"Music to Uplift the Soul"  Program Notes, 3 March 2005


This programme is comprised of music meditating on the Easter season from Lent through to the joys of Easter Sunday.   The centrepiece is the Five Mystical Songs, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, for soloist, chorus and, on this occasion, piano.  The texts are by the 17th century poet, George Herbert. 

There are two movements from John Rutter’s Requiem, including the haunting “Out of the Deep” with its remarkable obligato cello part.  American Spirituals are represented by “Deep River” and a version of “Wade in the Water”, for mezzo-soprano solo and chorus.

In keeping with the contritional spirit of Lent is Max Bruch’s "Kol Nidrei" for cello.  This comes from the Jewish tradition of “Yom Kippur” or Day of Atonement. 

Some rarely heard gems by British composers such as Thomas Tertius Noble and Sir Hugh Roberton are also included, as well as J. S. Bach’s famous “Erbarme dich” from the St. Matthew Passion. 

A group of works represent the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Corpus Christi, celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, something that would naturally belong on Maundy Thursday, but so many other functions took place that day, that a separate Feast was instituted in the 13th century at the behest of St Juliana, who was born near Liege, Belgium. The works selected for this program are the exquisite "Ave Verum Corpus" of William Byrd (1539-1623) and the Middle English anonymous poem, “The Knight of the Grail”, also known as the “Corpus Christi Carol”.    This poem is full of mystical allusions: the bed hung around with curtains represents the altar; the wounded knight, the Eucharistic sacrifice; the thorn, a symbol of the crucifixion and so on.  Appropriately, one of the Vaughan Williams Mystical Songs (“Love bade me welcome”) also has Corpus Christi symbolism:  the composer interweaves into it a quotation from the plainsong “O Sacrum Convivium”, sung by wordless chorus, just in case the auditor misses the poet’s allusion.