The sad news of the death of our Queen arrived just as this newsletter was going to be sent out. We would like to honour this gracious lady by performing pieces which we know were meaningful to her, and we will take this opportunity to commemorate her dignified reign, and life.
The concert will take place on Saturday November 5th, 7.30pm at Beeston Parish Church. Our music will reflect the celebratory nature of the Platinum Jubilee, as we perform works from the extensive reigns of the two Queen Elizabeths, linking the past with the present. There will be a wonderfully varied selection of music, including works by William Byrd, Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten and Gerald Finzi, amongst others.
Music played a large part in the life of Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). She was an accomplished musician who played virginals, the lute and also sang. As a powerful ruler, she could act as a patron and many songs were written in praise of her – reflecting her connection to God, and also to the people.
Throughout her 70-year reign, Elizabeth II supported classical music and the arts. She actually studied music herself and enjoyed a wide variety of styles, as was reflected in her list of favourite songs! From this compilation (easy to find on the internet), we will be singing Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek (1934/35), which Fred Astaire sang in the musical Top Hat. The Queen was also the patron of numerous musical charities, attended many events and honoured some wonderful musicians.
Born circa 1540 (d. 1623), the great English composer, William Byrd, began his professional career as organist and master of the choristers at Lincoln Cathedral. In 1570, he obtained the post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, which expanded his networking and composing possibilities. He shared the post of organist with the talented Thomas Tallis, with whom he also printed and marketed part-music and lined music paper. Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558 – 1603) had granted them a monopoly for this venture. Byrd was a prolific composer over many genres, creating partsongs, fantasias, dances, consort songs, 3 Latin Masses, 4 Anglican Services and over 180 motets. He was a Catholic in an Anglican state and he and his wife were known to be recusants but Byrd managed to stay in favour with the Queen, composing for her and avoiding major punishment (apart from heavy fines). He was also writing Masses for Catholics to use secretly and we will be singing one of these - his beautiful Mass for Four Voices (1592/93). The settings lacked title pages, dates and the name of the printer and it is thought that this made them harder to trace, therefore anyone involved could avoid potential arrest. They were also published in single bifolia so they were easier to conceal. Times change, of course, and now the pieces are commonly heard in Anglican cathedrals.
Jumping forwards, Judith Weir was born in 1954 into a Scottish family but grew up near London. In 2014 she was appointed to the 395-year old royal post of Master of the Queen’s Music and has written operas, theatrical works, instrumental, solo and choral pieces, as well as for national and royal occasions. Her delightful setting of I Love All Beauteous Things was commissioned by the Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the 90th birthday of HM The Queen. The words are by Robert Bridges (1844-1930), who was Poet Laureate in the year Elizabeth II was born (1926).
Benjamin Britten’s Jubilate Deo (1961) was written for St George’s Chapel, Windsor at the request of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Despite the fact that the Duke actually chose this as one of the pieces of music to be played at his funeral, this 4-part choir and organ piece is lively and uplifting.
We will also be singing O Taste and See, the quietly moving piece written by Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for the 1953 Coronation service. A set of 10 partsongs A Garland for the Queen was also created for this occasion (performed the evening before) and this collection echoes The Triumphs of Oriana (1601), a volume of madrigals by different composers, written in praise of Elizabeth I and published by Thomas Morley.
You will be pleased to hear that our talented accompanist, Michael Overbury, will also be playing Byrd’s Fantasia in C (BK25) and Walton’s Crown Imperial for the concert. We look forward to hearing his accomplished performance of these treats.
We are really looking forward to presenting some beautiful music from these eras, under the expert direction of our conductor, Richard Roddis, and it would be marvellous to see you all at our concert. Tickets are £15 (£7 for full-time students under 21) and include a glass of wine or fruit juice. They are available from our website or from Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236.