Brian Kay Conductor
Nigel Nash Organ
"Choir's Anglo-German programme a triumph"
"Bristol Bach Choir were privileged to have the distinguished conductor Brian Kay, their president, at their summer concert on Saturday.
The fascinating programme was divided into two sections. German choral music made up the first half from the time of Bach, while English music from Purcell to the 20th century covered the second half..." (John Packwood, Bristol Evening Post)
Click here to read this review in full.
THE PROGRAMME explored some of the highways and byways of the rich tradition
of the sacred motet in England and Germany, starting with one of Bach's masterpieces in the genre, Lobet den Herrn,
and ending with Parry's great and tuneful Blest Pair of Sirens. In between there were all sorts of pieces in which
different composers have responded to differing sacred texts in very different ways.
Setting aside the specific Medieval use of the term, a motet can loosely be defined as a polyphonic sacred vocal piece, without independent instrumental accompaniment, on a Latin text without any specific liturgical purpose. However, this is a definition that has caused musicologists a great deal of exasperation. Almost every work in this programme violates some part or another of this definition, and yet all can be seen as part of a coherent tradition, with lines of influence and connection between them.
|J S Bach (1685-1750)||Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden BWV 230|
|J D Heinichen (1683-1729)||Confitebor tibi, Domine
|J S Bach||"St Anne" Fugue in E flat BWV 552
(Nigel Nash - Organ)
|Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)||Richte mich, Gott (Psalm 43) Op. 78, no.2|
|Josef Rheinberger(1839-1910)||Abendlied Op.69, no.3|
|Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)||Christus factus est
|Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)||Es ist das Heil Op.29, no.1|
|Henry Purcell (1659-1695)||Hear my prayer, O Lord
Jehovah, quam multi sunt hostes mei!
|C V Stanford (1852-1924)||Postlude in D minor Op.105, no.6
(Nigel Nash - Organ)
|C V Stanford||Three Latin Motets, Op.38:
- Justorum animae
- Beati quorum via
- Ceolos ascendit hodie
|C Hubert Parry (1848-1918)||My Soul, there is a country
Blest pair of Sirens
J. S. Bach (1685-1750) Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230
For many people, the term motet is synonymous with the handful of vocal works by J S Bach bearing that name. We start our concert tonight with one of these, the joyful Lobet den Herrn (Psalm 117). The setting is in three sections, one section for each of the two psalm verses, and a final 'Alleluia'.
The musical material at the beginning of the first section is made up of the simplest of elements; rising arpeggios and falling scales. But out of these, Bach weaves an intricate web of polyphony, rich in detail and harmonic variety. With a change of text comes a new musical idea, and as with the first section, this is worked out contrapuntally. Then comes a masterstroke - almost imperceptibly, in the middle of the texture, the arpeggios and scales of the first musical idea return, and this first section concludes with both texts and musical ideas together.
The second verse of the psalm is set in a gentler, more homophonic style. The word 'Ewigkeit' (eternity) presents Bach with an irresistible opportunity. In each voice in turn, the word is sung to a long held note whilst against this, another voice part sings a glorious sweeping countermelody. A lively triple time alleluia concludes the setting.
Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, und preiset ihn, alle Völker!
Denn seine Gnade und Wahrheit waltet über uns in Ewigkeit. Alleluja!
O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
For his merciful kindness is great toward us:
and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Alleluja!
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J D Heinichen (1683-1729) Haec Dies
/ Confitebor tibi Domine
At first glance, it might seem that Bach's contemporary Johann David Heinichen had even greater claim than Bach to be the archetypal Lutheran composer. Son of a Lutheran pastor, Heinichen was a pupil at the Thomasschule in Leipzig (where Bach spent the last decades of his life as Kantor), where he would have been steeped in Lutheran musical tradition. But Heinichen, like so many German composers of his time, fell under the spell of Italy and of Italian music. After a period of study in Venice and in Rome, Heinichen was engaged as Kapellmeister to the court of the Elector of Saxony in Dresden. There, one of his duties was to compose and direct music for the Catholic court church, music that would display the talents of the virtuoso Italian singers engaged by the court to perform in church and in the opera house.
The two Heinichen pieces performed tonight demonstrate something of the musical ‘bilingualness' that was required of composers of the age. On the one hand, the Dresden court enjoyed the newest music from Italy, and its composers were encouraged to compose in this latest, most fashionable Italianate style. On the other hand, like most Catholic establishments, the court had a particular fondness for the music of the 16th century master Palestrina. The court held a considerable collection of music by Palestrina, and this was supplemented by compositions by the court composers in imitation of his style.
Heinichen's Italian-style setting of the Haec dies (Psalm 118) is known as a Jubilus, a short joyful acclamation that replaced the more sombre hymn at vespers on Easter Sunday. It is like a burst of musical laughter, with ebullient solo passages punctuated by choral interjections.
Haec dies quam fecit Dominus: exultemus et laetemur in ea. Alleluya!
This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it. Alleluja!
By contrast, the other Heinichen setting performed this evening, the vespers psalm Confitebor tibi Domine, (Psalm 110) is quiet and reflective. Each phrase begins securely enough in Palestrinian counterpoint, but it is almost as if Heinichen allows his attention to wander, as the phrases melt into a more 18th century idiom of parallel thirds.
It was virtually a ‘given' of music of this period that composers would be in the habit of emphasising the meaning of the text with musical ideas. So, notice the sudden dramatic shift of harmony during the phrase 'Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus' (Holy and terrible is his name), and the perennial baroque pun at the doxology text 'sicut erat in principio' (as it was in the beginning), where the music from the very opening of the piece returns.
Confitebor tibi Domine, in toto corde meo, in consilio justorum, et congregatione.
Magna opera Domini: exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.
Confessio et magnificentia opus ejus, et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum, misericors et miserator Dominus.
Escam dedit timentibus se: memor erit in sæculum testamenti sui.
Virtutem operum suorum annuntiabit populo suo, ut det illis hæreditatem gentium.
Opera manuum ejus veritas et judicium.
Fidelia omnia mandata ejus, confirmata in sæculum sæculi, facta in veritate et æquitate.
Redemptionem misit populo suo; mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.
Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus.
Initium sapientiæ timor Domini: intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum:
laudatio ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Gloria Patri, gloria Filio, gloria et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart:
secretly among the faithful, and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great: sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
His work is worthy to be praised and had in honour:
and his righteousness endureth for ever.
The merciful and gracious Lord hath so done his marvellous works:
that they ought to be had in remembrance.
He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he shall ever be mindful of his covenant.
He hath shewed his people the power of his works:
that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.
The works of his hands are verity and judgement: all his commandments are true:
they stand fast for ever and ever: and are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever.
Holy and reverend is his Name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:
a good understanding have all they that do thereafter:
the praise of it endureth for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
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J S Bach "St Anne" Fugue in E flat BWV 552 (Nigel Nash, organ)
The Prelude and Fugue in Eb, popularly known as "St Anne" because of the similarity of the first fugue subject to William Croft's hymn tune (sung to the words "O God our help in ages past") frame a collection of 21 chorale preludes and 4 duets known as Part 3 of Bach's Clavier-Übung, which dates from 1739.
It is no coincidence that Trinitarian symbolism is found in various aspects of this collection. One of these is the use of the three-flat key of E-flat major found in this Prelude & Fugue. The whole collection is built on this numerical foundation - there are 27 pieces in it (27=3x3x3) - and the fugue is also in 3 sections: a stately first section built on the "St Anne" theme, a more flowing quaver section and then a lively and jubilant final part in 12/8 time in which the opening fugue subject makes a further appearance towards the end.
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Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) Richte mich, Gott (Psalm 43) Op.78, no.2
Mendelssohn's German setting of Psalm 43 was finished on 3rd January 1844. It is one of several anthems written for the Berlin Cathedral Choir during a short-lived Imperial appointment there.
The piece is driven by two types of contrast: between the men's and women's voices, and between the more penitential and more hopeful words. Usually the texture for the penitential words is split, but the whole choir comes together for the more hopeful ones. Listen out for the wonderful explosion of sound on 'Sende dein Licht' (quite near the beginning), and the poignantly expressive 'Was betrübst du dich', which is followed by the final positive 'Harre auf Gott'.
Richte mich, Gott, und führe meine Sache wider das unheilige Volk,
und errete mich von den falschen und bösen Leuten.
Denn du bist der Gott, meiner Stärke; warum verstössest du mich?
Warum lasses du mich so traurig geh'n, wenn mein Feind mich drängt?
Sende dein Licht und deine Wahrheit, dass sie mich leiten zu deinem heiligen Berge,
und zu deiner Wohnung.
Dass ich hinein gehe zum Altar Gottes, zu dem Gott,
der meine Freude und Wonne ist, und dir, Gott, auf der Harfe danke, mein Gott.
Was betrübst du dich, meine seele, und bist so unruhig in mir?
Harre auf Gott, den ich werde ihm noch danken,
dass er meines Angesichts Hilfe, und mein Gott ist.
Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an unjust nation:
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.
For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off?
Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me;
let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling.
Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy:
yea upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?
Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance,
and my God.
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Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) Abendlied, Op.69, no.3
Rheinberger is best known for his organ music: 20 sonatas and other pieces, but he was a prolific composer in many genres, including choral music. He has a reputation for embodying the virtues and flaws of the nineteenth-century German musical establishment - solid technique but rather dull. The present piece disproves the dull part of this reputation.
Abendlied (evening song) is a short setting of Luke 24 verse 29, written in 1873 for a Berlin choral society. It is scored for six-part choir, with a carefully controlled balance between homophonic and contrapuntal textures. The second chord of the piece, which is minor and unexpected, sets the tone for the piece - rich but solemn; and the diminuendo in the final phrase seems to symbolise the fading of the evening light.
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneiget.
Bide with us, for evening shadows darken, and the day will soon be over.
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Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) Os justi
/ Christus factus est
Os justi was written for the choir of the monastery of St Florian near Linz in 1879. The words come from Psalm 37. The work is written throughout in pure Lydian mode, without any accidentals. If this is in homage to the late renaissance style which is such an influence on Bruckner's choral music, then the use of dynamic contrasts, expressive melodic motifs and careful attention to the word-setting are evidence of a nineteenth-century sensibility. Note the fugal section to the words 'et lingua ejus', the subtle way in which the music of 'Lex Dei' gradually turns into the music heard at the beginning, and the coda (marked ppp) on 'et non supplantabuntur' which was added later by Bruckner when told that his motet was not liturgically correct without extra words.
Os justi meditabitur sapientiam, et lingua ejus loquetur judicium.
Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius: et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus. Alleluia.
The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.
The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. Alleluja.
Christus factus est is a later piece, written in 1884. The words come from Philippians chapter 2, traditionally used as the gradual for Maundy Thursday; what might have appeared to be a theological proposition is treated by Bruckner with Catholic fervour. In contrast to Os justi, the harmonic style is very chromatic, in places recalling the 7th symphony which he was writing at about the same time. The mostly short phrases and extreme changes of texture and dynamics make this one of the most dramatic pieces in the repertory. Note the very expressive final section, in which poignant dissonances over a long D in the bass gradually calm down towards a serene ending.
Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.
Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death of the cross.
Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a Name which is above all names.
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Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Es ist das Heil, Op.29, no.1
Brahms published a surprisingly large amount of unaccompanied choral music - about sixty pieces, much of it, such as this piece, not often performed. Es ist das Heil is an early piece, written probably in 1860 (but not published until four years later). In it, Brahms was concerned not so much with the development of the German motet or with romantic expressiveness as with following Bach's example in the strict use of counterpoint and in basing the musical material on a chorale theme.
The words were written (in prison, in 1523) by Paul Speratus, a German preacher, hymnwriter and friend of Martin Luther. Speratus intended his words for the chorale tune which has been associated with them ever since. Words and tune appear in four of Bach's cantatas, most notably Cantata 9, which is called Es ist das Heil, and which sets two of the fourteen verses of the hymn - Brahms sets only the first verse.
The music falls into two sections: the first is a homophonic setting of the chorale tune, and the second is a contrapuntal elaboration of each of the seven phrases of the tune in turn. Keen-eared listeners should be able to follow the climax of each of these seven phrases, when the first basses sing the phrase of the melody in long notes. The final section, to the words 'Er ist der Mittler worden' is a little more romantic in harmony and feeling.
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her Von Gnad' und lauter Güte,
Die Werke helfen nimmermehr, Sie mögen nicht behüten,
Der Glaub' sieht Jesum Christum an Der hat g'nug für uns all' getan,
Er ist der Mittler worden.
Salvation has come to us from grace and sheer kindness
Works never help,they cannot protect us.
Faith looks towards Jesus Christ who has done enough for all of us.
He has become our mediator.
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Henry Purcell (1659-1695) Hear My Prayer /
Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei
As with the two Heinichen settings from the first half of the concert, these two pieces by Purcell also demonstrate how a composer was often expected to have different ‘voices'? for different occasions or purposes. The first, Hear my prayer, was composed in the early 1680s, and is possibly the finest evocation of anguish in all of English music. The twisting, chromatic figure that accompanies the word ‘crying' is passed from voice to voice, sometimes as it is heard in the opening bars, and sometimes inverted. The tension rises as the texture gradually thickens; it is not until the final few bars that all eight voices are heard together. The climax comes as the bass part begins a stepwise descent through a whole octave, reaching its lowest point just as the sopranos hold their highest note in dissonant suspension above it.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto Thee.
The second Purcell setting, Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei, was probably written for the Catholic chapel of Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II. Although not strictly a verse anthem in the Anglican tradition, it intersperses choral sections with solo vocal passages. Purcell, the consummate dramatist, makes full use of the theatrical possibilities of his psalm text. By juxtaposing solo voices with full chorus, he contrasts private and personal supplication with more communal expressions of faith as, for example, the section for solo tenor followed by the whole choir declaiming 'Voce mea ad Jehovam clamanti' (my voice cried out to the Lord). There are also startling shifts of tone and mood, such as when the psalmist describes the onset of sleep ('Ego cubui et dormivi').
Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei!
Quam multi insurgunt contra me.
Quam multi dicunt de anima mea;
non est ulla salus isti in Deo plane.
At tu, Jehova, clypeus es circa me;
gloria mea, et extollens caput meum.
Voce mea ad Jehovam clamanti,
respondit mihi e monte sanctitatis suae maxime.
Ego cubui et dormivi, ego expergefeci me;
quia Jehova sustentat me.
Non timebo a myriadibus populi,
quas circumdisposuerint metatores contra me.
Surge, Jehova, fac salvum me Deus mi;
qui percussisti omnes inimicos meos maxilliam, dentes improborum confregisti.
Jehova est salus: super populum tuum sit benedictio tua maxime.
Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!
Many are they that rise up against me.
Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.
But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.
I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves
against me round about.
Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God:
for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone;
thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people.
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C V Stanford (1852-1924)Postlude in D minor, Op.105, no.6 (Nigel Nash, organ)
In 1870 Stanford gained the consent of his father (who had originally wished him to enter the legal profession) to pursue a career in music. The same year he won an organ scholarship to Queens' College, Cambridge, and in June 1871 gained a classical scholarship. He became assistant conductor to the Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS) in 1871 to assist the ailing John Hopkins, and was appointed conductor in May 1873. In 1873 he moved to Trinity College, where, after Hopkins's death, he was appointed organist in February 1874. In 1887, at the age of 35, he became Professor of Music at Cambridge, but his relationship with the university was not altogether happy.
He resigned his post as organist at Trinity in 1892, though he continued as conductor of CUMS until 1893. He composed a reasonable amount of organ music including five sonatas, and two sets of ‘6 short Preludes & Postludes'. The 2nd set, of which the Postlude in D minor is the sixth and last piece, dates from 1908. Three of the preludes in this set are based on themes by Orlando Gibbons and are more reflective in nature. No 6, however, is by some distance the most flamboyant of the set and is the most frequently performed. It is mostly chordal in the opening section, using a lively dotted rhythm in 6/4 time, and shows some deft harmonic touches. A more restful middle section consisting of running quaver passages soon gives way to a gradual reappearance of the opening material which then concludes triumphally in the major.
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Stanford Three Latin Motets, Op.38
In 1892 Stanford gave up the post of organist of Trinity College, Cambridge. It was probably then that he wrote these three Latin motets, which are dedicated to his successor Alan Gray.
The words of Justorum animae are taken from the Book of Wisdom. The music is in three sections, with the outer two sharing musical material and a serene atmosphere appropriate to the words. The central section on 'et non tanget' is more restless. Note the calm effect of the plagal cadence at the very end. All three motets, incidentally, end on plagal cadences, each handled differently.
Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum malitiae.
Visi sunt oculis insipientium mori, illi autem sunt in pace.
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and the torment of death shall not touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace.
Beati quorum via sets the first verse of Psalm 99. Its gently flowing triple time rhythms give just a hint of a stately dance to its unhurried progress. Note the opening, unfolding like a flower first for ladies' voices, then for men; the point in the middle where a simple chord on the word 'beati' changes from major to minor; and the long-held bass note which heralds the final gentle rise and fall of the music. A miniature masterpiece.
Beati quorum via integra est, qui ambulant in lege Domini.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Ceolos ascendit hodie is quite different. Written in eight parts divided into two SATB choirs, it is as joyful as the others are serene. Much use is made of the interplay between the two choirs, with carefully controlled phrase lengths ranging from very short (just 'Alleluia') to much longer. The words are from an ascensiontide liturgy. Note the final 'Amen', which starts with the whole choir singing the same note, and expands outwards to a rich eight-part chord.
Coelos ascendit hodie, Jesus Christus Rex Gloriae: Alleluja!
Sedet ad Patris dexteram, Gubernat coelum et terram. Alleluja!
Iam finem habent omnia Patris Davidis carmina. Iam Dominus cum Domino, Alleluja!
Sedet in Dei solio, In hoc triumpho maximo. Alleluja!
Benedicamus Domino: Laudetur Sancta Trinitas,
Deo dicamus gratias, Alleluia! Amen.
Today into the heavens has ascended
Jesus Christ, the King of Glory: Alleluia!
He sits at the Father's right hand, and rules heaven and earth: Alleluia!
Now have been fulfilled all of Father David's songs.
Now God is with God, Alleluia! He sits upon the royal throne of God,
in this his greatest triumph, Alleluia!
Let us bless the Lord: Let the Holy Trinity be praised,
Let us give thanks to the Lord, Alleluia! Amen.
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C. Hubert H. Parry (1848-1918) My soul, there is a country /
Blest Pair of Sirens
My soul, there is a country is the first of Parry's collection of choral pieces called ‘Songs of Farewell', which were written in 1916. The words are by the Welsh 17th century metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan.
Parry's approach to the words here is radically different from that of other composers in this concert: he sets each phrase as one might read it, taking the rhythms from the poetic rhythms, and with minimal repetition - indeed after the first two words it is only the last two lines which are repeated. Parry has a reputation as a composer whose works contain many short sections, each characterful and well written, but which overall fail to sustain momentum. On the surface this would seem to be justified in this piece, with its frequent changes of mood, speed and key as the composer tries to find musical images to match the diverse poetic images of each line. Unifying elements of melody and harmony are however present, if not obvious, and the final elaboration of 'One who never changes' makes for a fitting conclusion.
My soul, there is a country far beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentryall skilful in the wars:
There, above noise and dangersweet Peace sits crowned with smiles
And One, born in a mangercommands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend and, O my soul, awake!
Did in pure love descend to die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither, there grows the flow'r of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,thy fortress and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,for none can thee secure
But One who never changes,thy God, thy life, thy cure.
Blest pair of Sirens is an earlier piece, written in 1887, and is longer and larger in scope, written for 8-part choir with organ. The words are from Milton's ode 'At a Solemn Musick'. Parry's leisurely setting finds imaginative musical equivalents for the magnificent sweep and solemnity of Milton's verse, creating music (as for example in the opening organ prelude) which seems continually to be reinventing and varying itself while keeping a sure sense of direction. The highlight of the piece is the ‘big tune' to the words 'O may we soon again renew that song' which spreads from the sopranos to the whole choir, and then turns seamlessly into a fugue on 'To live with him' which again seamlessly transforms into the more homophonic textures of the final bars: the whole being one magnificent arch of music.
Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy,
Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ,
Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce;
And to our high-raised phantasy present
That undisturbed song of pure consent,
Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne
To him that sits thereon,
With saintly shout and solemn jubilee;
Where the bright Seraphim, in burning row,
Their loud, uplifted angel-trumpets blow,
And the Cherubic host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
With those just spirits, that wear victorious palms,
Hymns devout and holy psalms
That we on Earth with undiscording voice,
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportioned sin
Jarr'd against Nature's chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
O may we soon again renew that song
And keep in tune with Heaven, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite,
To live with him and sing in endless morn of light.
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© Programme notes: Margaret Williams & Tim Warren. Organ notes: Nigel Nash
BRIAN KAY, guest conductor for this evening's concert, divides his working life between
the broadcasting studio and the concert platform. His many presentations for BBC radio have included Brian Kay's Sunday Morning,
Brian Kay's Light Programme, the weekly listeners' request programme 3 for all, and Choirworks - all on Radio 3;
on Radio 2 the popular programmes Melodies for You and Friday Night is Music Night; and for Radio 4,
Comparing Notes and Music in Mind. His former BBC World Service programme Classics with Kay reached an audience
of millions all over the world. Brian's television presentations have included the competitions to find the Cardiff Singer of the
World and the Choir of the Year, and every year since 1996, the New Year's Day Concert from Vienna. He has twice won a
Sony Award as Music Presenter of the Year, including the coveted Gold Award in 1996.
On the concert platform, he presents and narrates concerts with many of the leading orchestras. His narrations include Peter and the Wolf, Paddington Bear's First Concert, Tubby the Tuba, Babar the Elephant, The Snowman, The Musicians of Bremen, Walton's Facade, Honegger's King David and Bliss's Morning Heroes.
Brian Kay is conductor of Vaughan Williams's Leith Hill Musical Festival in Surrey, and of the Burford Singers, near to his home in the Cotswolds. He is also an associate conductor of The Really Big Chorus, with which he regularly conducts massed voices in London's Royal Albert Hall, together with recent concerts in Salzburg, Seville, Prague, Venice and Cape Town, and a performance of Handel's Messiah in China, in Beijing's Forbidden City Concert Hall. He was, for ten years, Chorus Master of the Huddersfield Choral Society, and Conductor of the Cheltenham Bach Choir, the Bradford Festival Choral Society, the Cecilian Singers of Leicester, and the Kendal-based Mary Wakefield Westmorland Festival. He frequently Guest-Conducts choirs and orchestras in many parts of the country. Further afield, in New Zealand he has conducted the Orpheus Choir of Wellington and the Auckland Choral Society, and in Sheffield, Massachusetts, the Berkshire Choral Festival. He is a Vice President of the ABCD (the Association of British Choral Directors) and of the RSCM (Royal School of Church Music).
Brian Kay has twice appeared at the Royal Variety Show - in 1978 as a member of the King's Singers (he was a founder member, and as the bass voice in the group performed over 2000 concerts world-wide) and in 1987 conducting the Huddersfield Choral Society. He sang the voice of Papageno in the Hollywood movie Amadeus (his wife, the soprano Gillian Fisher sang Papagena). He has also been the lowest frog on a Paul McCartney single, one of the six wives to Harry Secombe's Henry VIIIth, and a member of the backing group for Pink Floyd!
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