Glebe Music Festival
In conjunction with The Glebe Society Inc
14th Glebe Music Festival
Bel a cappella presents
Charpentier's Midnight Mass for Christmas
St Scholastica's Convent Chapel
Sunday 16 November at 1500hrs
Bel a cappella Choir and Orchestra
A Hymn to the Virgin (1930, revised 1934)
The Lamb (1995, revised 2001)
Te Deum in C (1934)
O Quam Gloriosum
The Lamb (1982)
Messe de minuit sur les Airs de Noël (Midnight Mass on Christmas
ABOUT THE MUSIC
A Hymn to the Virgin: Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
With his precociously virtuosic choral variations, A Boy Was Born op 3 (1933), the young Benjamin Britten effectively announced him-self as a new voice in choral music. However, it is another choral work, which, though not specifically written for Christmas, has become a frequent inclusion in choral Christmas concerts - A Hymn to the Virgin. Composed in 1930 when Britten was only sixteen, it sets an anonymous thirteenth-century text in praise of Mary which combines English and Latin phrases. Britten draws attention to this 'maceronic' formula, common in Medieval poetry, by dividing the text between full choir (which sings the English words) and a semi-chorus (which sings the Latin). The unaffected har-monies, which sparkle with dissonances, and the gently arching melody, create a suitably contemplative atmosphere which climaxes on the words 'Of all thou bear'st the prize, Lady queen of paradise'. It was first performed at St John's, Lowescroft, on 5 January 1931 and published in 1935. (Incidentally, the only other of his works specifically in praise of a virgin queen, in this case Elizabeth I, is his rarely-performed opera Gloriana written in 1953 for the coronation of Elizabeth II).
Notes by Stephen Schafer.
Ave Maria: Tomás Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611)
While not as prolific as his contemporaries and leaving no secular works, Victoria's music represents the culmination of the Renaissance style in Spain.
Initially educated in Spain, he travelled to Italy to study at the German Jesuit College. He succeeded Palestrina as master of music at the Collegium Romanum. In succeeding years Victoria held the same post at the German Jesuit College and was resident priest at the Church of San Girolamo, before returning to Spain in 1587 as chaplain and choirmaster to the Dowager Empress Mary.
This Ave Maria setting displays Victoria's ad-vanced harmonic
and melodic sense. Also characteristic of his music is the change to triple
meter on "Sancta Maria" and the inter-play of brief contrapuntal
and homophonic sections.
The Lamb: Dean Apolinary Ransevycz (1968- ) and John Tavener (1944- )
Dean Apolinary Ransevycz has been a member of Bel a cappella since 1999.
He studied at La Trobe University in Melbourne and the Sydney Conservatorium
of Music. His compositions have been performed by groups in Sydney, Melbourne
and Perth. In particular, Dean has had a long association with The Sydney
University Musical Society (SUMS). Significant works in his oeuvre are
the Bagatelles for String Quartet; Verbum est Deus vita et lux omnem
hominem illuminans, a motet for large chorus; and The Flea, a piece
for baritone and woodwind quartet. Currently Dean's interest is focused
on choral music.
Notes by Rosa Corbishley.
Born in London, John Tavener is regarded as one of Britain's most significant
living com-posers and a foremost exponent of the "mystic minimalist"
style. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music under Lennox Berkeley
and David Lumsdaine, achieving wide public attention with his 1968 cantata
The Whale. Central to his oeuvre is the large body of choral music
which includes the carols (of which The Lamb is one) as well as
large-scale works celebrating his Russian Orthodox faith, such as The
Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and Akathist of Thanksgiving.
The composer says of the piece: The Lamb came to me fully grown and was written in an afternoon and dedicated to my nephew Simon for his third birthday.
Notes by Dean Apolinary Ransevycz.
Note by Dean A Ransevycz.
Te Deum in C: Benjamin Britten
Britten's first setting of the Te Deum was written for St Mar's, North Audley Street, London and first performed on 27 January 1936. A more complex work than A Hymn to the Virgin, it nonetheless also combines sim-plicity of utterance with compositional sophis-tication, the choir, organ and soprano (treble) soloist sharing little material yet melding into a convincing whole. The work is in tripartite form. It opens with pianissimo chords unset-tled by an enigmatic figure in the organ's bass register (which will permeate the piece) out of which arise choral declamations based around the C major triad, hushed at first, slowly rising to a crescendo on 'Heav'n and earth are full of the majesty of They Glory' and gradually subsiding again. Following the central section, in which the soloist's sinuous melody is under-pinned by soft choral interjections, the material heard at the outset returns in an embellished form - rich in interweaving choral arpeggios - before the work concludes as quietly as it began. Throughout, Britten takes full advan-tage of every opportunity to illustrate the text in musical terms that give the piece a quasi-theatrical character, an approach which he would greatly amplify in large-scale works such as the War Requiem (1961).
Notes by Stephen Schafer.
O Quam Gloriosum: Tomás de Victoria
The motet O Quam gloriosum hails from Victoria's first book of motets, publishes in 1572. It displays both the surety of his contrapuntal and harmonic technique and his characteristically impassioned word-setting. In this motet the hosts of heaven really do rejoice with Christ: the rising figure on "gaudent" conveying beyond doubt the joy of the white-robed saints and the close counterpoint of "quocumque ierit" evoking those same saints following the Lamb "wheresoever he shall go".
Notes by Dean Apolinary Ransevycz.
Messe de minuit sur les Airs de Noël, H. 9 for soloists, chorus,
flutes and continuo:
Among the many contemporaries of that cynsure of French Baroque music, Jean-Batiste de Lully (1632-1687), Marc-Antoine Charpentier was regarded as equal, if not superior, to his more strategically-placed rival. Born in Paris, probably around 1643, to Louis Charpentier (a talented copyist and calligrapher), he studied for some years during the 1660s in Rome with Giacomo Carissimi (1605-74) and, after returning home around 1667, worked for the influential Marie de Lorraine, Duchess de Guise (who may have sponsored his Italian studies) until her death in 1688. Following the commencement under Royal monopolistic privileges of Lully's career as a composer and producer of opera in 1672, Molière (?1622-1673) chose Charpeniier as his new musical collaborator. The pair created a number of musico-theatrical entertainments (including Le malade imaginaire) for what became, in 1680, the Comédie-Française. Charpentier continued to work with the company until 1686. During the early 1680s, he was also employed by the dau-phin and was granted a pension by Louis XIV m 1683. Patronage by Philippe, duc de Chartres (later duc d'Orleans and Regent of France) kept Charpentier in proximity to court circles until his death in Paris, which sources variously date to 1703 or 1704. (Bel a cappella will commemorate the tricentenary of Charpentier's death in 2004).
Despite an impressive catalogue of secular woks, including soma 40 airs sérieux, 8 cantatas, 34 stage works (pastorals, divertissements and his sole tragédie mise en musique, Medée), 27 intermèdes and sets of incidental music, 10 or so instrumental works, and some published writings, Charpentier is today remembered mainly for his sacred music, which dominates his oeuvre. In addition to approximately 30 sa-cred instrumental works, he composed an aston-ishing 176 motets, 84 Psalm settings, 54 Tenebrae lessons and responses, 37 antiphons, 31 oratories and dramatic motets, 19 hymns, 10 Magnificats, 9 litanies, 4 sequences, 4 Te Deums and 11 masses.
Even the most devout of composers rarely wrote sacred music without a firm commission or at least financial support from a religious institution that wanted to perform them. Despite having failed to appear for an audition to become one of the sous-maitres at the Chapel Royale in 1683 - claiming illness but possibly out of fear of out-shining (read: offending) Lully - Charpentier composed for a number of religious houses and establishments. During the 1680s he became composer and maitre de musique at the Jesuit Church of St Louis-St Paul, described by a con-temporary as 'among the most brilliant' posts in Parisian musical life, as well as for Port-Royale de Paris.
Charpentier's claim that diversity was 'the very essence of music' is amply exemplified by his oeuvre, not only with regard to the wide range of different forms but also within each work. Well acquainted by direct experience with the music of Italian contemporaries, and fully conversant with both official court style and the works of his cosmopolitan colleagues, Charpentier achieves a seemingly effortless synthesis in his own music. Affecting word-painting, enhanced by the judi-cious use of dissonance and a sometimes auda-cious approach to harmony, reveal a fascination with the expressive potential of sonority; the textural contrasts arising from constantly-shifting combinations of vocal and instrumental forces building these blocks into larger units, each per-fectly shaped into a dramatic, emotionally satisfying whole.
The pioneering Charpentier scholar H Wiley Hitchcock concluded mid-last century that the Messe de minuit de Noël was written during the early 1690s. Catherine Cussac has subsequently suggested 1694 as the most likely date, noting further that in this Mass, "Charpentier achieved a perfect synthesis between the secular and the liturgical, between popular art and learned writ-ing'. Certainly, since the Fifteenth Century, there had been a tradition of using secular songs as the basic material for Mass settings (Taverner's 'Western Wynde' Mass and Josquin's Missa L'homme armé. Sexti tani being arguably the most famous). By Charpentier's time this practice had declined, although instrumental noëls (or Christmas carols, of which Charpentier wrote several) remained popular.
The Messe de minuit, based on a number of noëls, is constructed in the episodic manner typical of grand motets and other large-scale sacred music of the time. Short instrumental symphonies introduce or conclude passages featuring concerted soloists or choir, each evoking a mood appropriate to the text. Unlike triumphal pieces such as his most famous setting of the Te Deum, the Messe de minuit lacks brass and tympanic, its paired flutes, strings and organ creating a some-what bucolic ambience. For seventeenth-century audiences, flutes were almost the sine qua non of the pastoral mood or of the operatic sommeille (dream scene), and the folk-like quality of the noëls even imbues Charpentier's counterpoint with a refreshingly popular character.
It is only in its most declamatory moments, such as the opening of the Credo, that Charpentier adopts the orthodox formality established by Lully's church music, without, however, succumbing , to merely bumptious rhetoric. In contrast, and occupying the emotional heart of the Messe de minuit, is Charpentier's setting of the text dealing with the incarnation of Christ. Here, time seems suspended as the choir intones the central mystery of Christianity. With the excep-tion of the Benedictus, the rest of the Messe de minuit draws extensively from noëls whieh would have been as familiar to congregations of the time as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is to us.
The noëls are rarely transcribed literally; instead, Charpentier adapts both the notes and rhythms to suit the Latin text. Many noëls have similar intervallic or motivic material (for instance, four of the noëls used open with a rising fourth, and many phrases move stepwise or can be reduced to common arpeggiations) and Charpentier seems to have capitalised on these musical fea-tures. The first seven notes of the first Kyrie are not those of the noël on which it is based (Joseph est bien marié), being instead transposed from Voici le jour solennel de Noël, the noël used as the basis of the Crucifixus: Charpentier neatly links with a musical sleight of hand the traditional cry for divine mercy with the occa-sion of its fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
In the manuscript score which is held with many of Charpentier's other works by the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the composer has noted after the first Kyrie 'Icy l'orgue joue le mesme noël' (Here the organ plays the same carol), with a similar instruction following the Christe eleison. Somewhat puzzlingly, Charpentier requires the strings to play Laissez paître vos bêtes after the Credo without providing the necessary music. Perhaps here he intended one of his own Noëls sur les instruments to be performed.
Another curious feature of the score is the absence of the third repeat of the Agnus Dei text, which prays for peace. So Charpentier's Messe de minuit de Noël ends as it began: with a plea for mercy.
Notes by Stephen Schafer.
A note on Notes inégales and ornamentation
Charpentier's younger contemporary François Couperin le grand (1668-1733) famously com-mented that 'The Italians...write their music in the true time values in which they intend them to be played, [while we French] dot several conse-cutive eights [ie quavers] in diatonic succession and yet write them as equal'. This is the princi-ple of notes inégales, 'unequal notes', which is such a characteristic feature of French Baroque music. The precise degree of 'dotting' which should be applied, whether single or double or somewhere in between, depends strongly on the context. Grandiose or martial passages may imply runs of more marked notes inégales, while more intimate or restrained measures may only require a slight feeling of tenuto on the first of each pair of dotted notes.
As is well known, Baroque music is rarely intended to be performed unornamented. French Baroque music is unusual, though, in applying certain principles of ornamentation more exten-sively than, say, German or Italian music of the time. Indeed, in some French vocal lines orna-mentation can be melodically indispensable, particularly at cadences. The French also applied ornamentation such as trills and appoggiaturas to choral parts, sometimes noting them in the score, at others assuming that suitable ornamentation would be applied according to the performance practices of the time and place. In this performance, choral ornamentation has been applied with restraint, based on examination of the in-strumental parts.
Notes by Stephen Schafer.
Bel a cappella
ABOUT THE PERFORMERS
Bel a cappella
Dynamic and youthful, Bel a cappella is a chamber choir based in Glebe that presents lively and inspiring performances of music from the early Renaissance to contemporary Australian compositions.
Since Bel a cappella's inception in 1995 under Katrina Jenns, the choir has made many festi-val appearances, including the Blue Mountains "Spirit of the Wind" Arts Festival, the Newtown Festival and the A cappella Association Music Festival. Bel a cappella also success-fully competed in the Sydney and National McDonald's Performing Arts Challenges from 1995 to 1998.
In 1999 Matthew Wood, one of Sydney's most tal-ented professional conductors, was engaged as Artistic Director. Inspired by Matthew's lead-ership and musical vision, Bel a cappella has risen to greater heights.
In 2000 and 2001 the choir performed at the Hunter Valley Harvest Festival with sponsor Piggs Peake Winery in two acclaimed Bring me Wine! concerts featuring Byrd's Mass for Three Voices and Purcell's Celebrate this Festival alongside many medieval and modern drinking songs!
Most recent highlights include the premiere Australian performance of the original 1888 score of Fauré's Requiem, as reconstructed by conductor Matthew Wood; a concert version of Purcell's opera Dido and Æneas with the Bel Chamber Ensemble on period instruments; two live broadcasts on ABC Radio National's Late Night Live show with Philip Adams; Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb; Mozart's Requiem; Haydn's Mass in Times of Trouble (Nelson Mass); Kodaly's Missa brevis; J S Bach's motet Jesu, meine Freude and the premier of Andrew Robbie's Joyce Songs.
Since 2001 Bel a cappella has sung at the Vaucluse House "Carols by Candle-light" with the NSW Police Band. This year Bel a cappella continues this tradition on 14 December.
Bel a cappella regularly performs in the stunningly beautiful and resonant Chapel of Saint Scholastica in Glebe.
Please phone 9314 7520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to hire Bel a cappella for weddings and functions and for general information on the choir.
Matthew Wood Conductor
"Matthew Wood...received support from en-lightened individuals to
explore the link be-tween music and words with intelligence, subtlety
.showed responsiveness to the tenor of the central Andante,
keeping its pace moving steadily, and also generating some surprises with
his phrasing choices".
In recent years Matthew Wood has emerged as a musician of versatile talents. He is regularly employed as a conductor of orchestral, choral, operatic and new music repertoire.
As a finalist in Symphony Australia's 2002 Young Conductor of the Year Award Matthew conducted the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Gerswhin's An American in Paris. This successful performance led to an invitation to conduct The Australian Pro Arte Orchestra in concerts throughout 2003 and 2004. As a finalist in 2001, Matthew conducted the Syd-ney Symphony in a programme of Stravinsky and Sibelius, subsequently being awarded a financial scholarship from The Orchestral As-sociation Network (TOAN).
On the invitation of internationally recognised conductor pedagogue Maestro Jorma Panula, as one of only 16 conductors chosen world-wide, Matthew recently travelled to Brasov, Romania to attend and conduct at the World Symposium on the Orchestral Music of Jean Sibelius. After a successful performance of Sibelius' 1st Symphony, Matthew was invited by the Brasov Philharmonic Orchestra to re-turn in 2004 and 2005 as a guest conductor as part of their concert season.
Matthew is also committed to the performance and recognition of new music and Australian compositions. He regularly commissions and performs such works, with his ensembles. He is also frequently engaged by new music en-sembles, most notably Australia's "premiere new music ensemble", Halcyon. Matthew recently conducted Halcyon in a series of con-certs in Sydney and Canberra, premiering two Australian compositions by Rosalind Page and Andrew Robbie along with the Australian premiere of renowned Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's Grammaire Des Rêves. Matthew will return to conduct Halcyon later in 2003.
Matthew has studied conducting with Maestros Jorma Panula, Gianluigi Gelmetti, Arvo Volmer, David Porcelijn, Johannes Fritzsch, Peter McCoppin, Christopher Seaman, and János Fürst. In 1999 he was awarded a position in the Masters of Performance (Conducting) course at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He was soon the recipient of the Elaine McCaghern Musical Scholarship for post-graduate study and was awarded the same scholarship in 2000, along with the Alan Bellhouse Memorial Scholarship for Conducting.
Matthew has worked as an assistant conductor for many of Sydney's leading ensembles such as the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, the Ku-ring-gai Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Youth Orchestra Association and the Sydney Cham-ber Choir. He is currently the Conductor and Artistic Director of Bel a cappella, Conductor and Artistic Director of the Waverley/Randwick Philharmonic Orchestra, guest conductor of the North Sydney Symphony and is lecturer of orchestral conducting for the Wesley Institute of Music.
Alison Morgan Soprano
As a concert artist, Alison's engagements have included Handel's Dixit Dominus, Solomon and Mendelssohn's Elijah with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with the 9th International Music Festival and Haydn's The Seasons, Handel's Messiah and Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Magnificat. She has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, The Australian Ballet, Pinchgut Opera, The Song Company, Ensemble Offspring, Sydney Alpha Ensemble, The Contemporary Singers, Voiceworks and Cantillation, and has featured in numerous ABC broadcasts and recordings.
In the recording studio, Alison has featured in numerous projects, including the soundtrack for the feature film The Bank, TropFest winner Uno Amore, the TV Series Farscape, ABC Christmas CD Glorious Night and ongoing recordings for Cantillation with ABC Classics.
Alison is currently vocal consultant to Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.
Jenny Duck-Chong Mezzo-soprano
Jenny is the co-founder of contemporary vocal chamber music ensemble Halcyon which promotes new music from around the globe and spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With this ensemble she has performed works by Australian composers including Ross Edwards, Anne Boyd, Margaret Sutherland, commissioned works by Claire Jordan, Andrew Robbie, Rosalind Page and Jane Stanley, presented the Australian premiere of songs by Canadian Melissa Hui and British Kerry Andrew and the chamber work Grammaire des Rêves of Finnish Kaija Saariaho.
As an accomplished recital singer, Jenny Duck-Chong has recorded numerous concerts for broadcast by the ABC and 2MBS-FM, Other recording credits include mezzo soloist on the ABC Classics recording of Fauré's La Naissance de Venus and several film scores, including "The Bank" by Alan John as well as other Cantillation releases including Handel's Messiah, Prayer for Peace and the recently released Allegri Miserere.
Philip Chu Tenor
In 2002, Philip was invited to perform with the Noumea Symphony Orchestra and Choir in Gounod's Messe Solennelle, and Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Sydney University Symphony Orchestra, which also engaged him as a conductor in 2001.
Earlier in 2003, Philip sang the tenor solo in JS Bach's Jesu, meine Freude and Schubert's Mass in G with Bel a cappella. He also ap-peared as a soloist in Mozart's Solemn Vespers with the Sydney Chamber Choir.
Future engagements include Saint Saën's Oratorio de Noël with the University of New South Wales Orchestra and Choir, Haydn's Missa di Sancti Nicolai with the Choir of St. Francis of Assisi and Purcell's Fairy Queen with Pinchgut Opera.
Simon Lobelson Baritone
In Sydney Simon studies under John Pringle, and was recently a semi-finalist in The Australian Singing Competition. He recently appeared as bass soloist in Sofia Gubaidalina's Jetzt immer Schnee with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Cantillation, and has per-formed twice as a soloist with Bel a Capella.
Simon has appeared in a wide variety of operatic roles, including Mozart's Figaro, Papageno (The Magic Flute), Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte), Dancairo (Carmen), Noye, Macheath (The Beggars' Opera), Aeneas and the Pirate King, amongst others. Future engage-ments include Plunkett in Flotow's Martha in Scotland and baritone soloist in Rameau's Les Grands Motets with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.
Sarah Kim organ
Sarah has given numerous solo performances around Sydney and is increasingly in demand as an accompanist. Prominent performances this year have included the premier of Richard Meale's fanfare for organ, trumpet and percus-sion at the AMC Classical Music Awards and performances as part of the 30th birthday cele-brations of the Sydney Opera House. Cur-rently she is the Organ Scholar at St James' Anglican Church in King St, Sydney and the University of Sydney.
A Hymn to the Virgin
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
We praise thee, O God. We acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ. Thou art the Everlasting Son of
O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage. Govern them and life
them up for ever.
O Quam Gloriosum
Messe de minuit sur les Airs de Noël
Translations by Dean Apolinary Ransevycz.
Back to the Calendar of Events 2003