Taverner and Tavener
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Sir John Tavener died on November 12, 2013 at the age of 69. Fellow composer, John Rutter said “he was touched by genius at every point … He could bring an audience to a deep silence which is a very rare gift”. Tavener’s The Protecting Veil topped the classical charts for several months during 1992 and his Song for Athene is remembered by many from the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales (1997). When Tavener’s avante-gard oratorio, The Whale was released by The Beatles, on their Apple label in 1968, he became the only contemporary composer to find wide acclaim beyond the classical world.

Tavener’s Song for Athene is set in context against the work of his direct antecedent of the same name: John Taverner (1485-1542) composed the Western Wynde Mass for the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, where he was appointed by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as the first Organist and Master of the Choristers in 1526. This, Taverner’s best-known mass, is based on a popular song of the time, the melody of which is heard nine times in each section. It varies from other masses of the time in that the song theme appears in the tenor and bass lines as well as in the soprano.

Three choral masterworks return to the ACC’s programme by popular demand: Francis Poulenc’s Salve Regina was heard in May 2010. This composer’s work stands out in any program for its unique harmonic language. Poulenc, a prolific composer in every genre, said of the set of 1936 choral work from which this comes: “I think that I have put the best and most genuine part of myself into them. I have a feeling that I’ve really produced something new”.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Valiant for Truth (1940) was performed in the choir’s first concert for 2013 and on their European tour. Music journalist, Rob Stove mentioned this in an article in Organ Australia’s June 2013 issue: “Valiant For Truth – under Mr Lawrence’s direction left me and the other audience members gob-smacked. I still had not quite recovered from the visceral power of this unsuspected masterpiece …”

The grand Latin Magnificat by Vaughan Williams’ teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford formed the centrepiece of a program in 2011. Clive O’Connell wrote that this “gave clear evidence of the choir’s responsiveness, mastery of idiom and, four years on, its consistently impressive standard of accomplishment”. (The Age/Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2011). This work, written for two four-part choirs was written as a funerary tribute to Sir Hubert Parry.

Among this crown of shining gems from the English choral tradition, Thomas Tomkins’ When David heard that Absalom was slain posesses a deep lustre. Like Taverner, Stanford and (at least for a time) Tavener, Tomkins made his living as a church musician and wrote this heart-wrenching anthem for the choir of Worcester Cathedral, where he was organist.

The Australian Chamber Choir is well known for performances of Australian works:

Clive O’Connell wrote: “Brenton Broadstock’s I had a dream … sets out a three-part elegy in haunting consonantal language, rising to an aggressive climax in the work’s central questioning stages and achieving a throat-tightening power in its final soft repetitions of the line “I am remembered”, here delivered with tactful understatement” (The Age, November, 2007). This 2005 work was well received on the choir’s 2007 tour of Europe: “Thanks to the expressiveness of the singing, I had a dream became a most moving experience” (Berlingske Tidende, Copenhagen) The choir’s presenter in Berlin’s landmark King William’s Memorial Church said of the ACC’s 2007 program “There are days when something of heaven seems to touch the earth. Thank you for giving us just one of those days”.

The ACC has been responsible for introducing several emerging Australian composers to appreciative European audiences.  Brenton Broadstock and Brett Dean do not come into this category, as each has already achieved recognition outside Australia: Brett Dean’s Twelve Angry Men was written for and performed by the twelve cellists of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Now comes the dawn was given its world premier by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge and was later recorded by them.

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To BOOK FOR FLINDERS (Sun.Sep.14 at 3pm): Call 5989 8620

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