The Kelvedon Singers

directed by Christopher Phelps


Music for Easter

Joseph HaydnStabat Mater
soprano - Linda Hart
alto - Julia King
tenor - Patrick McCarthy
bass - Sean Moriarty
accompanist - David Butcher (organ)
~ ~ ~ INTERVAL ~ ~ ~
Felix MendelssohnSt Paul (exerpts)
soprano - Rosemary Graves
tenor - Patrick McCarthy
bass - Sean Moriarty
accompanist - David Butcher (organ)


St Mary's Church, Kelvedon, Essex


Sunday 2nd April 2006 at 7.00pm

There is nothing like a good mystery to attract the undivided attention of a scholar and indeed, over the centuries, the Stabat Mater has provided a worthy challenge. Its authorship is attributed to several sources, but the prime contenders are Pope Innocent III (d. 1216) and Jacapone di Todi (d. 1306). However important establishing authorship might be to students of literary history, the words of the poem and its structure are of greater significance. The Stabat Mater is said to be the most beautiful Latin poem ever written, with its twenty perfectly formed three-line stanzas telling, firstly, of Mary's grief at the cross, then, the author pleading to share Christ's pain and, finally, begging Mary to intercede for him.

This exquisite poem has attracted more than 400 composers to set it to music and Haydn's setting is ranked with the foremost of these. Yet, although he had written two short masses, the Stabat Mater was his first major choral composition and he was in need of reassurance. It seems he sought approval of his composition from a leading composer of the day, but he need not have worried. Once performed publicly in Vienna, the work set out on its triumphant progress across the rest of Europe.

The immaculate scansion of the verses did not lend itself to Germanic oratorio treatment, but, then, Haydn was not looking back to the baroque style; rather, he was at the forefront of composers ushering in the new classical period. Throughout, his strongly melodic setting is sympathetic to the devotional and somewhat sombre mood of the words and slow tempi predominate, intensified by the bold use of inventive harmonies and chromaticisms. Nevertheless, a sense of contrast is provided by judicious use of faster tempi, while the introduction of dance-like triple-time rhythms in passages such as the Virgo virginun quartet bring a breath of Austrian folk music into the work.

As Haydn's star was finally setting in Vienna, so a new star was born into the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy household in Hamburg. The baby Felix was to become a great composer but probably would have succeeded equally well as a painter, a littérateur or even an athlete.

In 1835, Mendelssohn was invited to conduct the Gewandhaus concerts in Leipzig, and it was here that, working under the shadow of Bach, he completed St Paul. Bachís influence on his oratorio is clear, although this was not entirely due to his being in Leipzig. He had always respected the great master and was largely responsible for the revival of Bach's works.

St Paul, first performed in Düsseldorf in 1836, gained considerable popularity in England and was performed extensively. During Mendelssohnís visit to England in 1839, he conducted performances of his music, including St Paul, which were staged at the Birmingham Festival. Although nowadays overshadowed by Elijah which appeared ten years later, St Paul contains all of the excitement of the former, telling, through recitatives, arias and choruses, about the persecution of the Christians, about the conversion and baptism of Saul (now renamed Paul), his preaching of Christianity and healing the sick, the inevitable threats on his life - stoning to death seemed to be the in-vogue method reserved for Christians - and his deliverance to fight another day.

A donation from the proceeds of this concert will be given to St Mary's Kelvedon

Tickets are £8, and will include a glass of wine. If you wish to purchase tickets in advance, please telephone 01376 561288.

Tickets will also be available on the door.