Early Music Vancouver (EMV) is proud to present the culmination of the 2019 Vancouver Bach Festival with Henry Purcell’s Hail Bright Cecilia, on August 9, 2019 at 7:30pm at theChan Centre for the Performing Arts. Esteemed conductor and organist Alexander Weimann leads this performance, featuring 20 instrumentalists of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and six internationally renowned vocal soloists. The richly textured 1692 ode to the patron saint of music represents a colourful exploration of the universal power of music to beguile, in a celebration fitting of EMV’s 50th anniversary season.
The first half of the concert features music by two important English composers who preceded Purcell and influenced him: Matthew Locke and John Blow. The programme begins with excerpts from Locke’s “incidental music” written to complement Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Locke was a family friend of Purcell’s and a leading composer for the London stage, who served King Charles as “Composer for the Violins” — a position that Purcell later filled. During the 1650s, the Commonwealth government forbade spoken theatre, though musical performances remained permissible. Shakespeare lovers added incidental instrumental and vocal music throughout his plays as a way of circumventing these restrictions. In this case, Locke provided instrumental music, including the Curtain Tune, which is a realistic depiction of the storm so central to The Tempest’s plot, while Pelham Humfrey, Pietro Reggio, and John Banister all contributed the vocal music.
The first half also includes a song by Blow, who was Purcell’s teacher and friend. The fact that Blow was the organist at Westminster Abbey both before and after Purcell’s death is quite unusual, but his fame should more soundly rest on his abilities as a composer, and they are substantial. The song Welcome, Every Guest is taken from Amphion Anglicus, a large group of his songs set for one to four voices that deserves more attention.
In a time when arts and culture were viewed as evidence of a society’s power and sophistication, annual celebratory commissions of Britain’s best poets and composers in honour of Saint Cecilia were the norm at the English court. Purcell’s Hail Bright Cecilia (1692) is a setting of a text by Nicholas Brady that is a reworking of John Dryden’s famous poem, A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day (1687), that was set in 1691 by his teacher Blow as an Ode for Saint Cecilia.
Purcell’s setting uses relatively large-scale orchestral forces (strings, oboes, bassoon, recorders, trumpets, and timpani), and combinations of vocal solos, duets, trios, and choruses to express the universal power and cosmic significance of music, and also to demonstrate the characteristics associated with different instruments and musical genres. It is the last and greatest of his four odes.
EMV’s highly anticipated closing concert will feature six internationally renowned vocal soloists: Suzie LeBlanc (soprano), Dorothee Mields (soprano), Alex Potter (counter-tenor), Samuel Boden (tenor), Sumner Thompson (baritone), and Matthew Brook (bass-baritone). The all-star vocalists will be paired with Vancouver’s own Juno-nominated Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO), led under the baton of acclaimed Music Director Alexander Weimann. Formed in 1990, the PBO is recognized as one of Canada’s most exciting and innovative ensembles that brings the music of the past up to date by performing with cutting-edge style and enthusiasm. These combined forces at the Chan Centre will perform what promises to be a captivating conclusion to the 2019 Vancouver Bach Festival.
Early Music Vancouver presents Purcell’s Hail Bright Cecilia
Dates: Friday, August 9 at 7:30pm
(Pre-Concert Talk at 6:45pm with Alexander Weimann and Matthew White)
Address: Chan Shun Concert Hall
Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
6265 Crescent Rd., Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Ticket Prices: From $18
Box Office: www.earlymusic.bc.ca or 604.822.2697
Photo by Jan Gates
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