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Winter Concert, Sunday 19th November 2023
Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling @ 7.30pm

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Three Shakespeare Songs

Full Fathom Five

The Cloud-Capp'd Towers

Over Hill, Over Dale


Mass in G minor

For S.A.T.B soli and double chorus

conducted by Kevin Duggan

This concert will feature unaccompanied choral music from two different periods of Vaughan Willams' life.

The main work is the Mass in G minor, written in 1921 and dedicated to Gustav Holst, with its first liturgical performance taking place in Westminster Cathedral. With its juxtaposition of double choir with four soloists, there are clear echoes of the composer's celebrated Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, itself inspired by the solemn nave arches of Gloucester Cathedral. The Mass has been described as spiritually reminiscent of William Byrd, and its harmonic language is modal, with flowing counterpoint and the parallel harmonies which are often associated with Vaughan Williams.

Thirty years after composing the Mass, Vaughan Williams composed Three Shakespeare Songs for a choral competition in connection with the Festival of Britain. Based on texts from The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream, these short pieces have been compared to the composer's 6th Symphony, and their harmonic language is more daring than in the Mass. Full Fathom Five achieves watery, bell-like effects through dissonance, closed vowel sounds and ambiguous rhythms, whilst The Cloud-Capp'd Towers comprises profound organ-like chordal patterns under a solemnly soaring upper part. Over Hill, Over Dale, is a scurrying tour-de-force, with rapid words within light, dance-like patterns.

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