Wednesday, May 19 at 7:30 pm
Jubilate in C; Missa Brevis in D; Hymn to the Virgin; Antiphon;
Canticle: Abraham & Isaac; Hymn to Saint Cecilia; Cantata: Saint Nicolas
Benjamin Britten, England’s leading 20th century composer, enjoyed writing music celebrating the joys of childhood. The program’s first half includes some of Britten’s most beloved choral works, including the Missa Brevis written for the boys of Westminster Cathedral Choir, which displays his characteristic flair for writing for children while retaining a devout liturgical gravitas. The Hymn to the Virgin, which he wrote when he was only sixteen, held an affectionate place in Britten’s heart, and was one of only two of his pieces performed at his funeral. Britten completed The Hymn to Saint Cecilia, a setting of a poem by W. H. Auden, on his voyage home from America in 1942. This work was especially important to him because he was born on Saint Cecilia’s day, and Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music. The Canticle: Abraham and Isaac is a two-person mini-opera using text which Britten adapted from medieval language of the Chester Miracle Plays. The piece dramatically portrays the moment of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his beloved son Isaac. The program concludes with the Cantata: Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of children, which contrasts youthful playfulness with a profound seriousness. Britten welcomed audience participation in the singing of the two hymns in Saint Nicolas. These hymn tunes were familiar to a generation educated in English public schools, where chapel and hymn singing were daily events. By requiring a level of participation beyond passive listening, Britten drew his audience back to their own childhood. It is Britten’s remarkable layering of musical elements, so well exemplified in Saint Nicolas, which engages the audience and which provides great listening pleasure.
We are delighted that members of the acclaimed Young People’s Chorus of New York City, founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Francisco J. Nu√±ez, will join our choir to perform Saint Nicolas. With five World Choir Olympics medals to their credit and recognized as ‚Äúa national model of artistic excellence and diversity‚Äù by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Young People’s Chorus is in residence at the 92nd Street Y; Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and WNYC, New York Public Radio.