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Sad News

I am sorry to report that John Smith, one of our long-serving singers, recently passed away. He was a real gentleman, avid walker and belonged to two choirs, singing bass. He was always ready to help others, a Christian and regular church attender. The funeral was held on Tuesday 29th September at St. Andrew's Church in Shifnal. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Margaret at this sad time. John can be seen in the attached photograph in the middle of the back row, directly behind Alex, our musical director.

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Current Musical Works in Progress

Dietrich Buxtehude: Magnificat, BuxWV anh. 1


For many years, Dietrich Buxtehude (1637 – 1708) held one of the most important church positions in Northern Germany, that of organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck. He was a stupendous virtuoso and he is still perhaps best known for his compositions for the organ. He achieved some fame additionally for the establishment of his Sunday afternoon concert series called Abendmusiken held on the five successive weekends before Christmas and it is for these concerts that much of his brilliant vocal music was written.

In 1705 Bach was given leave from his duties in Arnstadt for a month long stay in Lübeck to meet and perhaps study with Dietrich Buxtehude (Bach’s 250-mile pilgrimage on foot to meet him and hear him play is legendary.) The visit was to last four months!

The charming Magnificat survives only in a single, manuscript source: a set of parts and a score from the extensive collection of musicologist Gustav Düben, who knew Buxtehude, and was Kapellmeister at the German church in Stockholm. The manuscript did not originally bear the name of any composer. The attribution to Buxtehude was made, probably because the MS was associated with other pieces by Buxtehude in the Düben Collection. Grusnick's 1930's edition for Bärenreiter became the basis for subsequent modern editions that perpetuated the Buxtehude attribution. Martin Geck challenged the attribution of this work and a number of other vocal works attributed to Buxtehude in a 1961 article in Die Musikforschung. Even Grusnick agreed that he'd got it wrong, but the Buxtehude name was too firmly attached by this point to shake loose (Pinkham's edition of 1971 makes no mention of doubtful attribution, for example).

The compositional style, perhaps, is more representative of Carissimi or Lully lilting triple-time melodies, frequent hemiolas, clear sectional structure and simple diatonic harmony largely in thirds.  The composer employs alternating florid vocal soli and choral tutti passages, as well as simple, fluid string writing to achieve a direct, yet dynamic effect.

 

The Missa brevis in F major, Hob. XXII:1, is a mass by Joseph Haydn. According to Dack it is Haydn's "earliest authenticated work." It also represents some of the last of his compositional activity, as in his old age he spent some time attempting to revise it.

Dack (2009) suggests that Haydn originally composed the work when he was still a teenaged chorister at St. Stephen's Cathedral, singing under the direction of Georg Reutter. In its original form, the mass was scored for fairly rudimentary forces: two violin parts, continuo, a four-part chorus, and solo parts for two trebles.[1] When the young Haydn, newly unemployed after being dismissed from the choir at St. Stephen's, made a pilgrimage to Mariazell, the Missa brevis was one of the works he showed the music director there.[2]

The work is a clear example of the Austrian missa brevis form. Redlich writes of "the Austrian type of the Missa Brevis, notorious for the hurried expediency with which large tracts of the text of the Mass are musically disposed of.

Haydn reencountered his mass in 1805.[4] In the mean time he had experienced an illustrious career, but after about 1802 illness had reduced him to an invalid, unable to compose. The copy of the mass that was brought to his attention was in the Servite monastery in the Viennese suburb of Rossau.[5] Haydn recognized the work as his own and wrote on the organ part, "di me Giuseppe Haydn mpri 1749" ("by me, Joseph Haydn, in my own hand 1749").[6]

Haydn's biographer Albert Christoph Dies recounted the story of how the mass was rediscovered in a chapter of his Haydn biography, based on an interview visit of 21 November 1805:

Chance brought into his hands a short time ago one of his youthful compositions that he had forgotten all about. This work is a four-voice short mass with two obbligato sopranos. The recovery of this child, lost fifty-two years before, gave the parent great joy. He examined it attentively, conducted an investigation, perceived it was not unworthy of him, and determined to dress it in modern clothes. "What specially pleases me in this little work," said Haydn, "is the melody, and certain youthful fire, and this stirs me to write down several measures a day in order to provide the voices with a wind-instrument accompaniment."

Because of his illness Haydn was unable to bring to fruition his effort to provide wind parts; however, some other composer, thought to be Joseph Heidenreich,[7] did complete the full set (pairs of flutes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, and timpani) for the mass.[8] The revised work went unpublished.

 

'Jesu, joy of man's desiring'

You’ve probably heard this lovely lilting Baroque piece performed as an instrumental at weddings. But the composer who popularized it—the inimitable J. S. Bach—originally programmed it as the finale to a ten-movement liturgical work celebrating the miraculous pregnancies of Mary and Elizabeth from the Gospel of Luke, and God’s subversion of the world order through the birth of Christ. “The wondrous hand of the exalted Almighty / is active in the mysteries of the earth!” the work proclaims.

Bach was a busy composer in his post at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, often recycling the best parts of earlier works and recomposing them into a piece for a religious feat. The Cantata No. 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, is no exception: Bach, in his quest to supply music for umpteen venues throughout his life, recycled music he wrote in 1716 – adding the now favourite 'Jesu, joy of man's desiring' section only the second time around. Originally destined for the last Sunday of advent, the reworked version became a setting for May’s Feast of the Visitation.

Though Bach is often cited as the melody’s originator, that credit in fact goes to Johann Schop; it was first published in 1642 with Johann Rist’s hymn text “Wach auf, mein Geist, erhebe dich” (“Wake, My Spirit, Rise”). In 1661 Martin Janus wrote a new text for the tune—of no less than nineteen stanzas!—titled “Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne” (“Jesus, My Soul’s Bliss”). Bach took stanzas six and seventeen of this hymn, harmonized and orchestrated them, and placed them as the closings to part one and part two, respectively, of his cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life) (BWV 147).

Bach wrote Herz und Mund in 1723 during his first year as the director of church music in Leipzig, basing it on an earlier cantata he had written in Weimar in 1716 for the fourth Sunday of Advent. Because Leipzig observed tempus clausum (a “closed time” of penitence) during Advent, allowing cantata music only on the first Sunday, Bach could not perform the cantata for the same occasion in Leipzig, so he adapted it for the feast of the Visitation on July 2.

Scored by Bach for four vocal soloists, a four-part choir, and an instrumental ensemble of trumpet, two oboes, violin, viola, and continuo, the chorale music was first given the title “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” in 1926 when Dame Myra Hess published a transcription for solo piano.

In the mid-twentieth century, some English-language hymnals started including a song called “Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring” with lyrics attributed to the Victorian poet Robert Bridges. These are not a translation of the original text by Janus that Bach used but rather were inspired by it:

Jesu, joy of our desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

 

Gloria in D RV589  - Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)

 

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi composed this Gloria in Venice, probably in 1715, for the choir of the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage for girls, generously endowed for the illegitimate daughters of Venetian noblemen and their mistresses. The Ospedale prided itself on the quality of its musical education and the excellence of its choir and orchestra. Vivaldi, composed many sacred works for the Ospedale, where he spent most of his career, as well as hundreds of instrumental concertos to be played by the girls’ orchestra. Despite being ordained as a priest in 1703, Vivaldi was appointed the violin master at the Ospedale and his association with the music school lasted until 1740, by which time his reputation in Europe had been secured thanks largely to the wonderful performances of the girls he instructed. 

 

The Gloria in D is probably one of his best known sacred works and presents the traditional Gloria from the Latin Mass in twelve varied cantata-like sections. It also reflects Vivaldi’s other skill as an opera composer, which he regarded as a distraction from his day job at the Pieta. Venice in the early 18th century was the pleasure centre of Europe, and a visit to the opera was part of the court and social life of the city. Despite a licentious reputation, the opera houses were required to close for all important religious festivals and Saint’s Days. But  Venetians and their visitors still wanted to be entertained. Vivaldi’s all-women orchestras and choirs were legendary sensations, but the girls needed to be protected from noblemen and travellers to the city. To keep them sheltered from the corruption and decadence of the visiting public, the girls sang from the upper galleries of the church, hidden behind the patterened grills, which only added to the theatrical sense of drama matched by Vivaldi’s music. Those young men in Venice for a stop on the Grand Tour flocked to Vivaldi’s church to hear these mysterious women seen only in silhouette, but sounding like angels.

The wonderfully sunny nature of the Gloria, with its distinctive melodies and rhythms, is characteristic of all of Vivaldi’s music, giving it an immediate and universal appeal. The opening movement is a joyous chorus, with trumpet and oboe obligato. The extensive orchestral introduction establishes two simple motives, one of octave leaps, the orher a quicker, quaver - semiquaver figure, that function as the ritornello. The choir enters in chorale-like fashion, syllabically declaiming the text in regular rhythms, contrasting with the orchestral ritornello, which contains most of the melodic interest of the movement.

Today Vivaldi is one of the most popular of all composers, who during his lifetime enjoyed considerable success and fortune, which he squandered through extravagance, and when he died in Vienna he was buried in a pauper’s grave. For two centuries after his death, the Gloria lay undiscovered until the late 1920s, when it was found buried among a pile of forgotten Vivaldi manuscripts. However, it was not performed until September 1939 in Siena in an edition by the composer Alfredo Casella. This was by no means an authentic edition (he described it as an "elaborazione”), as he embellished the original orchestration of trumpet, oboe, strings, and continuo, while reducing the role of the continuo, and cut sections from three movements. It was not until 1957 that the now familiar original version was published and given its first performance at the First Festival of Baroque Choral Music at Brooklyn College, NY.

Mozart ‘Ave Verum Corpus’

Ave verum corpus is a work that Mozart composed in the final year of his life. It was written almost as a payment to a friend – in much the same way that Picasso would give away sketches. Anton Stoll was a chorus master at a small church in Baden, and had often helped Mozart by making travel arrangements for his wife, Constanze. Despite having his money worries, Mozart still liked to make sure his wife had her restorative periods at Baden.

Writing very simply, Mozart was perhaps conscious of the limitations of a small-town choir, although, as the Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel once said of the work, it is ‘too simple for children, and too difficult for adults’. It was written to be performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi and contains the words sotto voce (meaning ‘subdued’) in Mozart’s hand on the score.

 

Links to websites for music learning

These are the music learning links for the pieces we will be performing for the concert on 4th April 2020:

Bextehude's 'Magnificat'     http://www.choralia.net/bx08mp3/bx08mp3en.htm

Haydn's 'Missa Brevis'   http://www.choralia.net/hy01mp3/hy01mp3en.htm

Bach's 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring'   http://www.choralia.net/bh02mp3/bh02mp3en.htm

Mozart 'Ave Verum Corpus'    http://www.choralia.net/mz06mp3/mz06mp3en.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dress Code

Spring, Autumn & Christmas Concerts

Ladies - black trousers, black shoes and black top with long/threequarter sleeves and round neck. A black jacket over if needed. A colourful corsage will be provided if required.

Gents - black suit/DJ with white shirt, black shoes and black bow tie.

All members - please bring cake for the refreshment period.

Summer Concert

Ladies - black trousers, black shoes and a plain coloured top with short or threequarter length sleeves.

Gents - white shirt, black trousers and a plain bow tie, which could be black or coloured.