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Great Aspirations A programme of poetry & music from Victorian England

St Mary’s Church, Kintbury Saturday 8 June 2013 at 7.30 pm St Mary’s Church, Kingsclere Sunday 9 June 2013 at 6.30 pm


Welcome to our celebration of Victorian lyricism in literature and song! The themes of our selections range from lofty religious sentiments and earnest socialist ideals through to patriotism and pacifism, together with more personal expressions of love and loss. The psyche of the land was in overdrive: the Industrial Revolution, Empire, commerce, transport, politics - so much changed so quickly it is difficult now to imagine an England pre-existing. This flowering of human endeavour encouraged religious zeal, for how else could one account for the fact that the Victorians were the chosen people, leading the world in every kind of progress? The arts thrived too, for there was the money and a new middle class to support them, and both leisure and incentive to express noble thoughts. But there was also Darwin, there was Doubt as well as Faith, and insecurity from a fear that it was all too good to last. There was a growing social conscience, the alternative lifestyles of the Arts and Crafts movement, the novels of Dickens, the visual revolution of the Pre-Raphaelites, the religious turmoil of the Tractarian movement; but all the upheavals in these fields of activity produced great and lasting monuments. Only in music did the Victorians fall short, at least from our perspective, and fail to produce a great Master. There was plenty of music around: major cities had grand music festivals, choral societies flourished, homes had pianos, symphonies and operas were performed. There was an abundance of talent too, and we don’t have to look far to see the craftsmanship, flair and diversity of many talented composers. One wonders whether they survived in soil that didn’t provide the right nourishment: there was perhaps too much religiosity on the one hand and too much frivolity on the other. The main commissioners of works were the choral societies and their music festivals which doubtless wanted more of what they were already familiar with, lyric theatre, frowned upon by the intelligentsia until Gilbert came along, and music publishers producing works for a domestic setting. Added to that, the English obsession (still to this day!) with personalities from abroad, where state subsidies even then supported operas and concerts in centres where artists stood better chance of development and progression. Only as the century drew to a close did a Master finally arrive on the scene: Elgar, by temperament and background an outsider, produced works of greater individuality and enduring character.


Joanna Hodgson & Lucy Fitt (sopranos) Fiona MacArthur (contralto) John Long (tenor) Jeremy Hagan (bass) and Don Crerar & Michael Hickey (readers) concert devised by Edward Lambert (piano)

Newbury Chamber Choir conducted by Gill Blythman

Programme Gerard Manley Hopkins: Pied Beauty Deeply influenced by the visual achievements of the Pre-Raphaelites and the poetry of Christina Rossetti, Hopkins seemed destined for a glowing career. But a growing asceticism after becoming a Jesuit led to increasing conflicts with his poetic talent, and his works were either burned by him or remained unpublished during his lifetime.

Thomas Walmisley: Music all powerful Professor of music at Cambridge, Walmisley was well-known in his day, and his settings of the canticles are still performed in cathedral services; described as a ‘glee’, this ode to music is written in the conservative religious style which prevailed at the time. The text is a poem by Henry Kirke White, a poet from Nottingham who died tragically young while studying at Cambridge.

John Stuart Mill: On Liberty John Stuart Mill was an English philosopher, political economist and civil servant. He was an influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy.


Arthur Sullivan: The Lost Chord It was Sullivan’s wish to be esteemed as a composer of serious music, and this work was written before his partnership with Gilbert made him a household name. In fact Adelaide Anne Proctor, who had written the poem in 1858, was the favourite poet of the Queen, and more famous than he was at the time - perhaps also because of her feminist activism.

John Liptrot Hatton: The Wreck of the Hesperus This narrative poem by Longfellow was inspired by the great blizzard of 1839 off the coast of Massachusetts which destroyed twenty ships; in one scene of wreckage, on a reef called Norman’s Woe, a woman’s body was found still tied to a mast. Hatton had a maverick musical career both sides of the Atlantic as a composer of light operas and many songs.

Tennyson: The Charge of the Light Brigade Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, wrote this poem after reading news of the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. There is a recording of Tennyson reading the poem made in 1890.

Charles Stanford: Battle of the Baltic Stanford became such an institution on the British musical scene that it is easy to forget he was of Irish origin. He met Brahms in his youth and was disinclined to musical modernism, as witnessed by his liturgical settings still frequently sung today. However, he wrote much else besides, and this extract from a large choral work shows a wide range of expression, rather better than but not untypical of the hundreds of such works produced for choral festivals up and down the country. The ballad is by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell written to celebrate one of Nelson’s great victories in 1801.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Cry of the Children Born into a family which derived great wealth from sugar and slaves before their emancipation in 1833, Barrett was a frail figure keenly aware of social issues. This poem helped to bring about child labour reforms. She was one of the most popular writers at the time and Robert Browning was inspired to write to her, thus starting one of the most celebrated courtships in literary history.

Frank Lambert: She is far from the land James Joyce mentions the song ‘She is far from the land’ in Ulysses. The poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore was inspired by the hanging of an Irish patriot in Dublin and the subsequent death from a broken heart of his fiancée. It appeared using the melody of an old Irish air, and later, this new setting was provided by Frank Lambert, who was one of the most successful of ballad composers for the publishers Chappell.


Frederic Cowen: Love me if I live Cowen was born in Jamaica but brought up in England where he became famous as a child prodigy. From the piano he migrated to composition and conducting, producing an amazing quantity of works, including 300 songs. If this one is anything to go by, he seems to have created a fusion between works of high art and the parlour. Text by Bryan Waller Proctor, a lawyer, who wrote under the pseudonym Barry Cornwall.

Julius Benedict: The Moon has raised John Oxenford was drama critic of The Times and a man of letters who wrote the libretto for Benedict’s opera The Lily of Killarney from which this song is taken. Benedict was German by birth, but settled in England to become one of the country’s greatest conductors.

Christina Rossetti : After Death Christina’s brother was the painter Dante Gabriel, and like him, she possessed a vivid imagination in her youth; under the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement, she went on to create verses of exquisite craftsmanship and metaphysical power, typically addressing issues of death, love and an afterlife.

Mendelssohn: Hear my prayer One of the greatest of musical prodigies, Mendelssohn was the darling of English society, paying ten visits to London and meeting the Queen and her family. William Bartholomew wrote the text for this anthem (and for Elijah the following year). When the 17-year old Princess Victoria married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858, the bride’s family, with their adoration of Mendelssohn, included his Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream as the recessional, and thus the tradition was born.

----- Interval----Wagner: Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin ... the story goes that this was used for the processional in the Royal Wedding of 1858 Lohengrin had been first performed in 1850 - and it is true that Frederick had progressive ideas which might have led him to include Wagner’s music. Another version, however, cites the Royal Wedding of 1862 as being the origin of the tradition. This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth.

Matthew Arnold: Dover Beach Arnold worked as an inspector of schools, a job which he regarded as drudgery, involving as it did a huge amount of travelling on the railways. However, he came to know more of the country than any writer could have done before him; a widely-read man of letters, much of his poetry is tinged with melancholy and reflects a growing unease later in the century with religious faith.


Michael Balfe: Come into the garden, Maud Born in Dublin, Balfe started writing operas in Italy before returning to London where he was hugely successful. He had a melodic genius and his songs betray his Irish charm. The text is Tennyson’s.

J.M. Capel: Love could I only tell thee The text of this song is by Graham Clifton Bingham, who wrote stories, children’s books and a large number of song lyrics some of which were also set by Elgar. The composer, John Mais Capel, had a varied theatrical career as singer, musical director and composer. This song became popular by being incorporated into Sidney Jones’s highly successful musical play The Geisha.

Edward Lear: Sweet and Low The author and artist Edward Lear illustrated collections of Tennyson’s poetry, and he seems to have been moved to set some to music. Since he was not a trained musician, he engaged Edward Rimbault, an organist and academic, to transcribe his performances, and the pieces were then dedicated to Mrs Alfred Tennyson.

Stephen Adams: The Holy City Adams’ real name was Michael Maybrick, and it was thus that he became famous as a singer; among his many opera and oratorio roles were Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Wagner’s Lohengrin. He wrote many songs for his concert tours under his pseudonym. The words to The Holy City are by Frederic Weatherly, a barrister and author, who is estimated to have written the lyrics to at least 3000 popular songs, including Danny Boy.

Wilfrid Sanderson: Until Wilfrid Ernest Sanderson was born in Ipswich but his career was spent mainly as organist, choirmaster and composer in Doncaster. He produced some wonderfully stirring ballads which were fashionable just as the recording industry began to take hold. These words are by Edward Teschemacher - who changed his name to Edward Frederick Lockton on the outbreak of World War I.

Charlotte Bronte: Life Published under the pseudonym Currer Bell in 1846 in a collection written together with her sisters Emily and Anne. It sold only two copies, but a second edition published after the success of Jane Eyre fared much better.


Parry: Who can dwell with greatness? As eventual head of the Royal College of Music, Parry had much influence on the succeeding generation of English composers. He has found a more recent proponent in the figure of the current Prince of Wales. The subject of this poem by the distinguished poet and essayist Austin Dobson is the figure of Britannia personified.

Queen Victoria: Coronation Diary Reigning for over 63 years, the Queen’s journals extended to 122 volumes. As the monarchy’s power became more symbolic than political, so she established a leadership based on morality and family virtues with which ordinary people could identify.

Arthur Sullivan: Iolanthe The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company was established in 1885 for performances of The Mikado, and the success of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas gave rise to the genre of the ‘musical’. Iolanthe was the first opera to be performed at the Savoy Theatre, the first theatre in the world to be wired for electricity. Truly, the modern age had arrived. The libretto lampoons the House of Lords and other privileged professions, while the music parodies everything from Mendelssohn to Wagner. Chorus of Peers Lord Mountarat’s Song Gilbert: Musings in a Music Hall Chorus of Fairies Fairy Queen Sentry's Song Finale

with thanks to our hosts in Kintbury and Kingsclere and the respective churchwardens


next concerts: Verdi’s 200th Birthday: Sing or Listen & Drink Thursday 10 October St Nicolas Church Hall, Newbury 7.30 for 8pm free admission

Handel: Messiah WITH BAROQUE ORCHESTRA

Saturday 30 November: St Nicolas Church, Newbury 7.00pm The Newbury Chamber Choir gratefully acknowledges support from the Greenham Common Trust Any donations, however small, to assist our concert series can be made through www.findmeagrant.org where such donations attract matched funding from local charities

Newbury Chamber Choir www.newburychamberchoir.co.uk charity no. 230434

Sarah Bedford, Gill Blythman, Charlotte Farquharson, Lucy Fitt, Joanna Hodgson, Caroline Holbrook, Wendy Holmes, Clare Huckle, Rachel Lambert, Johan Teece, Vivienne Toll Jackie Appleford, Margaret Baker, Denise Barthorpe, Wendy Burdett, Karen Coffin, Judy Creek, Sarah Ede, Clare Heald, Kate Munro, Clare Owen Paul Farrington, Richard Foster, Chris Gwynn, John Long, Jeremy Wright Peter Appleford, Alan Butterworth, Andrew Davis, Christopher Fallows, Grahame Foulkes, Stephen Holmes (Jnr), Stephen Holmes (Snr)

new members welcome secretary@newburychamberchoir.co.uk

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