Keswick Hall Choir's tribute to member

TONY COOPER The concert by Keswick Hall Choir at Norwich Cathedral this Saturday, February 26 (7.30pm), conducted by John Aplin, is being dedicated to the memory of Patrick Heley, who died last year at the age of 55.


The concert by Keswick Hall Choir at Norwich Cathedral this Saturday, February 26 (7.30pm), conducted by John Aplin, is being dedicated to the memory of Patrick Heley, who died last year at the age of 55. He was a member of this well-known choir for nine years and possessed a fine baritone voice of unusually expressive quality and was often featured as a soloist at many of their concerts. This concert is one that he would have particularly loved as it celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Tallis and other revered English composers that he so much admired.

The career of Tallis was long and, at times, treacherous, as it spanned the reigns of four English monarchs: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. It was a difficult period for a person such as Tallis to be working because of unprecedented political and religious turbulence.

However, he responded wisely to the shifting trends and demands with a mixture of pragmatism and perfectionism that not only earned him pre-eminence among church composers of his own time but guaranteed him a huge influence on English choral writing throughout the centuries.

His Lamentations of Jeremiah – two separate five-part compositions in different modes – are the opening works in this well-programmed concert by Aplin.

Linking these two pieces is a rare example of writing for organ by Britten – Voluntary on Tallis' Lamentation. The work had remained in manuscript form in the Britten-Pears Library for years until the British composer, Colin Matthews, came across it in 2003. It was probably written in America around 1940 and the work is based on the Tallis hymn tune Lamentation.

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Another piece by Britten will also be heard, A Hymn to the Virgin. It is a charming and expressive miniature composed in 1930 while the teenage Britten was confined to the school sickbay and was sung at his funeral performed by the Aldeburgh Festival Singers.

Peter Aston's cantata, Dialogues and Sonatas on the Resurrection of Our Lord – commissioned for the 1971 Harrogate Festival – gets a rare performance. And Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor also gets a rare outing.

In his mature years, Herbert Howells concentrated on writing church music, establishing himself as the foremost English composer for the liturgy in the last century.

His trademark modal melodies again show just how strongly Tudor church music was to influence 20th-century composition, as succinctly demonstrated by Master Tallis' Testament, the third of six pieces for organ, written in 1940 and actually based on a theme of Thomas Tallis. It will be played by David Dunnett, Norwich Cathedral organist.

Two motets by Tallis are also programmed: the penitential collect Suscipe Quæso – which Tallis produced in collaboration with William Byrd and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth – and the choral responsory, Loquebantur Variis Linguis, an earlier work, dating from either late in Henry VIII's or Mary's reign. Intended for the first Vespers on Whit Sunday it is based on a Sarum plain chant.

The concert culminates in Walton's powerful anthem for chorus and organ to words by WH Auden, The Twelve. Although one might not immediately associate the composer with the English Cathedral tradition, he did receive a thorough grounding in it as a chorister at Christ Church, Oxford, between 1912 and 1918 and never lost his love for the sound of voices in a spacious acoustic.

Written in 1965, The Twelve was dedicated to his old cathedral and its then dean, Cuthbert Simpson, whose idea it was that Walton and WH Auden – both Oxford men and friends of long standing – should collaborate on a new work for the choir.

Tickets £12 to £7, children £2 (must be booked with an accompanying adult), students £2 unreserved (on night only) and subject to availability. Box office: Prelude Records, St Giles', Norwich, 01603 628319

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