David Ransom our Friends Coordinator and former Chairman extraordinaire has for a long time been creating really interesting Concert Programmes for our events with fascinating information about Composers and the pieces themselves. You might like to have a read of some past programmes for information and hopefully inspiration to attend some of our concerts in the future!
A Child of Our Time is a form of secular oratorio to a libretto written by the composer himself. Composed between 1939 and 1941, it was first performed at the Adelphi Theatre, London, on 19th March 1944. The work was inspired by events that affected Tippett profoundly during the Second World War. The oratorio deals with these incidents in the context of the experiences of oppressed people generally, and carries a strongly pacifist message of ultimate understanding and reconciliation. The work is structured in the manner of Bach’s Passions. its most original feature is Tippet’s use of American Spirituals, which carry out the role allocated by Bach to chorales, and it is these pieces we are performing tonight….
Zimbe! is the phenomenon which has rocked the choral world since its premiere in 2008, cementing Alexander L’Estrange’s reputation as one of the UK’s most popular choral composers of the 21st Century. Within its first four years Zimbe! had received 150 performances worldwide, including in the USA, Canada, Australia, and Kenya, and its popularity with choirs and audiences alike continues to grow. The key to the success of this 40-minute cantata is three-fold: first, it is the genius combination of adult SATB choir, unison children’s choir, and five-piece band; secondly it is the fusion of two distinct musical styles, in this case African song and jazz; and thirdly, it is that the piece works equally well with choral societies, cathedral choirs and school choirs, encouraging an amalgamation of different singing groups within one locality, in a spirit of community singing from which folk music arose.
L’Estrange formed his band The Call Me Al Quintet to play for the first performance of Zimbe! The group has since played for many of the performances, often with the composer himself on piano or double bass. Zimbe! is full of the energy and rhythmic drive which have become synonymous with L’Estrange’s choral works, leaving the singers elated and the audience uplifted. Choirs with little or no experience of performing non-classical styles cannot fail to get into the groove with a band of top professional jazz musicians supporting them.
We begin with excerpts from two oratorios by Handel. On 11 April 1981 in Ipswich and repeated on May 16th in Eye Merlin Channon conducted us in the first performance of his own exclusively researched and printed edition of the Occasional Oratorio by Handel, and on 12 June 1999, also under his baton we gave the first performance of a completely new edition of Judas Maccabaeus, on this occasion edited by our Founder/Conductor for music publisher Novello. The 1981 rendition is particularly memorable because it may well have been one of the first performances in the UK since the work was composed in 1746.
Handel was born in 1685, the same year as J.S.Bach at the beginning of the period known as the Age of Enlightenment – a period when attempts to reform European society were pursued using reason and science to challenge ideas grounded solely in tradition and faith. Scientific thought, scepticism, and intellectual debate were encouraged; superstition and intolerance were opposed, with the Catholic Church a favourite target. Handel and Bach were both Lutherans, perhaps the progenitors of so-called enlightened thinking, and their protestant conviction never left them. In the two Handel works in this section of our concert, religious alignment and conviction both had a major part to play…