The Dream of Gerontius at Rochester Cathedral
Good afternoon friends, tomorrow, Saturday the 23rd of April, I’ll be performing The Dream of Gerontius with the Bexley Phenix Choir at Rochester Cathedral.
It would be wonderful to see you there.
See below for booking details.
Cardinal Newman’s poem The Dream of Gerontius was written in 1865. It is about the journey of a pious man’s soul from his deathbed to his judgement before God, arrival in Purgatory and promise of a re-awakening in glory.
Edward Elgar was already familiar with it by 1887 when he lent his copy of it to Alice Roberts, his future wife. In 1898 the possibility arose of a commission for the Birmingham Festival. After much to-ing and fro-ing with the organisers, Elgar agreed to set Newman’s poem, scoring it for a large orchestra, double chorus with semi-chorus and three soloists: tenor for Gerontius, baritone for the Priest and Angel of the Agony and mezzo-soprano for The Angel.
The Dream of Gerontius was premiered at the Birmingham Festival in October 1900, conducted by Hans Richter who, for all his international renown, was no great trainer of choruses. It was a notorious disaster owing to the choir being unable to sing it adequately and two of the three soloists being in poor voice. But almost unanimously the critics reflected the audience’s recognition of a great work and it became firmly established following a successful 1903 performance in Westminster Cathedral. At a post-concert banquet after hearing it at the 1902 Lower Rhenish Music Festival, Richard Strauss announced: “I drink to the success and welfare of the first English progressive musician, Meister Elgar.
However Roman Catholic doctrinal aspects of the work repugnant to Anglicans, such as Purgatory, gave rise to objections in some influential British quarters. An expurgated text was used for the 1910 Three Choirs Festival performance and objections lingered on into the 1930s when the Dean of Peterborough banned the work from his cathedral.
With the passing of time The |Dream of Gerontius has acquired the universal recognition it richly deserves. The late Michael Kennedy, Elgar’s biographer wrote: “It has become as popular with British Choral Societies as Messiah and Elijah. It is unquestionably the greatest British work in oratorio form ,although Elgar was right in believing that it could not accurately be classified as oratorio or cantata.”
Tania Williams – mezzo-soprano
Robin Green – tenor Simon Thorpe – baritone
Bexley Phoenix Choir, Vigo Singers
Conductor Alan Vincent
Date and time details
Saturday, 23 April at 7.30pm Tickets are £16 (full-time students £5) available in advance or on the door.
Contact info – 01474 816684
Tags: Alan Vincent, Bexley Phoenix Choir, Cardinal Newman, Edward Elgar, Gerontius, Robin Green, Rochester Cathedral, Simon Thorpe, Tania Williams, Vigo Singers