G.F Handel: Messiah (excerpts)
Howard Goodall: Eternal Light: A Requiem
Conductor: Christopher Fletcher
Soloists: Katie Trethewey – soprano, Jeanette Ager – alto, Paul Austin Kelly – tenor, James Cleverton – bass
Date: Sunday 27 November 2016 at 7:30 pm
Location: The Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth. PL1 1HA
Tickets: £19 at the door; Child/student £5; £17 in advance
Tickets available in advance from:
Plymouth The Minster Church of St Andrew, Royal Parade, Plymouth
Framing Centre, 83 Hyde Park Rd, (01752 255020)
Tavistock Bookstop, Market St (01822 617244)
Buckfast Post Office (01364 642941)
Kingsbridge Tourist Info.Ctr. (01548 853195)
Saltash Bookshelf, 96 Fore St. (01752 845804)
Contact choir ticket manager for group concessions 01822 853791
George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) was a German-British baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Most music lovers have encountered Handel through holiday-time renditions of the Messiah‘s ‘Hallelujah’ chorus or his Music for the Royal Fireworks.
Born in 1685 in Halle, Saxony, to middle-class parents, Handel’s father, a court surgeon, dreamt of his son growing up to become a lawyer. However, his son’s early aptitude for music suggested a different future which the father attempted to discourage. Musical instruments were banned from the family home forcing the boy into the attic to practise secretly on a hidden clavichord.
It was not until the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels heard the nine-year old playing that his father was persuaded to allow his son a musical education.
At Halle University, Handel read both law and music, but his passion for the latter consumed his legal studies. Soon his musical achievements started to amass and accelerate. At 17, George was appointed as organist in Halle’s Domkirche (Cathedral). In 1703, aged 18, he became second violinist in the Hamburg opera orchestra; a year later saw his first compositions for the Hamburg opera house and at 21 he was in Italy, where a variety of patrons commissioned operas and other pieces.
By 1710, Handel had returned to Germany as Kapellmeister (orchestra and choral leader) to the Elector of Hanover. It was in this capacity that he first visited London, where Italian opera was increasingly popular. Soon, he was writing new Italian operas for English audiences.
Queen Anne granted Handel an annual stipend of £200 in the hope of keeping him in England as court composer and this was continued when the Elector of Hanover became King George I of England in August 1714. Handel had been officially dismissed from his post in Hanover in May 1713, and lived the rest of his life in England.
Handel soon became central to London’s burgeoning music scene. In 1717 as the King boated along the river Thames, it was to the accompaniment of Handel’s The Water Music. Two years later London’s first Italian opera company had Handel as their new ‘Master of the Orchestra’. On 20 February 1727 he was granted British citizenship.
With the death of King George I in 1727 his son succeeded him as King George II. Handel was commissioned to write the anthem for the coronation, and Zadok the Priest was first performed on 11 October. It has formed a part of every British coronation since. It was in 1938 that Israel in Egypt was first performed.
But it was in 1741 that Handel composed his most famous work: Messiah. First performed during a visit to Dublin in 1742, Handel introduced the work to London on 23 March 1743, and during his lifetime produced a further 35 performances.
His last significant royal commission was for music to open the celebrations to mark the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle in 1748. Handel’s composition was to accompany the King and his retinue as they rode from St. James’s Palace to Green Park to inspect a specially created building that would form the basis for a grand firework display. Handel called his music simply Ouverture but it is more familiarly known as the Music for the Royal Fireworks.
In the early 1750’s, however, Handel’s eyesight had begun to deteriorate, and by 1753 he was blind. Composition became more difficult as his vision faded, but he managed to continue to supervise the production of his oratorios and to perform public organ concerts.
Handel died in bed at his home in Brook Street on 14 April 1759 at the age of 74. In his will Handel left bequests to his servants, the Foundling Hospital and a number of charities. He also bequeathed £600 for his funeral and a memorial in Westminster Abbey, where he was buried a week after his death.
Twenty five years after Handel’s death a Handel Commemoration was initiated in London by George III in 1784, with five concerts in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon. These concerts, repeated over the next few years and establishing an English tradition for Handel festivals in the nineteenth century and beyond, were on a grand scale, with huge choruses and instrumental forces, far beyond what Handel had at his disposal.
Howard Goodall is an EMMY, BRIT and BAFTA award-winning composer of choral music, stage musicals, film and TV scores, and a distinguished broadcaster. In recent years he has been England’s first ever National Ambassador for Singing, the Classical Brit Composer of the Year and Classic FM’s Composer-in-Residence. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to music education.
Howard Goodall is well known as a TV and radio broadcaster, and from 2007-11 was England’s first ever , leading a programme (Sing Up) to improve the provision of group singing for all primary-age children. His best-known themes & scores include Blackadder, The Gathering Storm, The Borrowers, Red Dwarf, Q.I., Mr Bean, Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie, Mr Bean’s Holiday, Island Parish and The Vicar of Dibley. His score for the HBO film Into the Storm won him the Primetime EMMY award for Original Dramatic Score in 2009.
In the theatre his , from The Hired Man with Melvyn Bragg in 1984 to Love Story in 2010, have been performed in the West End, Off-Broadway and throughout world, winning many international awards, including Ivor Novello (1985), TMA (2006 and 2010), and Off-West End (2012) Awards for Best Musical. Love Story received its US première in Philadelphia in September 2012, followed by successful tours in The Netherlands and the Russian Federation. The Kissing-Dance (1998) and the dreaming (2001), both written with Charles Hart, were commissioned and first performed by The National Youth Music Theatre.
His music has been commissioned to mark national ceremonies and memorials and his Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd and Love divine are amongst the most performed of all sacred music, featuring on several platinum-selling CDs.
His Eternal Light: A Requiem has had nearly 400 live performances since its première in 2008 and won him a Classical BRIT Award for Composer of the Year. His 2009 Enchanted Voices, a setting of the Beatitudes, was no.1 of the Specialist Classical CD chart for 6 months, winning him a Gramophone award. In November 2011 Howard conducted the première in Westminster Abbey of his Every Purpose Under the Heaven: The King James Bible Oratorio, to mark the 400th anniversary of its publication.
In June 2012 his Rigaudon formed part of the New Water Music that accompanied Queen Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee Regatta and he was musically responsible for Rowan Atkinson’s memorable performance at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. On 4th August 2014 his choral work Sure of the Sky-Des Himmels sicher, specially commissioned for the occasion by HM Govt was performed at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery to mark the start of the First World War.
For the past 15 years Howard has written and presented his own series on the theory and history of music. For these he has been honoured with a BAFTA, an RTS Judges’ Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Education in Broadcasting and over a dozen other international broadcast awards. For 6 years he was host of Saturday Night at the Movies, on Classic fm, and also Composer-in-residence.
In 2013 he presented the hugely popular BBC series The Story Of Music from the ancient world to today. He is recipient of the Sir Charles Grove/Making Music Prize for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, the Naomi Sargant Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education in Broadcasting, the MIA/Classic fm Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music Education and in January 2011 he was appointed CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for services to music education. He is married to classical music agent Val Fancourt.
Howard Goodall: Eternal Light
Listening to Howard Goodall’s deeply moving Eternal Light: A Requiem, you can start to appreciate the depth and range of Howard’s music. This is his most popular choral composition. Traditionally a prayer for the salvation of the departed soul, Howard’s requiem centres on those who are left behind to grieve. His intention is to seek out the healing power of music, to create a sense of solace whilst acknowledging the unbearable loss and emptiness which comes with the death of someone close, in the hope that musical expression can provide space for reflection and maybe even some comfort.
Handel: Messiah (excerpts)
The love affair that British classical music audiences have with this oratorio is quite phenomenal. Since its Dublin premiere in 1742, it has been performed by choirs across the land every year since at least 1745.
Handel composed his most famous piece in 1741, and continued to work on it after its initial performance, finally arriving at the version we know today in 1754. Impressive solo arias, are interspersed with compelling chorus numbers, telling the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and final victory over sin and death.
During Victorian times, there was a phase when Messiah was performed by ever expanding musical forces – there almost seemed to be a competition to see just how big a chorus and orchestra could be crammed onto one stage before they fell through. Earlier, Mozart even got in on the act, with his own arrangement of Messiah, which was not, it has to be said, to everyone’s taste. One critic remarked that it ‘resembles elegant stucco work upon an old marble temple … easily … chipped off again by the weather’.
The rousing ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus is one of the most famous pieces of Baroque choral music, and by far the most widely-known section of the work. Audiences tend to stand during performances – a tradition that allegedly began when King George II stood up during the chorus at the oratorio’s debut London performance.
The forgotten man behind the success of Messiah is the librettist, Charles Jennens, who adapted the words of the King James Bible, which Handel set to music. Handel’s ability to capture the mood – from passionate rage to serene pastoral moments – is what makes this one of the most enduring choral works of all time.
Katie Trethewey – Soprano
Soprano Katie Trethewey specialises in baroque and classical opera and oratorio. Since studying at Birmingham University and Birmingham Conservatoire her solo engagements have included London’s Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and St John’s Smith Square, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, and the Händelfestspiele in Halle, Germany, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
In October 2016 Katie made her debut as a soloist at the Royal Albert Hall in London, singing for Sadler’s Wells ballet and Carlos Acosta’s ‘A Classical Farewell’ Tour, receiving great acclamation from the many reviewers for her performances of Fauré’s ‘Pie Jesu’ from Requiem and Poulenc’s ‘Domine Deus’ from Gloria.
Described as ‘sensational’ in a review in Gramophone Magazine (November 2015) of her aria on Ex Cathedra’s Brazilian Adventures disc, she has also received great critical acclaim for many concert performances, most recently Bach’s Matthew Passion with Ex Cathedra at Birmingham Symphony Hall and Orff’s Carmina Burana for Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome.
When not singing professionally, Katie enjoys singing with her young son and teaching him all about music. She has always enjoyed working with children, and plans to run music sessions for babies and young children in her local area.
JEANETE AGER – mezzo soprano
Jeanette Ager was awarded an Exhibition to study at the Royal Academy of Music. She won the Gold Medal in the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition, the Richard Tauber Prize and Tillett Trust’s Young Artist Platform.
As a soloist, Jeanette’s concert and oratorio work has included recitals and other appearances at the Wigmore Hall; Handel’s Messiah at St David’s Hall, Cardiff; Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius at the Queen Elizabeth Hall; Tippett’s Child of our Time at The Royal Festival Hall; Verdi’s Requiem at Gloucester Cathedral; Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at The Barbican Hall; Mahler’s 2nd Symphony at the Bridgewater Hall and Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Cadogan Hall. Jeanette was proud to sing Elgar’s Sea Pictures with the RPO under the baton of Barry Wordsworth. In addition to performances at many of the leading venues in the United Kingdom, her solo work has taken her to Bermuda, the Czech Republic, Spain Libya and China.
Her operatic roles have included Cherubino in the Marriage of Figaro, (Mozart); 3rd Lady in The Magic Flute (Mozart); Dido in Dido & Aeneas, (Purcell); The Marquise of Birkenfield in La Fille du Regiment (Donizetti); Rosina in The Barber of Seville (Rossini), Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (Puccini) and Thea in The Knot Garden (Tippett). With the Royal Opera House she appeared as one of the Apprentices in Wagner’s Meistersinger at Covent Garden.
She has recorded for Hyperion, Deutsche Grammophon and Philips.
Jeanette recently sang the Angel in the first performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in China. She also performed at the Three Choirs Festival singing Britten’s Spring Symphony and John McCabe’s Songs of the Garden which was broadcast on Radio 3.
Jeanette is the chairman of a large music trust, The Toni V. Fell Trust, which helps young singers at the start of their career. Many of the singers who receive awards concentrate on musical theatre as their skill; this is an area which now fascinates Jeanette and she would love to have the chance to perform in a show herself.
Jeanette spends much of her time training for triathlon races and hopes one day to race abroad in Australia.
Work this season includes Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Dido) for Ex Cathedra, a tour of Handel’s Messiah in the USA, Bach’s Magnificat and Wachet auf! at Lincoln Cathedral, and Bach’s B minor Mass at Birmingham’s Town Hall.
Born in Gloucester, Peter first sang as a treble in the cathedral choir before later gaining a Masters in Piano under the late Ronald Smith in Canterbury. Roles include Tamino The Magic Flute (English Touring Opera); Don Ottavio Don Giovanni (English Chamber Opera); Tom Rakewell The Rake’s Progress (Opera East/Iford Arts); Ferrando Così fan tutte (Opera à la Carte; Swansea City Opera); Almaviva The Barber of Seville (Swansea City Opera). Elsewhere, Bardolph Falstaff, Snout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both with the Opera Project (Longborough Festival); Vocal Sextet in Stockhausen’s Mittwoch (Birmingham Opera); Bepe in Donizetti’s Rita and Acis Acis and Galatea (London Opera Players). Peter has also appeared in concert performances of Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins in Bilbao and Cuenca; Boris Godunov at St David’s Hall; Tenor solo in Wozzeck at RFH and Theatre de Champs Élysées; and recorded the role of Sir Andret in Boughton’s Queen of Cornwall for Ronald Corp and the New London Orchestra. Other recent concerts include Creation and Verdi Requiem in Exeter Cathedral; Messiah in St David’s Cathedral and St John Passion arias for the Swansea Philharmonic Choir.
James Cleverton – baritone
British baritone James Cleverton trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the Zürich International Opera Studio.
James’ recent and future performances include Horemhab Akhnaten for ENO, Kyoto Iris (Mascagni) for Opera Holland Park, Dulcamara L’Elisir d’Amore for Scottish Opera, Sharpless Madam Butterfly for Raymond Gubbay in the Albert Hall and Pablo in Ades’ Exterminating Angel for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
James is in great demand on the concert platform, regularly singing with orchestras including the RPO, the LPO, BBC SSO and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He has performed a variety of musical genres all over the world, from Verdi’s Requiem in the Opera House in Hanoi Vietnam, The Mandarin in Turandot, alongside Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, to a concert orchestra/swing band tour of Estonia culminating with a live appearance on their Strictly Come Dancing finale singing Time to Say Goodbye.
Next year James will record the role of Arrostino in Cellier’s The Mountebanks with the BBC Concert Orchestra and appears on Jonathan Antoine’s new CD Believe singing the duet ‘Nostra Patria’. He also recently recorded the leading role of Sir John Copeland in Rogers & Hart’s Dearest Enemy (New World Records).
James is married to internationally acclaimed soprano Yvette Bonner and together they have a son called Beau. Their second child is due any minute! James is a classic car enthusiast and drives a 1959 Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite. They also have a Boston terrier called Spike.
CHRISTOPHER FLETCHER Conductor
In 1978, Christopher was awarded a scholarship to study music at Trinity College of Music, London, becoming a Graduate and Fellow of the College. He moved to South Devon in 1984, since when he has been actively involved with choirs, church music and teaching. After 8 years as organist and Director of Music of the Parish and Priory Church of St Mary Totnes, in 2001 he was appointed to a similar post at the Plymouth Roman Catholic Cathedral. Since 1996 he has been Director of Music and Conductor of Plymouth Philharmonic Choir. During his tenure the choir has become recognised as one of the best large amateur choirs in the country.
Performances with the choir which stand out include: Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ with Sir Thomas Allen as soloist, David Fanshawe’s ‘African Sanctus’ in the presence of the composer, Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Armed Man’, with the Orchestra of the Royal Marines, which was judged by the Plymouth Herald to be the best classical concert of the year, and the choir’s recent performance of Dvorak’s ‘Stabat Mater’ which many members of the audience thought possibly the choir’s best ever!
In addition Christopher is conductor of the Chagford Singers, the Lupridge Singers and the Stanborough Chorus . He has also conducted the South Devon Choir. As well as being in demand as a choral workshop leader, Christopher helped to found the annual Rotary ‘Come and Sing’ charity concert at Buckfast Abbey in 1999, which he has conducted each year since and which regularly attracts 200 singers from all over Devon and beyond. In 2008 he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotary International. Christopher is also in demand as an after – dinner speaker.