Our North American followers will associate ‘Fall’ with Autumn, and our next concert – ‘Fallen’- takes the seasonal imagery of falling leaves and looks at the works of three composers addressing the themes of the ending of the year, falling in love and Remembrance of the Departed.
When the JCS commissioned the rising star Kerry Andrew to write a piece for our 21st anniversary Gala concert in 2010, she decided to set a poem by the Scottish poet Robin Robertson which is a reworking of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. Her wonderfully evocative approach produced Fall, which includes fragments of Rilke’s original German text, really extends the palette of the chamber choir with a range of techniques and ends with a glissando starting from the lowest notes of the basses until the highest note of the sopranos on the final word of Rilke’s poem “hält” (holds).
The Requiem of Herbert Howells was for some time thought to have been written in response to the death of his son Michael at the age of only nine in 1935. However, it transpires that it was written for the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge in 1932, but for some reason the composer did not send it. It must have remained in his mind however, because although devastated by the personal tragedy, and unable to compose for some time after, in 1938 Howells incorporated much of the material of this piece into a much larger work for choir orchestra and soloists, Hymnus Paradisi. Even though this latter piece was written in memory of Michael, he still preserved it as a “Personal, almost secret document”, and it was only after Vaughan Williams managed to persuade him some twelve years later that he allowed it to be performed. And it was not until 1980 that Howells allowed the publication of the Requiem.
Malcolm Williamson’s Requiem for a Tribe Brother is another JCS commission, and another work that had a very personal resonance for the composer. In 1991 the JCS gave a concert at Southwark Cathedral to mark the composer’s 60th birthday. Soon after he invited our Music Director Peter Broadbent to discuss a potential project, and in 1992 we gave the first performance of the resulting work at St John’s, Smith Square and later recorded it on the Naxos label. Williamson wrote:
“No composer in today’s world can detach himself from national and international tragedies and this inevitably affects his music. It does, however, happen that a bereavement close to the composer can impel him to set the words of the Requiem Mass. In the case of my Requiem for a Tribe Brother two circumstances coincided. One was the premature death of an Australian Aboriginal friend, Vivian Walker, an immensely gifted playwright and an eloquent spokesman for the rights of his people. After his death his family asked me to write a Requiem for him. The other circumstance was the excitement which I experienced from the work of Peter Broadbent and the Joyful Company of Singers, a team as deeply satisfying as I could wish. The music contains elements of Aboriginal music folded into my personal style and tailored to the special strengths evident in the work of Peter Broadbent and his chorus. More broadly, I have tried to reflect both the personal sense of loss in a troubled world and the optimism felt by the Aboriginal people when one of their number goes into the eternal dreaming.”
In this concert, the choral settings will be interspersed with like-themed readings of poetry by John Donne, Dylan Thomas, Rainer Maria Rilke and others, given by actor Ellis Jones.
Thursday 14th November at 7pm
St Gabriel’s, Pimlico – Warwick Square, London SW1V 2AD
Tickets £15 (£10 U18, student, unwaged) from www.eventbrite.co.uk and on the door.