Today began with a visit to Spetchley Gardens, a place where Edward Elgar was a friend of the Berkeley family, owners, often staying and enjoying some fishing in the garden lake. He was so inspired by the garden that he composed The Dream of Gerontius, which we hear tonight.
2017 celebrates 160 years since the birth of Edward Elgar (1857-1934), Worcestershire’s famous son, and Britain’s favorite composer. He is probably most famous as the composer of the Pomp and Circumstance March, used since 1905 as the graduation processional music for high schools and colleges.
After a few days of very iffy weather and occasionally raining, it was a spectacularly beautiful day, with blue skies and no rain. What a perfect day to visit the gardens!
No sooner did we get back to Worcester Cathedral, it was time for the organ recital at St. Swithun’s (Yes, this is really a place!) Organist Herman Jordaan of South Africa gave an excellent recital of mostly music for manuals on the church’s 1795 Robert and William Gray/1845 John Nicholson organ. He played brilliantly and I was especially taken with his choice of repertoire. I wrote down the names of some of the pieces since I’ll need to take mostly manual pieces on my Italy trip next month. Click here if you wish to read about the organ restoration.
Back to Worcester Cathedral for another super concert, this one titled Hail! Bright Cecilia with Peter Nardone conducting the Three Cathedral Choirs, Meridian Sinfonia on period instruments, and soloists Ruth Holton, Robin Blaze, Gwilym Bowen, and Aidan Smith. The two works performed were Purcell’s Hail! Bright Cecilia and Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia.There were so many references to the organ! St. Cecilia, the patroness of music, is often shown playing the organ.
With that sublime Celestial Lay
Can any Earthly Sounds compare?
If any Earthly music dare,
The noble Organ may,
From Heav’n its wondrous Notes were giv’n.
But oh! What art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heav’nly ways
To join the choirs above.
I wish my Early Music Hawaii people had heard this concert, as we are planning an all-Purcell concert on September 16, and they would be absolutely blown away at how perfectly and beautifully executed this group performed Purcell and Handel this afternoon. The soloists’ tone was clear as a bell against the sweet sound of early instruments, and the men and boys choir of the Three Choirs was solid.I’m convinced that Three Choirs Festival performances are all perfection!