We celebrate the contribution of women to choral music, as symbolised by St Cecilia, the patron saint of music. She was a noble lady of Rome around 230 AD who, despite her vow of virginity, was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart. She was later declared the saint of musicians.
The programme includes works by Marianna Martines (Austria), Cécile Chaminade (France), Tamsin Jones (United Kingdom), Rosephanye Powell (America), and New Zealander Felicia Edgecombe. Also included is Benjamin Britten’s "Hymn to St Cecilia".
The choir will be joined by soloists Olivia Pike (soprano), Tessa Romano (mezzo-soprano) and Benjamin Madden (tenor), all local Dunedin artists. Sandra Crawshaw, lauded for her excellence on the piano, will provide the accompaniment. Other musicians on flute, oboe, clarinet and organ will add to the riches of this production. David Burchell, who has made a name for himself as a brilliant conductor, will provide musical direction and conduct the performance.
Highlights on the programme:
Marianna Martines (1744–1812), was a singer, pianist and composer of the classical period. Little known today, Marianna Martines was an acclaimed composer in her lifetime who influenced Mozart. Growing up, she took music lessons from a young, struggling composer who rented the attic of her family’s Vienna home. His name was Joseph Haydn. Already as a child she was good enough to perform before the imperial court. "Laudate Pueri Dominum" is a psalm by Mattei that Martines set to music. As befits the text, Marianna’s setting of Psalm 112 is a joyful, energetic work.
Benjamin Britten (1913–1976) composed "Hymn to St Cecilia", a work that is as easy to love as it is to admire. Throughout the hymn it is as if we are floating in the heavens, swooping down towards earth occasionally but then rising up again on the breeze – Britten’s music really is that wondrous and weightless. Small wonder that many Britten conductors count this hymn among their favourites of the composer’s works. The hymn was given its first (radio) performance in 1942.
Felicia Edgecombe (b. 1945), teacher, song-writer and musician, was born in Napier and educated at Tauranga Girls’ College, then later at Auckland University, studying English and Music for a BA degree. She has taught in secondary schools in Auckland and Wellington, serving as Head of Music at Queen Margaret College for many years. She is currently the musical director of the Capital Choir in Wellington. Extensively involved with choirs and church music, she has written many wide-ranging songs. "Shaky Places" is a set of 14 songs for mixed-voice choir, set to poems by various New Zealand poets. It is a collection of quintessential New Zealand experiences including the natural world, puzzles of identity and the Christchurch earthquakes. The individual songs range from powerful and profound to good humoured, witty and evocative.