Music’s Praise – 23 June 2018

June 2018

Michael Hurd, the composer of the headline work in our programme ‘Music’s Praise’, was born in Gloucester in 1928 and died in 2006. Written for the Stroud Festival in 1968, the work sets four poems by Alexander Pope, William Strode, William Shakespeare and Robert Herrick for chorus with an accompaniment of string ensemble or piano. The music mines the rich vein of twentieth century English pastoral romanticism, contrasting differing ways in which music can reflect and inspire the human condition.

When John Holloway set ‘Six Poems of John Drinkwater’ in celebration of Cantores’ first twenty years in 2011 it had been some decades since he had performed Michael Hurd’s songs but the unconscious influences are clear! John Drinkwater was one of the so-called Dymock poets, including Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas, some of whom lived in or near the village in Gloucestershire and were writing in the years immediately preceding the First World War. Their words conjure a lost world of bucolic innocence and the looming tragedy of war.

The programme also presents three vocally challenging Baroque masterpieces, of which perhaps the best known is Handel’s famous coronation anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’, composed for George II in 1727, some 42 years after Purcell’s had composed ‘My Heart is Inditing’ for the coronation of James II in 1685, the year of Handel’s birth. The work juxtaposes ensembles with full choruses, with notably complex overlapping rhythms and textures.

The motets of J.S.Bach paved the way for generations of succeeding composers, in particular Mendelssohn and Brahms. Bach’s lines and textures are uncompromisingly instrumental, yet the music displays his incomparably profound response to the text, which in this case is drawn from Psalm 117 ‘Praise the Lord all ye people’.

Cantores will present the same programme again on Saturday 30 June in Forthampton Parish Church (near Tewkesbury) at 7.30pm.  Tickets £15, available on the door or telephone 01684 292401.  Concessions available; U16s free.

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