This Saturday is St George’s Day and Bel Canto will be celebrating the day in style.
There are two main items in the concert: Puccini’s Messa di Gloria and my new Dramatic Cantata – St George and the Dragon.
The Messa di Gloria was written when Puccini (1858-1924) was still very young, this piece shows the exuberance of youth, with a fair amount of skill, and is just plain fun. Puccini composed the Mass as his graduation exercise from the Istituto Musicale Pacini and It had its first performance in Lucca on July 12, 1880. Apparently it is not a true “Messa di Gloria” as these only had Kyrie and Gloria, but Puccini had already written a Credo (performed in 1878) and so perhaps, having written a new Kyrie and Gloria, decided to use the existing Credo, add a quick Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei (and these movements are really quite short) to complete the mass. The music is unashamedly operatic in nature, and those who know Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle will immediately recognise some of the styles. It is a great piece to perform and even better to listen to.
Alongside this work, you’ll be able to hear the first outing of my new dramatic cantata St George and the Dragon, written specially for the occasion. This witty telling of the story of our Patron Saint’s encounter with a Dragon features the choir as the concerned villagers, a heroic tenor (David Watkin-Holmes) as St George, a baritone solo (Peter Taylor) as the King of the town plagued by the Dragon, and a soprano soloist (Clare Wheat) as his slightly ditzy daughter, destined to be fed to the Dragon.
The words have been written by my ever-supportive parents, and the Cantata is accompanied by piano (the marvellous Jonathan Gooing) and percussion. The choir and soloists have enjoyed learning it, and the performance promises to be a great success.
The Sterndale Singers innovative concert this Saturday, 16th May is an original alternative to the Eurovision Song Contest with music from 20 of the Countries which compete in Eurovision, presenting our own version of the competition. The programme, which as you will imagine is a real smorgasbord of musical delights – as varied a programme as you could wish to imagine – includes genres as varied as Renaissance polyphony from Italy and Spain, Folk Songs from all sorts of obscure places, exciting arrangements of texts by Shakespeare by a variety of composers, and, to use a slightly hackneyed phrase, in this plethora of musical styles, there really should be something for everyone. In addition there is the added excitement of watching and listening to the choir get to grips with at least nine different languages. “Why not twenty different languages?” we hear you cry. “that would really be fun!”. Fortunately many of our European composers write in English or Latin.
As well as supping on wine, cocktails or soft drinks, whilst listening to the music, audience members will be given the chance to vote for their favourite numbers during the evening – so if you have always wanted to shout “nul points” this will be your chance.