Newsletter – September 2012

Rehearsals are well underway for our concert on Saturday 24th November. Our programme will be devoted to Elgar’s great oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius. It is a monumental work that is already proving rewarding to sing, and is going to create a powerful atmosphere. It has all the attributes of an oratorio – a religious text set to music, involving soloists and choir, but Elgar, himself, never used the term to describe this work and disapproved of its application.
The work was composed as a commission for the Birmingham Music Festival in 1900. Elgar took for his inspiration the poem by Cardinal John Newman (1801 – 1890) which follows the journey of the soul from death to judgement. Newman, a founding member of the Oxford Movement, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845. He composed the poem, he claimed by accident, writing it on scraps of paper early in 1865, publishing it later that year. Few will know it today, but it was very influential – it was a favourite of General Gordon, sustaining him during the siege of Khartoum; Elgar himself owned two copies.
Though Gerontius is now seen as one of Elgar’s greatest works, it did not have a happy beginning and was poorly received at its first performance. The conductor was only given the full score ten days before the concert, the choral director died and had to be replaced – a disaster for the choir who found themselves unable to perform well; even the soloists were out of tune. Elgar was deeply disappointed by this failure. However, Gerontius was performed with great success in Germany a year later and since then has become one of the most popular – and challenging – works in the choral repertoire. A challenge, yes – but an exciting one for both choir and audience, especially as we will be joined not only by Patricia Orr {mezzo soprano) and Paul Sheehan (bass), but also the outstanding young tenor, Ben Johnson.


Saturday Rehearsal – 6th October, 10.00am – 1.00pm, St Mary’s Church, Balham High Road, SW12
Alto Part rehearsal – Wednesday 10th October, 8pm, 15 Old Devonshire Road SW12
Bass Part rehearsal – Thursday 18th October, 8pm, 56 Roseneath Road SW11
Saturday Rehearsal – 3rd November, 10am – 1pm, St Mary’s Church, Balham High Road SW12

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