Idyll flyerMusic of the pastoral and picturesque by Elgar, Purcell, Handel, and Stanford.
Music has a unique ability to paint an idealised picturesque world well beyond the prosaic reality of our lived experience:  from the mythology of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas to the contemporary rural bliss of Elgar’s Sea Pictures.
In this concert we explored a range of pastoral works which paint idyllic pictures of worlds we can only imagine.

Our concert of pastoral music filled the Blackheath Uniting Church and was followed by afternoon tea in the Church Hall in the Blackheath tradition.

Sea Pictures Op 37 (Edward Elgar, 1857–1934; arr Rowen Fox)
Sir Edward Elgar’s five-part song cycle Sea Pictures was composed in response to a request for a short choral work for the 1899 Norwich Festival, using words from different Victorian poems, full of description and metaphor. The words to In Haven were written by his wife, Caroline Alice Elgar. While Elgar originally arranged all five songs for contralto and orchestra, he himself often performed a piano version. This afternoon we sing the second and fourth songs, in a new arrangement by Rowen Fox for four-part choir and using Elgar’s original piano part.

Dido and Aeneas (Henry Purcell, 1659–1695)
Henry Purcell’s first opera is based on Virgil’s Aenied, and recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he eventually abandons her. This scene from Act II, with soloist Lee Louise, depicts an earlier, happier time in the story and describes a peaceful picnic in a beautiful grove. The opera was first performed in London in 1688, but soon fell out of favour and was revived in London in 1895 to mark the bicentenary of Purcell’s death.

Three items by Chamber Choir
These three works well document the growth and development of secular a cappella choral music through university and community choral societies in Europe from the middle of the 19th century: An der Kirche (1860) by German composer and cantor at JS Bach’s St Thomas Church in Leipzig, Moritz Hauptmann; and The Blue Bird (1910) by Irishman Charles Villiers Stanford with soloist Janet Zimmerman.

Idyll_020717_006-2Two songs in the modern style from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Rowen Fox)
This set, sung by Lyn Phillips accompanied by Margo Adelson, is drawn from the incidental music which Rowen composed for an Adelaide Fringe production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in 2008. As was the fad at the time, the production was painfully and self-consciously ‘contemporary’, one of those in which all the courtiers are dressed in Armani suits and all the offstage action is reported via mobile phone. The title of this set is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the similarly contemporary style in which the incidental music is written. With the originals written for voice and guitar, this small song set was reworked for voice and strings, then voice and piano. The pieces reference popular song formats and draw heavily on pop music’s well-known idioms.

Alexander’s Feast (George Friderich Handel, 1685–1759)
Handel composed his Ode to St Cecilia, Alexanders Feast, to the poem of the same name by John Dryden. Handel and Dryden were both fascinated with the effect of music on the human passions, and the work details the various passions of Alexander the Great as he listens to the music of Timotheus at his victory feast in Babylon. In this number the applauding crowd determines that Love, of all the passions, has triumphed – albeit through the services of Music.

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We rehearse on Tuesday evenings during the NSW school term from 7pm to 9:30pm at the Phillips Hall, Gardiner Crescent in Blackheath.

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