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September 2013 Concert

September 21, 2013 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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  • Haydn Wood – Rhapsody Mylecharane
  • Nicholas Grew – “Oh, How the Chords Have Ascended”
  • Johannes Brahms – Ein Deutsches Requiem

Programme Notes

Haydn Wood – Rhapsody Mylecharane

‘This work derives its title from the opening theme, one of the oldest and finest of Manx folk tunes. There are conflicting opinions as to its origin. The general belief is that Mylecharane was a miser. On the other hand a well-known authority on Manx folk-lore suggests that the word may be a corruption of MoilleyChairn, meaning “Praise the Lord”. The composer prefers to think it is the latter because of its choral qualities. The subsequent themes are original. HW.’

Nicholas Grew – “Oh, How the Chords Have Ascended”

A Fanfare for Choir and Orchestra

Whangarei Choral Society wanted to celebrate 60 years of singing together as an un-auditioned all-comers choir. With the financial assistance of Whangarei District Council’s Creative Communities Trust, we commissioned a Choral work to be specifically written as the Choirs signature piece.

Nicholas Grew, local Music Director of the Whangarei Girls High School, was chosen to write the work as he is an experienced international composer who knew the background of our Choir. Four members of the Choral Society each wrote a set of lyrics for the work which allowed Nick to choose the set that were the most appropriate for his work. The lyrics of Tony Clemow were used, and reflect the dedication and humour of the Choir as a whole

The work, entitled “Oh how the chords have ascended is a modern fast paced work which is flexible enough to enable a large or small group to sing it and to be accompanied by either orchestra or piano.

This is the debut performance and we hope you like it as much as we do. An encore performance is planned with the Whangarei Choral Society and the Whangarei Girls High School Choir joining forces sometime in October.

Johannes Brahms – Ein Deutsches Requiem

For many years Brahms had been preoccupied with the idea of composing a Requiem, but only in 1866, when he was 33, did he begin serious work on it. It was completed the following year with the exception of the fifth movement, which he added later in order to achieve a more balanced structure. In its incomplete form Ein Deutsches Requiem was first heard in Bremen Cathedral on Good Friday 1868. The final version was performed the following year at Leipzig’s famous concert-hall, the Gewandhaus.

Brahms may have written the Requiem in memory of his mother, who died in 1865; it is equally possible that he had in mind his great friend and mentor, Robert Schumann, whose madness and tragic death had profoundly affected the young Brahms. The composer himself gave no indication of whose memorial the Requiem might be, if indeed it was any one person’s. As with all great music, the universal message of its vision transcends the circumstances of its conception.

The work’s title reflects Brahms’ use of the Lutheran Bible rather than the customary Latin one. He compiled the text himself from both Old and New Testaments, and from the Apocrypha. It has little in common with the conventional Requiem Mass, and omits the horrors of the Last Judgement – a central feature of the Catholic liturgy – and any final plea for mercy or prayers for the dead. It also makes only a passing reference in the last movement to Christian redemption through the death of Jesus. Not surprisingly, the title of “Requiem” has at times been called into question, but Brahms stated intention was to write a Requiem to comfort the living, not one for the souls of the dead. Consequently the work focuses on faith in the Resurrection rather than fear of the Day of Judgement. Despite its unorthodox text, the German Requiem was immediately recognised as a masterpiece of exceptional vision, and it finally confirmed Brahms’ reputation as a composer of international stature.

The similarity of the opening and closing movements serves to unify the whole work, while the funeral-march of the second is balanced by the triumphant theme of the resurrection in the towering sixth movement. Similarly, the baritone solo in the third, ‘Lord, let me know mine end’, is paralleled in the fifth by the soprano solo, ‘Ye now have sorrow’. The lyrical fourth section, ‘How lovely are thy dwellings’, is therefore at the heart of the work, framed by the solemnity of the first three movements and the transition from grief to the certainty of comfort in the last three.

This carefully balanced architecture is matched by an equally firm musical structure based on two principal ideas which Brahms skilfully uses in a variety of subtle guises throughout the work. The most important of these occurs at the opening choral entry and consists of the first three notes sung by the sopranos to the words ‘Bless-ed they’. Brahms uses this musical cell as the main building block of the whole piece, subjecting it to a variety of transformations, including upside-down and back-to-front versions, both of which play as significant a role as the original form. The other important musical idea is a chorale-like melody played by the violas at the very beginning. Its most obvious re-appearance is in the second movement, now in a minor key, as an expansive melody sung by the choir in unison. Brahms had recently discovered the cantatas of J.S.Bach, and there seems little doubt that this theme was derived from a very similar chorale melody in Bach’s Cantata No.27.The opening movement, the text of which is one of the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, begins in hushed and sombre mood, reflected in the orchestration by the temporary absence of the violins. As the music proceeds, however, mourning is transformed into comfort.

The second movement, in the dark key of B flat minor, is centred on the heavy rhythms of a funeral-march, with the chorus proclaiming the inevitability of man’s fate, ‘Behold, all flesh is as the grass’. A lighter central episode provides some brief respite before the funeral-march returns. Eventually, at ‘But yet the Lord’s word standeth for ever’, an energetic allegro emerges, once more transfiguring darkness into light and leading to a glorious conclusion.

In the third movement, the baritone soloist and chorus begin by pondering the transience of human existence. The soloist then asks ‘In what shall I hope?’ and the reply, ‘My hope is in thee’, wells up from the depths in a rising crescendo of affirmation. This leads seamlessly into a broad, imposing fugue, remarkable for its omnipresent pedal D which, whilst creating considerable tension during the fugue itself, also provides an unshakable foundation for the final resolution.

After the intensity of the first three movements, the pivotal fourth – a serene pastorale – provides the opportunity for contemplation and rest. This is music of exceptional beauty, and it is hardly surprising that this movement is so widely known and loved.

The fifth movement features a sublime soprano solo accompanied by woodwind, horns and muted strings. The chorus, too, plays an accompanying role. Whereas the baritone soloist in the third movement sung of grief and doubt, the soprano’s message here is one of maternal consolation.

Brahms reserves his most dramatic music for the imposing sixth movement. It begins in reflective mood, but soon the baritone soloist introduces the familiar verses ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed …… at the sound of the last trumpet’, at which point the music explodes into a blaze of sound and energy. The intensity builds up until ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ where a majestic fugue ensues. In the middle of this fugue two fortissimo climaxes grow out of an exhilarating orchestral Jacob’s ladder that reaches up to heaven as it passes from the bass instruments right up to the flutes and violins. The movement ends with a final powerful statement.

The last movement begins with a radiant melody from the sopranos, followed by the basses. The moving final section is a subtle reworking of music from the very opening, and the Requiem reaches its peaceful conclusion at the same word with which it began: ‘Blessed’. (Programme note by John Bawden)

Featuring Soloists

Iain Tetley

Iain Tetley developed his passion for singing in England, playing the title roles in two musicals at school, Oliver! and a musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book Kim, and he played the role of The Mikado while at university. He studied with opera singer John York Skinner, and gained his music degree at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. In 1996 he greatly enjoyed performing the role of the student Perchik in a production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Since coming to New Zealand in 1997, Iain has performed with the Dorian Choir, the Orlando Singers, Viva Voce and Bach Musica, singing a range of solo roles with each choir, and he has been a member of specialist Auckland chamber choir Musica Sacra since its foundation in 1998. He sang first tenor in an octet that performed for HM Queen Elizabeth II in Taupo in 2002. He has developed an enviable reputation for his work as a soloist in concerts, radio and CD recordings and television broadcasts.

Iain was the tenor soloist in Musica Sacra’s inaugural Donald Barriball Memorial Chamber Organ concert with ex-St Paul’s Cathedral organist John Scott in 2006, performing Bach’s Cantata BWV 29 and Handel’s Foundling Hospital Anthem. Other solo singing highlights have included singing with Andrea Bocelli at the Vector Arena in Auckland, with Eric Idle in Not the Messiah at Auckland’s restored Civic Theatre, performing Nessundorma with the Aotea Youth Symphony Orchestra at the Taupo Flying Proms in 2011, and singing the tenor solo role of Zadok the Priest in excerpts from Handel’s Solomon, alongside world renowned countertenor Andreas Scholl, in a concert staged by Musica Sacra at the Auckland Town Hall. His tenor repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, nine other Handel works including the title roles in Joshua and Jephtha, the Bach Magnificat, Haydn’s Nelson Mass, Rossini’s Petite MesseSolennelle, Beethoven’s Mass in C, New Zealand composer David Griffiths’ The Servant and Buxtehude’s MembraJesunostri. He has also performed as the baritone soloist in CarminaBurana on three occasions, most recently with Auckland Choral.

Iain specialised in conducting at university, and directed the Auckland Youth Choir from 2003 to 2004. He has been the deputy conductor of Musica Sacra since 2005, and directed Sing Waiheke, a choir on Waiheke Island, from 2002 to 2010. Among over a dozen performances with two choirs that he regularly directs, Iain has conducted the South Auckland Choral Society in CarminaBurana, Handel’s Messiah and the Vivaldi Gloria, and the Franklin Community Choir in John Rutter’s Magnificat, Puccini’s Messa di gloria and the Duruflé Requiem. In 2008 he combined these two choirs with Sing Waiheke to perform the Auckland premiere of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace in the Auckland Town Hall, accompanied by the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra expanded to 69 players – a total of 222 performers. This was an enormous concert to organise, and the performance was a great success. He conducted Musica Sacra in their Good Friday performance of the Duruflé Requiem in 2010, and conducted a very successful production of ten performances of Fiddler on the Roof on Waiheke Island in 2011.

Emma Couper

Emma began singing at an early age under the guidance of vocal teacher extraordinaire, Joan Kennaway. On returning to Northland in 2009 she became a member of Opera North where she has enjoyed singing as a soloist at their annual Opera In The Garden. Emma enjoys being on stage and has played leading roles in Whangarei Theatre Productions of Cats and Buddy and the role of Adele in Sweet Pea Productions’ Die Fledermaus. Emma thoroughly enjoys singing with the Choral society and is looking forward to collaborating once again with Northland Sinfonia to perform Brahms Requiem.


September 21, 2013
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


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