The Final Curtain

Tomorrow (in terms of the time of writing) I shall take my final Ripieno Choir rehearsal (approximately the 750th – I think I’ve missed about 10 in 22 years). We will be working on the second half of next week’s progamme, so this hardly qualifies as a ‘wind-down’! Indeed, as far as Parry’s Songs of Farewell are concerned, it’s very much a wind-up as we tackle his seven-part setting of Donne’s awe-inspiring At the round earth’s imagined corners, and then the eight-part, double choir Lord, let me know mine end (words from Psalm 39). [As an aside – am I the only person that thinks the opening of this inspired the opening of William Harris’s Faire is the heaven?] This is music which has repaid the care we have lavished on it and revealed Parry to be a far more resourceful and profound composer that his greatest hits (Jerusalem and I was glad) might suggest. His splendid Fifth Symphony can be heard at the Proms this year in a programme that also includes my favourite Hear my words, ye people.

We shall then conclude with music that is very much my personal choice as a valediction. The music of the Renaissance (for this purpose roughly 1490-1610) made a great impression on me when I first encountered it as a teenager and has been pretty much a constant force in my life ever since. I’ve never been disappointed by Victoria (and the two pieces we are performing are among his very best, I think) and if Josquin seems enigmatic – perhaps even simple – by comparison let’s remember that his contemporaries hailed him as their superior and realise that he established the stylistic foundations on which Victoria, Lassus, Palestrina and Byrd etc then built their own sonic cathedrals. There’s Byrd in the first half, by the way, and there was Lassus in March. Maybe I should have done more Palestrina . . .

As a popular Radio 4 presenter used to say, ‘If you have been, thanks for listening’, and remember that Ripieno tickets are cheaper when bought in advance!

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