Elspeth Slorach: Conductor
George Frideric Handel: Dixit Dominus
Antonio Vivaldi: Gloria in D
Chester Festival Chorus make their Storyhouse debut with a duo of popular works from the Italian Baroque, joined by their new choral director Elspeth Slorach, a quintet of up and coming young soloists, and Storyhouse’s very own Ensemble Deva.
Handel’s vibrant, energetic Dixit Dominus was written for an Italian patron when the composer was only 22 and living in Italy. If you think you know everything about Handel from hearing his Messiah, this will make you think again. Completing the programme is Vivaldi’s Gloria, written for the girls of the Pietà in Venice in 1715, and now a favourite with choirs and audiences alike the world over.
Dixit Dominus – Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Dixit Dominus is a world removed from Handel as we know him from the time after he moved to England, from the solemnity of the sacred oratorios such as Messiah, and the pomp and circumstance of the music he wrote for royal occasions. A setting of Psalm 110 for five soloists and five-part chorus, Dixit Dominus is youthful Handel, written when he was only 22 and newly arrived in Rome, and as a result is full of an energy and verve that is firmly in the Italian style of the time. As John Eliot Gardiner has said of the piece, it was ‘almost as though this young composer, newly arrived in the land of virtuoso singers and players, was daring his hosts to greater and greater feats of virtuosity.’
I Dixit Dominus Domino meo: sede a dextris meis, donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum. The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
II Virgam virtutis tuae emittet Dominus ex Sion: dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
III Tecum principium in die virtutis tuae in splendoribus sanctorum: ex utero, ante luciferum, genui te. In the day of thy power shall the people offer thee free-will offerings with an holy worship. The dew of thy birth is of the womb of the morning.
IV Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech. Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech.
V Dominus a dextris tuis, confregit in die irae suae reges. The Lord upon thy right hand, shall wound even kings in the day of his wrath.
VI Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas, conquassabit capita in terra multorum. He shall judge the nations, fill the places with destruction, and shatter the skulls in the land of the many.
VII De torrente in via bibet, propterea exaltabit caput. He shall drink of the brook in the way, therefore shall he lift up his head.
VIII Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now; and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Gloria – Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Vivaldi spent much of his musical career in the employment of the Ospedale della Pièta, a convent and music school that cared for the orphaned and abandoned girls of Venice. It became celebrated for the performances of sacred music by its female musicians, and Vivaldi wrote much of his output of sacred vocal and instrumental for them, including two settings of the Gloria from the Latin Mass. By far the most popular of these settings is the
second (RV 589), which you will hear this evening. Set for two soprano and one alto soloists, and four-part choir, it is much simpler in style and structure than Handel’s Dixit Dominus, but its rhythmic invention, vocal colour and dramatic changes of mood have made it a firm favourite with choirs and audiences everywhere.
I Gloria in excelsis Deo Glory be to God on high,
II Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. And on earth peace, good will towards men.
III Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee,
IV Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam, We give thanks to thee for thy great glory,
V Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
VI Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe, O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
VII Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
VIII Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
IX Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
X Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe, For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
XI Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris, amen
Chester Festival Chorus
The Chester Festival Chorus was formed in 1981 by Martin Merry, a founder of the Chester Summer Music Festival and Artistic Director from its inception in 1978 until 1985. Since its formation the Chester Festival Chorus has established itself as one of Northwest England’s leading large-scale mixed-voice choirs. At the annual Chester Summer Music Festival the chorus performed major choral works from Handel and Mozart to Britten, Poulenc and Tavener.
The chorus made its first visit to the BBC Proms in 1992 when it gave the London premiere of John Tavener’s We Shall See Him As He Is, conducted by Richard Hickox with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the world premiere having taken place in the Festival a few days earlier. The chorus has since returned to the Proms on three occasions, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1994 for a performance of Dvorák’s Requiem conducted by Libor Pešek, with the BBC Philharmonic in 1998 for a performance of
Poulenc’s Gloria under Yan Pascal Tortelier and again with the RLPO in 2005 singing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz. The Chester Festival Chorus has also appeared with the BBC Philharmonic and other choirs from the North of England at the opening choral concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.
Repertoire over recent years has included Rachmaninov’s Spring Cantata, Vaughan Williams’ Five Tudor Portraits and Sea Symphony, Poulenc’s Gloria and Elgar’s Music Makers. Recent conductors who have worked with the choir include David Hill, Harry Christophers, Martyn Brabbins and James Burton.
2017 saw our last performance in Chester Cathedral for the time being as we performed Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony with David Hill, Roderick Williams and Sarah Fox.
From 1991 the chorus was trained by Frances Cooke, to whom, along with long-time accompanist Eve Taylor, we bade a fond farewell at the end of the 2017 season. For 2018 we are glad to welcome our new choral director Ellie Slorach and accompanist Graham Eccles. We are also very pleased to be making our debut in Chester’s wonderful new Storyhouse theatre.