May Concert 2007

Kyrie Eleison
Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn stood at the forefront of German music during the 1830s and 40s, as conductor, pianist, organist, and above all, composer.  He composed a set of three sacred pieces that were published after his death. The Kyrie Eleison of 1846 is one of these pieces and was written for the choir of the Domkirche in Berlin. Although Mendelssohn was on the verge of a total physical breakdown, the piece is characterised by a sense of inner peace and warmth.

Benedictus (Two 2-part settings)
Orlando di Lassus

di Lassus was a Franco-Flemish composer of late Renaissance music and along with Palestrina, he is considered to be the chief representative of the mature polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish School, and he was the most famous and influential musician in Europe at the end of the 16th century.

The first Benedictus is sung by Soprano and Alto sections, while the second is sung by the Tenor and Bass sections.

Alma Redemptoris

Palestrina’s historical reputation resembles that of no other composer in the history of music. Palestrina’s music is often considered “perfect” sacred music and it is no surprise that his contemporaries often called him “The Prince of Music.  Alma Redemptoris mater is an antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is sung during Advent and until the Feast of the Purification. Palestrina made three settings of this text, a paribus vocibus setting for four high voices, which was included in his second book of four-part motets published in Venice in 1596, and two eight-part settings, which were not issued in printed editions in Palestrina’s lifetime.

(Soloist – Cherie Stayner)

Alma Redemptoris
Peter Phillips

Seven lieder for mixed choir op.62
Johannes Brahms

From 1872 to 1875 Brahms was director of the concerts of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Its official charter, drafted in 1814, states that the purpose of the Society was to promote music in all its facets.

The seven lieder for mixed choir op.62 (1873–4) employ a chordal, rhythmically straight forward texture and strophic form, as befits their legendary and folk themes. Each of these seemingly simple songs is characterized by one or two very sophisticated devices.

The choir sings:

Waldesnacht                                op.62 no.3
All Meine Herzgedanken        op.62 no.5

O Magnum Mysterium

Poulenc was a member of Les Six, a group of young French composers, Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Tailleferre, who also had links with Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau. He embraced the Dada movement’s techniques, creating melodies that would have been appropriate for Parisian music halls. Later in his life, the loss of some close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, led him to rediscovery of the Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more somber, austere tone.

O Magnum Mysterium comes from Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, composed in 1952.

O Magnum Mysterium
David N. Childs (1969 – )

New Zealand composer David Childs wrote this Christmas Day Responsory in 1997 for Havelock North’s Colla Voce in 1997 and was, as he puts it, “the first serious work of mine to be published”. He uses plainsong chant and full-bodied ‘added-note’ chords so that two harmonic languages are explored – the old and the new.

Herr, Erhore Meine Worte

Psalm 138 (Genevan Tune)
Claude Le Jeune

Of Le Jeune’s sacred music, a total of 347 psalm settings, 38 sacred chansons, 11 motets, and a mass setting have survived. Probably Le Jeune’s most famous sacred work is his Dodécacorde, a series of 12 psalm settings, including Psalm 138, which he published in La Rochelle in 1598. Each of the psalms is set in a different one of the 12 modes as given by Zarlino. Le Jeune’s 12 psalm settings use texts and melodies from the Genevan Psalter as cantus firmi.

Psalm 138

Arcadelt was a Franco-Flemish composer of the middle to late Renaissance, principally of madrigals and chansons. Most likely he was born in Liège, and he died in Paris.
Arcadelt’s style is refined, pure, melodious, and simple, and his music was immensely popular. His first book of madrigals was reprinted 58 times between c1538 and 1654, a spectacular print run for the time.

The choir sings a setting of Psalm 138, published in 1555.

Ave Maria
Franz Biebl (1906-2001)

In 1964, Biebl was approached by a fireman from his church choir and asked to compose something for a choral competition that the fire station choir was to perform in.  Biebl wrote the Ave Maria for a double male choir. The Ave Maria has subsequently been rearranged to suit other vocal groupings. The piece gained practically no attention in Germany for many years. When the American group Chanticleer recorded it, it became a hit in the US and then also in Germany.

Cantor:    Peter Tozer

Semi-chorus:  Sopranos:   Cherie Stayner, Kathryn Whitwell; Alto:  Ulrika Harris, Alison Tait;  Tenors:      Andrew Moore, Cameron Kerr

Song for Athene

Song for Athene was born from a musical phrase that came to the composer’s mind as he left the funeral of Athene Harides, daughter of family friends who was killed in a cycling accident. “Her beauty,” Tavener wrote, “both outward and inner, was reflected in her love of acting, poetry, music, and of the Orthodox Church.”

Song for Athene is a mixture of lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and words from the Orthodox liturgy, both set to monodic chant with a continuous drone. It was sung during the funeral for Princess Diana in 1997.

(Cello : Jonathan Drummond;  Soloist: Peter Tozer)

Daisies Won’t Tell

Anita Owen is an American composer of the 19th century. Her long list of song compositions began in 1898 with “Only One Daisy Left”, and several of her later songs included daisies in their titles: “When the Daisies Bloom”, “Daisies Won’t Tell”, “Just a Chain of Daisies”.

3 Maori Pieces
Hoki Hoki
Akoako te Rangi
Douglas Mews (arr)

Douglas Mews was born at St Johns in Newfoundland in 1918 and died in New Zealand in 1993. Mews moved to Auckland in 1969, joining the staff of the Music Department at the University of Auckland where, in 1974, he was made Associate Professor of Music. He was director of Music at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Auckland from 1970-82. He retired from the University of Auckland in 1984. In 1990 Mews received a Papal Knighthood.

These three Maori songs have been arranged for 4-part choir by Mews

Lily of the Valley

The spiritual constitutes one of the largest bodies of American folksong that survived into the 21st century, and are probably the best known. Lily of the valley is an example of this form.