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Benjamin Britten Birthday Concert at Grace Madison

Anne Matlack

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 • 9:56am

Grace Community Music continues its season celebrating the 100th birthday of composer Benjamin Britten in a concert Sunday Nov. 24 at 3 p.m.  Combined choirs of Grace will perform the cantata  Rejoice in the Lamb and the complete children’s song cycle Friday Afternoons with children’s choirs and soloists, as well as other works including selections from Metamorphoses with Teddy Love, oboe. Admission is by freewill donation at the door.

Grace’s fine combined choirs of children and adults will open the concert with the Jubilate in C and the Festival Te Deum, with Assistant Organist Eric Stroud at the organ.  Oboist Teddy Love will perform two movements from the unusual and seldom performed Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for solo oboe: I. Pan- who played upon his reed pipe which was Syrinx, his beloved, and IV. Bacchus-at whose feasts is heard the noise of gaggling women's tattling tongues and shouting out of boys.

The major work (which is a short cantata of 12 minutes) will be Rejoice in the Lamb.  Benjamin Britten, perhaps England’s greatest 20th century composer, is especially known for his vocal works and for choosing unusual texts. Christopher Smart, a high church Anglican 18th century poet, wrote a long free-verse manuscript, Jubilate Agno, between 1758 and 1763, while he was locked in a madhouse for “religious mania.” The imagery is vivid and striking. Jubilate Agno was not to be published until 1939, and in 1943, Britten selected some of Smart’s texts for Rejoice in the Lamb, written for the 50th anniversary of St Matthew's Northampton where the Vicar was Reverend Walter Hussey an Anglican priest and patron of the arts. The organist for this work is Brian Harlow, and soloists include Donna Ward of Madison, Caitlyn Roper of New Providence, Greg Paradis of Maorristown and Seth Ruggles Hiler of Montclair.

The concert concludes with a charming song cycle, Friday Afternoons. This is an early work, written for a boy’s prep school where Britten’s brother was headmaster. Songs range from pretty (New Year Carol, Cuckoo http://youtu.be/kYZVJ4C9fI0) to silly (A Tragic Story) to pastoral (The Ploughmans’s Song) to scary (Old Abram Brown http://youtu.be/AC8V6dB2Op4 ).  All are short and delightful.  Dr. Anne Matlack has always wanted to do this whole set as it was so named because the boys’ choir rehearsed on Friday Afternoons—as do her kids! Children will sing some movements, small groups including Gargoyles (teen boys), junior high singers, Daughters of Zion (High School girls) will sing some, and soloists including Eleanor Wroath and George Hayman of Madison, Marthe McClinden of Morristown and Ted Roper of New Providence will sing others. A reception will follow with birthday cake!

Dr. Anne Matlack has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, and a M.M. and D.M.A. in Choral Conducting from University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music. As well as serving as Organist & Choirmaster at Grace Church for 22 years, she conducts the acclaimed Harmonium Choral Society.  Grace Church’s choir program explores all styles of high quality music in a liturgical worship setting and follows Royal School of Church Music standards.  Grace Community Music was founded by donations at the wedding of Dr. Matlack and Jabez Van Cleef, to showcase local musicians, build a sense of community, and open the church to the greater Morris County audience. To receive a complete flyer by mail or email contact amatlack@gracemadison.org, or call 973-377-0106x17.

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