The choirs of St Mary’s Church Nottingham and St Barnabas Catholic Cathedral join forces for only the second time to perform Edward Elgar’s epic work, The Dream of Gerontius, on Saturday 25 February 7.30pm, in St Mary’s Church, The Lace Market, Nottingham.
The Dream of Gerontius is undoubtedly the most popular of all Elgar’s choral music, and today is considered a national treasure. It is also among the most frequently performed of the composer’s works.
Elgar was given a copy of Cardinal Newman’s poem, which tells of the journey of Gerontius’ soul after death, in 1889 as a wedding present. He set it to music for its first performance at the Birmingham Festival in 1890.
But it would appear that the first performance was not a success. Neither W C Stockley, the chorus master, nor Hans Richter, the conductor, had grasped the complexity of the work and allowed insufficient time for rehearsals!
As for the music, Elgar was inspired by Wagner and Elgar’s debt to the composer is clearly evident in this work. The work calls for a large orchestra, double chorus with semi-chorus, and usually three soloists.
The soprano soloist will be former St Mary’s chorister Elisabeth Meister. Since leaving Nottingham in the late 90s, Elisabeth is now a regular at opera houses all over the world including the Royal Opera House. A former member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, Elisabeth begins the 2011-12 season in the title role Aïda for the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, with roles later in the season for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, both under Sir Andrew Davis. She returns to Santiago de Chile later in the season to perform Tannhäuser, followed by a return to London to perform in the Royal Opera’s Ring Cycle.
The other soloists are Keith Halliday (Tenor) and William Burn & Matthew Jordan (Bass-Baritones). The conductor is John Keys (St Mary’s Director of Music). The choirs and soloists will be accompanied by the Orchestra of the Restoration.
The concert will open with a work by the composer in residence at St Barnabas Cathedral, Alex Patterson. He has set music to John Henry Newman’s words, Lead Kindly Light. The composition, commissioned by Neil Page (Director of Music at the St Barnabas), was first performed in December last year.
Tickets: £15 (£13), £12 (£10), £5 (student standby £3 at the door) available on the door or in advance from Classical CD, 10 Goose Gate, Nottingham, NG1 1FF, tel. 0115 948 3832. All seats are unreserved.