We’re delighted to be performing Purcell’s Hail! Bright Cecilia at our Baroque concert in May. The piece explores the versatility and power of many different voices and instruments, and veers from the playful to the dramatic. Composing such an effective piece surely required incredible inspiration. So who was bright Cecilia?
St Cecilia was a Roman martyr, who lived and died in Rome in the third century. She was utterly dedicated to God, and often “sang in her heart to the Lord”. With her devotion and enlightenment frequently manifest through song, it’s no wonder that St Cecilia is a patron saint of music and musicians. She was seen as the archetype of finding joy and solace through music.
Naturally, musicians have been inspired by her ever since. The first record of a music festival in her honour is from 1570, while the Accademia Nazionala di Santa Cecilia in Rome, founded in 1585, is one of the oldest musical institutions in the world. Her feast day on 22nd November is frequently marked by music composed in her honour; Purcell is joined by such composers as Handel and Britten in having written a piece praising her.
Such a fierce love of music can’t be confined to a single day, of course, and we just couldn’t wait until 22nd November to celebrate St Cecilia. As spring blooms, we will partake in a glorious musical celebration of everything bright Cecilia stands for: passion, devotion, and the restorative nature of music.
Post written by Swéta Rana.