‘When Rooks Fly Homeward,’ a poem by Irish poet Joseph Campbell published in 1909, evokes evening scenes – roses folding their petals, ‘blind moths’ fluttering by the door, ‘grey mists’ gathering ‘on carn and rath.’ (The latter are fun words to look up!) Evening is a peaceful time and one of hope for the new day to come with all of its opportunities.
Our March 26 programme begins with the ‘Rooks’ and then takes you back to 16th century England for three pieces of sacred music from that tempestuous time, from William Munday, Robert White, and Thomas Tallis. All speak of peace and hope in spiritual terms, and ultimately, of death and resurrection.
In their wake, we journey to Restoration England for the courtly, dance-like music of Purcell.
Purcell’s near contemporary, Dieterich Buxtehude, then bids us travel to northern Germany to hear his setting of Luther’s paraphrase of the Song of Simeon (the ‘Nunc Dimittis’) for soprano, bass, and strings, followed by ‘Klaglied’ (or ‘Lament’) written for the funeral of the composer’s father in 1674.
Skipping the 18th century, we move on to another setting of the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ published in 1905, and this time by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Here we are treated to the lush sounds of late Victorian English cathedral music. Moving out of the Cathedral Close, we take in secular music by Sullivan, Elgar, and a current ‘star’ of the choral scene, Eric Whitacre, before returning to the world of sacred music with organ and choral pieces from the Munich-based composer Josef Rheinberger.