Chester: NCO with Chester Festival Chorus
James MacMillan O Radiant Dawn | Hildegard von Bingen arr. Slorach Spiritus Sanctus Vivificans | Johannes Brahms arr. Mark Gotham Geistliches lied | Grace Williams Elegy | Johannes Brahms arr. Urs Stäuble Schicksalslied | Sally Beamish Showings | Ludwig van Beethoven Elegischer Gesang | John Tavener Song for Athene | Johannes Brahms arr. Urs Stäuble Nänie
Storyhouse, Chester | Sunday 18 June 3.00pm
Tickets from £17.50 plus £1.50 booking fee
The Northern Chamber Orchestra return to the Storyhouse following a successful series of string quartet performances in 2022. They are joined by the Chester Festival Chorus in an uplifting concert celebrating visionary composers throughout musical history, from Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th century plainchant Spiritus Sanctus Vivificans, through to James MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn from 2007.
The concert’s title comes from Brahms’ work Schicksalslied, “Song of Destiny”. During a summer holiday in 1868, the composer was drawn to the poem Hyperions Schicksalslied by Friedrich Hölderlin, which describes(?) the lives of eternally euphoric Immortals with the uneasy existence of mortals, who live at the mercy of the cruel whims of fate. Brahms’ holiday companion, Albert Dietrich, tells of how the composer, “usually so lively, was quiet and grave”, and the piece came to him while sitting alone by the sea.
Several of the composers on this programme have something in common – they have either themselves experienced visions, or the music is based on the visions of others. From early childhood, Hildegard von Bingen’s spirituality was rooted in what she called the reflection of the living Light; visions that inspired her writings. Sally Beamish’s Showings uses texts by 14th century anchoress Julian of Norwich, who received a series of visions during an illness. In her teachings, Julian presents an extraordinary hopefulness and serenity in the face of the significant suffering of her time. John Tavener is also known for his expressions of deep spirituality in music, and Song for Athene, written in tribute to a family friend who passed away in an accident, came to him fully formed at her funeral and expresses hope beyond the grave.
This concept of hope in God and eternal life is also present in many of the other works performed here. Geistliches Lied (Sacred Song), Brahms’ earliest accompanied choral work, is set to a poem by the chorale author Paul Flemming about the acceptance of fate and trust in God, while ardent longing for Christ is a prominent sentiment in James MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn. Beethoven’s rarely performed choral work, Elegischer Gesang, written for the anniversary of his friend’s wife, Eleonore, swells with hope and emotion for “the heavenly spirit’s return home”, while Brahms’ Nänie is a lamentation on the inevitability of death while consoling those who mourn.
The Northern Chamber Orchestra, the North West’s longest-standing professional chamber orchestra, are thrilled to be joined by the Chester Festival Chorus, one of Northwest England’s leading large-scale mixed-voice choirs. Conductor Ellie Slorach is the Founder and Artistic Director of Kantos Chamber Choir.