Featuring Guest Artists The American Festival Chorus and Orchestra With Conductors Stephen Cleobury and Craig Jessop
Ralph Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem
Ralph Vaughan Williams Sancta Civitas
This year marks the centenary anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in World War One. In celebration of this November 1918 armistice, the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra present two relevant major works of the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams served in World War One, which resulted in the deaths of over 8.5 million, and he pondered how one might recover from such savagery, carnage and the loss of friends. Vaughan Williams held to his belief that music was a means to preserve civilization, even in the midst of conflict and war, and these two works are perhaps the composer’s most heartfelt statements about the horrors of war and the destiny of the human soul.
His 1926 oratorio Sancta Civitas, introduced by a quote from Plato’s Phaedo and featuring texts from the Apocalypse of St. John is filled with vision, sadness and suffering. Sometimes described as the ‘lost masterpiece’ of Vaughan Williams, the oratorio is often cited as the composer’s favorite choral work.
His 1936 cantata Dona Nobis Pacem opens with an urgent appeal for peace from the text of the Agnus Dei from the Mass, and musically presages the coming war in the midst of the increasingly unstable political situation in Europe of the late 1930’s. Other elements of the cantata’s text derive from the work of American poet Walt Whitman, who himself witnessed the horrors of the United States Civil War, heightening this musical admonition that urges humanity to finally do away with the strife and terror of war.
This concert is open to the public and free of admission.