Saturday 19 November 2022, 7.30pm
Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony
Stanford: Songs of the Fleet
Susanna Fairbairn soprano
James Cleverton baritone
Georgina Bloomfield violin
Chester Music Society Choir
Graham Jordan Ellis conductor
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The Lark Ascending is based on a poem by the English poet George Meredith contemplating the song of the skylark. Siegfried Sassoon called it 'matchless of its kind'. In a poll of BBC listeners to choose Britain's Desert Island Discs, the work was the chosen favourite, and from 2007 to 2010 it was voted number one in the Classic FM annual 'Hall of Fame' poll. In 2011, in a poll of New Yorkers for preferences of music to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, The Lark Ascending ranked second.
A Sea Symphony is among the best-known of a host of sea-related pieces being written around the same time in England, some of the most famous of which are Stanford's Songs of the Fleet (also featured in tonight's concert) (1910), Elgar's Sea Pictures (1899), and Frank Bridge's The Sea (1911). Debussy's La Mer (1905) may also have been influential in this apparent nautical obsession.
The text of A Sea Symphony comes from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Though Whitman's poems were little known in England at the time, Vaughan Williams was attracted to them for their ability to transcend both metaphysical and humanist perspectives. "There is no mistaking the physical exhilaration or the visionary rapture"
Songs of the Fleet is a cycle of five songs for baritone, mixed chorus, and orchestra, set to poems by Henry Newbolt. It was premiered at Leeds in 1910: Sailing at Dawn; The Song of the Sou'wester; The Little Admiral; Fare Well
Tickets £10, £20, £25
This performance is generously supported by
the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust