Christmas Concert 2023

The programme will include:

Quatre Motet pour le Temps de Noel by Poulenc,

Et in Terra Pax by Finzi

and a selection of carols for everyone to join in.

Conductor: Andrew Thomas

Saturday, December 16th at 7:30pm in St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh GU6 7AW.

Francis Poulenc’s Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noël, completed in 1952, are inspired by four scenes from the Nativity story.

The first, O magnum mysterium, captures the awe and mystery of the birth of Jesus, and praises the Virgin Mary with a hushed reverence.

The second, Quem vidistis, asks the shepherds, “Whom did you see?”

The third, Videntes stellam, transports us to the serene, starlit night through which the Magi travel, bearing their gifts.

The final motet, Hodie Chistus natus est, is a proclamation of joy, culminating in the words, “Gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia.” The Motets for Christmas contain moments of haunting beauty. In other passages, we hear a jazzy nonchalance characteristic of Poulenc.

Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc  (1899 – 1963) was a French composer and pianist. His compositions include songs, solo piano works, chamber music, choral pieces, operas, ballets, and orchestral concert music.

He studied with the pianist Ricardo Viñes, who became his mentor after the composer’s parents died.  In his early works Poulenc became known for his high spirits and irreverence. During the 1930s a much more serious side to his nature emerged, particularly in the religious music he composed from 1936 onwards, which he alternated with his more light-hearted works. In addition to his work as a composer,

Poulenc was an accomplished pianist. He was particularly celebrated for his performing partnerships with the baritone Pierre Bernac (who also advised him in vocal writing) and the soprano Denise Duval. He toured in Europe and America with both of them, and made a number of recordings as a pianist. He was among the first composers to see the importance of the gramophone, and he recorded extensively from 1928 onwards.

Finzi’s In Terra Pax was composed in 1954 and was almost the last piece that he wrote, though its genesis can be traced to an event some thirty years previously, when one Christmas Eve he had climbed up to the church at the top of his beloved Chosen Hill, between Gloucester and Cheltenham. The sound of the midnight bells ringing out across the frosty Gloucestershire valleys evidently made a lasting impression on him.

The work is a setting of two verses from Robert Bridges’ fine poem, ‘Noel: Christmas Eve, subtitled  Peace and goodwill to all men, which Finzi imaginatively and skilfully uses to frame St Luke’s account of the angels’ appearance to the shepherds. In Terra Pax is subtitled ‘Christmas Scene’, and Finzi explained that ‘the Nativity becomes a vision seen by a wanderer on a dark and frosty Christmas Eve in our own familiar landscape’.

This placing of the Biblical story into an English pastoral context is entirely consistent with Finzi’s close affinity with the English Romantic tradition, and his lifelong dedication to the creation of his own rural paradise at his home in Ashmansworth, near Newbury.

Gerald Raphael Finzi (1901 –1956) was a British composer and is best known as a choral composer, but also wrote in other genres. He was born in London, the son of John Abraham (Jack) Finzi and Eliza Emma (Lizzie) Leverson and became one of the most characteristically “English” composers of his generation.

Despite his being an agnostic of Jewish descent, several of his choral works incorporate Christian texts. In his formative years, Finzi suffered the loss of all three of his brothers, adversities that contributed to his bleak outlook on life and he found solace in poetry. Finzi never felt at home in London and, having married the artist Joyce Black, settled with her in Aldbourne, Wiltshire, where he devoted himself to composing and apple-growing, saving a number of rare English apple varieties from extinction.

He also amassed a large library of some 3,000 volumes of English poetry, philosophy and literature. During World War II he was directed to work at the Ministry of War Transport and lodged German and Czech refugees in his home. After the war, Finzi became somewhat more productive than before, writing several choral works.

Interested in Singing?

Come along to a rehearsal – You’re welcome to attend.
Just contact us to let us know when!

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