Sunday Concert – Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943): The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

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November 23, 2014

Rachmaninov wrote two major works for choir both of which are sacred choral music masterpieces the famous All Night Vigil  and then there's this work  The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  The Divine Liturgy is nowhere near as well known which is a shame because its choral writing is certainly to the same glorious standard as his monumental All-Night Vigil. This live performance was given on November 2nd 2014 by Groot Omroepkoor directed by Sigvards Klava at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and was broadcast by the Dutch AVRO broadcaster.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Drakensberg Boys Choir: Wethelebuke

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November 22, 2014

Wethelebuke, a SiSwati composition - as recorded on our campus in 2012

Enjoy :-)

mfi

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John Taverner (±1490 – 1545): Quemadmodum

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November 21, 2014

When Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace money for the college he founded suddenly became very scarce. This decided Taverner to leave his post at the college and retire to Boston where he remained for the rest of his life. He continued to compose and Quemadmodum  a setting of the first verses of Psalm 41 (42) is one of the products of that time. It's a refined and poised piece of musical that for its time was  very daring and radical piece of work. It continued Taverner's breaking free from the Tudor mould that paved the way for the music of The English Reformation. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Duo ubera tua

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November 20, 2014

Thy breasts are like two fawns, roes that are twins.
Thy nose is as a tower of ivory.
Thine eyes are like the pools in Hesebon,
which are at the Gate of the Daughter of the Multitude.
Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon
that looks towards Damascus.
Thy head is like Carmel, and the hair of thy head
is as royal purple braided in strands.

This is the twenty-sixth in the series of twenty-nine motets based upon the Song of Songs that Palestrina first published in 1584. Each motet is carefully contrived to singable by a wide range of groups and it is this, coupled with the beauty and eroticism of the text that accounted for their wild popularity. They took Italy by storm going through no  less than eleven reprints in short order. I've always felt that Duo ubera tua is particularly beautiful. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Wednesday Earwig: The Art of the Vocal Warm-up – Indianapolis Children’s Choir

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November 19, 2014

It's been ages since we've had an earwig so here goes. The Indianapolis Children's Choir showing us how it's done. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Gabriel Jackson (1962 –): Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Truro Service) — Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral

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November 18, 2014

Choral Evensong from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. The Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Matthew Owens, perform settings of the Magnificat (0:01) and Nunc Dimittis(4:17) evening canticles out of Gabriel Jackson's stunning Truro Service. Both canticles appear on the 2005 disk 'Gabriel Jackson: Sacred Choral Works', available on iTunes through Delphian Records.

Treble and bass solos by Oliver Boyd and Ben Carter, respectively.

St Mary's is unique in Scotland for maintaining a tradition of daily choral service and prayer. The cathedral choristers—boys as well as girls, who were welcomed into the ranks at St Mary's decades before they were in any other UK cathedral—are educated at St Mary's Music School, an independent specialist music school whose pupils are all either choristers or instrumentalists.

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Percy Grainger (1882 – 1961): Danny Deever

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November 17, 2014

Percy Grainger 1903Danny Deever is one of Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads and was published in 1892 in the First Series. Kipling's work was wildly popular at the time and Grainger whose love of poetry had been encouraged and fostered by his mother was a Kipling enthusiast. Between 1903 and 1904 Grainger was in the grip of inspiration and set several texts to music including Kipling's rather stark and grim depiction of a soldier being executed by hanging for murdering one of his comrades by shooting him as he lay sleeping.

Grainger's setting, which like all his settings of Kipling's poems he dedicated to his mother, follows the structure of Kipling's poem precisely. It's a set of dialogues between a group of young soldiers ("Files-on-Parade") and their sergeant as they watch the execution. Grim thought the text and the occasion it depicts was Grainger turns it into an almost jaunty piece of music. He loved ballads, especially ballads such as this which make heavy use of repetition because they gave him the opportunity of using one of his favourite techniques of varying the instrumental accompaniment to increase the intensity as the narrative proceeds. For Danny Deever the form he chose was that of a march a sort of "Marche Macabre" which he adorned with dissonant chromatic harmonies and cross accents to better highlight the darkness and irony of the occasion. When I first heard it I couldn't help but wonder how Grainger's mother felt at having such a piece of music dedicated to her but years later having read a biography of Grainger I decided she probably enjoyed it, she was from what I can make out well and truly weird. Don't let that put you off this is a fine piece of music that repays the time spent listening.

mfi

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Feature: Josquin Des Prez (±1450 – 1521): Missa Ave Maris Stella

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November 16, 2014

Josquin's Missa Ave maris stella is a relatively early that must have been composed sometime between 1495 and 1505 when it appeared as the opening work in the second book of Josquin's Masses published by Ottaviano Petrucci the Venetian master printer and publisher. It's a cantus firmus work in other words Josquin used the melody of another piece of  music as the musical foundation for this setting of the Mass. As the name Missa Ave maris stella might lead you to expect the cantus firmus Josquin used was the Dorian mode Marian hymn of that name and which I include as the starting track in the recording below.

This hymn which was appointed to be sung at First Vespers on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary was very popular and very greatly loved. Even as Gregorian chant there are six settings of it that I know of and there could well have been more there's also a very well-known setting by Dufay. Not being one to  pass up an opportunity Josquin's setting makes heavy use of it as a cantus firmus. You can hear it throughout the Mass both as a structural voice subject to embellishment or as the foundation for some highly developed imitation. It's a really stunning setting in which Josquin somehow manages to combine some quite severe contrapuntal writing with intensely declamatory treatment of the text and numinous euphony. It's a compositional tour de force in which Josquin clearly set out to show what he could do and I find it very difficult to pick out one highlight over another so I'll confine myself to mentioning just a few points.

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Josquin Des Prez (±1450-1521): O virgo virginium

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November 15, 2014

I've written about the great 'O' antiphons frequently, or to be more precise I've written about seven of them. These are the seven antiphons that are sung in the week before Christmas starting with 'O Sapientia' and concluding ón December 23rd with 'O Emmanuel'  most people think that these seven antiphons – the 'Great Antiphons' as they are often referred to are the only antiphons for this time, but  this is wrong in fact there are other antiphons which are proper to this week as the list below which I take from Guéranger shows:

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Franz Schubert: "Die Forelle" – boy soprano David Cizner 9 years old

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November 14, 2014

Cizner Forelle ThumbI've been following David Cizner's career for a while. He's a very talented singer in this performance recorded when he was all of nine years old he sings "Die Forelle". He takes it a bit faster than I'd normally like but in this case I don't think it detracts – very precise and clear diction too. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui

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November 13, 2014

Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui is the twenty fifty in the series of motets based upon the Song of Songs first published by Palestrina in 1584. The eroticism of the text – the Song of Songs is after all love poetry of a desert people,  no doubt helped account for its popularity with the public. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Cowper (1731–1800): O for a closer walk with God — Boys Air Choir

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November 12, 2014

BlueBird-Cover

Cowper's much loved hymn sung here by the BAC in their Blue Bird album dating from 2000. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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