Monday, 5 February 2018

The Cross and the Crown

Is the Title of our Spring Concert

In my last blog I talked about the journey taken by Haydn's "7 Last Words" from orchestral to choral.

It is, of course, a very devotional work and, by its nature, rather sombre, dealing, as it does, with Our Lord's final moments suffering a gruesome death by crucifixion.

We then had the task of deciding what would best complement this work. We chose to perform two of Handel's coronation anthems. In their own way, they also have a devotional quality as they exhort the king to be faithful, strong and devout.

Handel wrote four anthems, and they have a specific order in which they were played at the first coronation (that of George II) : "Let thy hand be strengthened" was played first, then "Zadok the Priest", then "The King shall Rejoice", and finally "My Heart is Inditing" at the coronation of the Queen. "Zadok" is usually played first these days (although, as we haven't had a coronation for sixty-five years, who knows what will happen?).

Handel chose the words himself, extrapolating from anthems sung at James II's coronation.

The best known is "Zadok" which we won't be singing. We will be singing "Let thy Hand be Strengthened" and "The King Shall Rejoice". These are wonderful pieces, full of joy and solemnity, fit for a monarch.

And whether your crown is made of thorns or gold and jewels, being King is a serious and solemn matter.

Join us for this musical journey on 21 April 7.30 at St Mary's Church, Glastonbury.

Full details to follow

Cantilena is on Facebook and you can check out our website on:

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Last Words

Meditation on Christ's last words on the cross

For their Spring concert, Cantilena will be performing Haydn's The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross. 

Originally this work was commissioned as an orchestral work to be performed at the Santa Cueva Oratory in Cadiz for Good Friday in 1786. This what Haydn himself had to say about this:

"The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the center of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse."

Subsequently Haydn adapted it for string quartet.

It seems strange that a piece based on words should start out life without any voices, but it wasn't until 1794, when Haydn heard that someone else had added a chorus to his work, that he thought he could go one better and he wrote his own choral version in 1796.

The words themselves are not taken directly from the bible, but are derived from poetry by Joseph Friebert, adapted by Gottfried van Swieten.

So the work has had a long journey to arrive at the version for choir, solo and strings that we are privileged to hear today.

Click on this link to hear some of it:

The concert is on 21 April 2018. Full details to follow.