Our first program in 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birthday with a performance of his Hymn to Saint Cecilia. There is an annual tradition in England (dating from the time of Purcell) to celebrate Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, with a new poem set to music. Britten composed this brilliant cantata in 1942 on board a boat – in wartime - taking him back from America to England. The words are by W.H. Auden.
“Oh dear white children, casual as birds,
Playing among the ruined languages…”
And we present the European premiere of a new work from Argentina by our 2012-13 composer-in-residence, Pablo Ortiz. Gallos y Huesos (Roosters and Bones) is a song cycle for six singers and harp, with words by the poet and novelist Sergio Chejfec. The complete work, which was premiered last year in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colón, will then be recorded by Ars Nova to complete a CD of Ortiz’s music, begun last year with his Notker and Five Motets.
The emptiness of the plate
And the bones waiting
Reminds one of the silence
Of the rooster
The Estonian composer Veljo Tormis (b. 1930) is renowned for his rhythmically incisive choral music. The Bishop and the Pagan is a dramatic setting of the martyrdom in 1158 of Henry, a British warrior-bishop, during his attempts to convert Finnish society from paganism. The confrontation of two cultures is reinforced by the use of contrasting musical sources and texts from England and Finland.
My brother, dearest Henry,
do not depart for Finland!
many a man has gone and vanished,
few have safely come again.