A concert for Peace All Saint’s Church Pocklington 30th June
Listen to a recording of Stuart's English Requiem using the following link:-
The Treaty of Versailles, which was the official end of the Great War, was signed on 28th June 1919, and the concert in All Saints Church Pocklington on 30th June 2019 sought to mark the one hundreth anniversary of this important, but often forgotten event. Stamford Bridge Singers joined with the Pocklington Singers, under their conductor Michael Cooper, to present two contrasting works which were greatly enjoyed by the large audience.
An English Requiem was written by the Musical Director of the Stamford Bridge Singers, Stuart Nettleship, and this was the premier, but it was clear from his extensive and interesting programme notes that the ideas for parts of this work go back a long time, into the 1980s. It comprises words from the Requiem Mass interspersed with extracts from English Romantic poets. This is a large, ambitious work for choir, orchestra and three soloists and in each of the 9 movements there was plenty to make the audience, orchestra and choir think! The Sanctus for example started with words from William Wordsworth “ the earth, and every common sight, apparelled in celestial light” sung ethereally by an 8 part upper voices’ choir, before being interrupted by the soprano and chorus and a very evocative setting of the words “The winds come to me from the fields of sleep” before the tenor soloist and the choir interrupt loudly with words from the Mass “Sanctus”. This is followed by a beautiful folk-like tune “and all the Earth is gay… “then another bit of the Mass before a wonderful choral “Then sing ye Birds”. The orchestra, the East Riding Sinfonia , with Eileen Spencer as leader, coped with the novelty and the demands of this work admirably; there were moments of great drama and power, as well as moments of great beauty, none more so than in the setting of Oscar Wilde’s poem Requiescat which featured the wonderfully lyrical tenor of Jason Darnell and the harpist, Anita Aslin and the cellist Julia Brewer. In every movement there was plenty to enjoy and a special mention should be made of Eleanor Audet and Charlotte Phillips, who, as the two other soloists, did a magnificent job, sometimes with the choir, at other times singing against the choir. The final movement was In Paradisum, and traditionally, especially in the Requiems by Fauré or Duruflé this is a peaceful glimpse of heaven. Not so in this Requiem. The Latin words are preceded by words from “A Song to David” by Christopher Smart. There is a wonderful moment when the choir and orchestra unite on the word “Glorious” ; this is a different kind of Paradise. This was a hugely ambitious and challenging work, and Stuart, the choirs and orchestra are to be congratulated for presenting this remarkable work.
The second half of the concert was more familiar. Antonio Vivaldi set the Latin words of the Gloria to music around 1715. Although it is rightly a popular and often performed piece now, it was lost for some time, and the “original” version, which was sung on Sunday, was first performed in 1957. The orchestra provided a very suitable accompaniment to the choir; Jane Wright was the oboist, and Julia Brewer on cello provided beautiful sympathetic accompaniment in some of the quieter movements, and Nicholas Page on the organ provided the steady continuo. The combined choirs produced a very full and rich tone, and the fugue in the last movement “Cum Sancto Spiritu” was particularly exciting and fitting way to end such a thrilling concert.