“Eastern Pictures”

“Eastern Pictures”

Music for eight upper voices and harp – Louise Thomson (harp) and the New Oxford Consort (vocal ensemble).

Performances by voices and harp are rarely heard beyond Britten’s wonderful Ceremony of Carols, despite how effective Britten shows this pairing to be in his famous work. This rich and varied programme offers a wide array of musical styles and moods, showcasing the broad range of excellent music that is available to this combination.

Between about 1900 and 1915, Gustav Holst went through a phase of intense interest in the religious literature and poetry of India. His encounters with texts such as the Rig Veda (a set of over 1000 devotional hymns dating from around 1500 BC) led him to enrol at UCL to study Sanskrit so that he could produce his own translations designed for musical setting. His Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, with their evocative realisations of texts in praise of various Vedic deities, date from this period, as do his two other works featured in the programme — Dirge & Hymeneal and Two Eastern Pictures.

Holst’s grandfather and great-grandfather were both well-known harp teachers, and so it is no surprise that he wrote so well for the instrument. This family history is presumably also what drew Gustav’s daughter, Imogen, to the harp and informed its skilful deployment in her song cycle, Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow, six short and atmospheric settings of words by John Keats.

This selection of works from the Holst family sits alongside other items conceived specifically for voices and harp by Josef Rheinberger and Fisher Tull, as well as transcriptions and arrangements of music that lends itself well to performance with these forces by Schubert, Hadley and Britten. The programme also contains solo harp items, music for unaccompanied choir and some classic works for solo voice by Schubert and Fauré with accompaniment provided on the harp.

Josef Rheinberger – Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen
Gustav Holst – Two Eastern Pictures
Choir only – details to be agreed at the time of booking
Fisher Tull – Two Poems
Franz Schubert – Ave Maria
Dalwyn Henshall – Adagio Cantabile, from Three Welsh Dances (solo harp)
Imogen Holst – Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow
Interval
Gustav Holst – Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (Third Group)
Marcel Grandjany – Rhapsodie (solo harp)
Gabriel Fauré – Pie Jesu, from Requiem in D minor, op. 48
Patrick Hadley – I Sing of a Maiden
Choir only – details to be agreed at the time of booking.
Gustav Holst – Dirge and Hymeneal
Franz Schubert – Psalm 23
Benjamin Britten, arr. Freddie Crowley – A New Year Carol