, et lacrimæ ejus in maxillis ejus: non est qui consoletur eam, ex omnibus caris ejus; omnes amici ejus spreverunt eam, et facti sunt ei inimici.
Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum.
Here begins the lamentations of Jeremiah the prophet:
ALEPH. How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people: How is she become as a widow: She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary. BETH. She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on the cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her: All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Quatre Petites Prières de Saint François d'Assise
i. Salut, Dame sainte
Salut, Dame Sainte, reine très sainte, Mère de Dieu,
ô Marie qui êtes vierge perpétuellement, élue par le très Saint Père du Ciel,
consacrée par Lui, avec son très saint Fils bien aimé et l’esprit Paraclet,
Vous en qui fut et demeure toute plénitude de grâce et tout bien!
Salut, palais; salut, tabernacle; salut, maison;
Salut, vêtement; salut, servante; salut, mère de Dieu!
Et salut à vous toutes, saintes vertus qui par la grâce
et l’illumination du Saint Esprit, êtes versées dans les
coeurs des fidèles et, d’infidèles que nous sommes, nous rendez fidèles à Dieu.
Hail Holy Lady, most holy queen, mother of God,
Mary for ever a virgin, chosen by the most holy Father of Heaven,
consecrated by Him with his most holy and most beloved Son and the Holy Ghost,
You in whom lies the fullness of grace and all goodness!