York Music Society concert at York Minster
Saturday, June 10th, 2023
- 7:30pm - 10:00pm
- York Minster, York, YO1 7HH
- £6 to £25
The dramatic York Minster will be the backdrop to the equally dramatic Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony - libretto by Walt Whitman, along with the poignant and evocative, “Toward the Unknown Region”. Serenade in A minor completes the programme.
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York Musical Society with Philharmonischer Chor MünsterVaughan Williams’ and Walt Whitman’s A Sea Symphony
Toward the Unknown Region And R.V.W. Serenade in A minor
The dramatic York Minster will be the backdrop to the equally dramatic Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony - libretto by Walt Whitman, along with the poignant and evocative, “Toward the Unknown Region”. Serenade in A minor completes the programme. After a very successful performance in Münster on 6 May, the German choir will join YMS to repeat the concert.
From our conductor, David Pipe: “I’m thrilled that YMS is able to explore three early works by Vaughan Williams, at the tail-end of the his 150th anniversary celebrations. The two choral works, Toward the Unknown Region and A Sea Symphony were first performed at the Leeds Festival: it’s wonderful to think that there’s an existing Yorkshire connection! Completing the set is the rarely-performed Serenade in A minor, reputedly Vaughan Williams’s earliest significant orchestral work.
It will be a particular pleasure to perform this programme with our friends from Philharmonischer Chor Münster, celebrating our now 30-year relationship. Many friendships have been formed between the two choirs, and our joint programmes are something that we all cherish and look forward to hugely.”
- Tickets are available through York Theatre Royal box office (tel: 01904 623568, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or in person), by clicking through from the York Minster website (yorkminster.org.) - or at the door on the night of the performance.
- Tickets are priced at £6, £12, £20 and £25. Child u-13 free with adult.
- Soloists: Soprano, Elinor Rolfe Johnson, Bass Julian Tovey
- Conductor: David Pipe. David is Director of the Organists’ Training Programme and Cathedral Organist for the Diocese of Leeds. He was formerly Assistant Director of Music at York Minster
Though an ocean apart, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Walt Whitman shared many philosophies: the belief in equality, the importance of freedom, and the majesty of nature. Both were committed humanists. Whitman’s poetry captured a distinct period in which the destiny of the United States seemed as limitless as the land itself. He held an unshakeable belief in American potential; and he celebrated the divine through his love (and subsequent fear) of the natural world. A turning-point in Whitman’s life was the senseless death and destruction of the American Civil War; he was profoundly affected and became a nurse, caring for both Union and Confederate soldiers. Vaughan Williams, too, was a man of deep feeling and compassion. His affinity for Whitman began in 1907, when he set the American’s poetry to music in Toward the Unknown Region.
In A Sea Symphony we find the perfect marriage of music and poetry, as Vaughan Williams’ score accentuates the awesome force of nature and its power over mankind. The first movement explores the dominance of the sea and the heroism of those who sail on her. The second movement is a testament to the fragility, yet far-reaching potential, of humanity when we are attuned to, and work in tandem with, the natural world. The final two movements present distinctly American themes: identity and destiny in a country so vast and so sparsely populated that it mirrors humanity’s tiny position in an immense universe.
A Sea Symphony has extraordinary musical, emotional and poetic harmony. It is a mystical and thought-provoking work, full of imagery of humanity’s possibilities. Whitman implores us to recognise that the infinite “vastness of space” is symbolically (and artistically) contained in each individual’s soul. Vaughan Williams elevates these themes from the poetic, and sometimes controversial, to the epic in a celebration of British choral music that leaves no doubt that the highest potential of the human condition is achievable if we accept Whitman’s challenge to “Steer for the deep waters.”
The event runs from 7:30pm to 10:00pm on the following dates.
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