Programme: Faire is the Heaven

Saturday 13 May 2023

Vivamus presents English music from the 17th, 18th, 20th and 21st centuries, including a London premiere. In the week following the Coronation of King Charles III, the concert opens with Handel’s most-celebrated coronation anthem Zadok the Priest, and includes works by William Harris, Henry Purcell and John Tavener, as well as the London premiere of Musical Director Rufus Frowde’s Were I not to Sing. The venue is the Wren church of St James’s Piccadilly, a church consecrated just a few years before the composition of the principal work in the programme, Purcell’s Ode on St Cecilia’s Day 1692, which showcases choral and instrumental virtuosity in a dramatic depiction of the birth and personality of instruments and song. Vivamus is joined tonight by The Hanover Band, one of Britain’s finest period instrument orchestras.


Zadok the Priest (George Frideric Handel, 1685–1759)

Zadok the Priest was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727 and has been sung at the coronation of every British monarch since. The text is biblical, a distillation of 1 Kings 1:34–45 and does not change according to the sex of the sovereign because it is a hymn pulled directly from scripture. Written in three sections in 4/4, 3/4 and 4/4, perhaps the most famous moment is the build-up to the choir entry in Section 1.

Hear my prayer, O Lord (Henry Purcell, 1659–1695)

Hear my prayer, O Lord is an eight-part SSAATTBB choral anthem by the English composer Henry Purcell setting the first verse of Psalm 102. Purcell composed it c. 1682 at the beginning of his time as Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey. The composition is thought to have been intended to be part of a longer work, indicated by several blank pages following it in the manuscript. Purcell begins the composition with a simple setting of the first line. After the first phrases, Purcell employs six to eight parts in complex harmonies that build to a shattering culmination.

Little Requiem for Father Malachy Lynch (John Tavener, 1944–2013)

Little Requiem for Father Malachy Lynch is an unearthly musical event for choir and orchestra/ensemble inspired by Tavener’s friendship with Father Malachy Lynch (1899–1972), the Carmelite friar from Ireland who re-established the Carmelite Order’s presence at Aylesford Priory in Kent. Both Father Lynch and the composer had broad theological interests and, while a Roman Catholic, Father Lynch was an early influence on Tavener’s later inclination towards the Orthodox Church. Tavener continued to have a high regard for the Catholic services of Holy Week, adapting the Latin text in this case to mean ‘give him peace’ not ‘give them peace’ as a mark of respect for Father Lynch.

Faire is the heaven (Sir William Henry Harris, 1883–1973)

Sir William Henry Harris KCVO was an English organist, choral trainer and composer. Arguably his two most famous works are anthems for a capella double SATB choir: Faire is the heaven (1925), a setting of Edmund Spenser’s poem An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie; and Bring us, O Lord God, a setting of John Donne’s poem sung, among other renditions, at the Committal Service of Queen Elizabeth II at St George’s Chapel, Windsor in September 2022. The text of Faire is the heaven describes in turn various occupants of said heaven, while giving up as a hopeless task any description of ‘the Highest’ (God). It is perhaps a paradox that while Spenser’s text admits the impossibility of portraying the perfection of God through the medium of human speech, so many have glimpsed something so close to perfection in Harris’ setting of that text to music.

Were I not to Sing (Rufus Frowde, 1978-)

Were I not to Sing is a setting by Vivamus’ Musical Director Rufus Frowde of words by Revd Austin Janes to mark the tenth anniversary of Dacorum Community Choir (Hertfordshire) in 2020. The text is a rhapsodic exploration of the joy and importance of singing, ideally in a community context, where, according to Revd Austin, he ‘wanted to show that no-one is left behind or shines at the detriment of others.’ The freely flowing music has a fittingly contemporary feel, at time reminiscent of musical theatre and at times of Michael Nyman or Philip Glass.

Find out more about our Musical Director, Rufus Frowde.

Hail! Bright Cecilia (Henry Purcell, 1659–1695)

Hail! Bright Cecilia, also known as Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day 1692, was composed by Henry Purcell to a text by the Irishman Nicholas Brady in 1692 in honour of the feast day of Saint Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. Annual celebrations of this saint’s feast day (22 November) began in 1683, organised by the Musical Society of London, and Hail! Bright Cecilia is the best known of a number of Cecilian compositions by Purcell. With a text full of references to musical instruments, the work ordinarily requires six vocal soloists, six-part choir, and a variety of instruments. No less varied are the dramatic characters used to depict the instruments and voices, or the dance forms used during the airs (or arias). The work consists of a total of 13 movements.


The Hanover Band

The Hanover Band was formed in London by Caroline Brown in 1980 and has an international reputation for the excellence of its performances and recordings of 18th and 19th-century music. The primary objective of the orchestra has been to enable audiences to gain a better feeling for what earlier music actually sounded like when heard in favourable circumstances. The orchestra comprises some of the best period instrument specialists in the UK, and performances and recordings have been described as ‘revelatory, luscious, outstanding and illuminating’.

More about The Hanover Band

‘Through dedication and scholarly work, the Band have gained an enviable niche for themselves within the early music movement, as being ‘one of the UK’s finest period instrument orchestras’.

The Hanover Band performs, records and undertakes education work regularly in the UK and has toured throughout Europe, USA, Canada, Mexico and China, appearing at many prestigious festivals and venues. The orchestra’s list of Directors over previous years reads like a Who’s Who of period instrument interpretation.

The Band is committed to education and has undertaken extensive work with schools,
colleges, youth orchestras and universities. During the current concert series ‘Schubert in the City’ the Band has been working with a number of primary schools in London. In addition, the Band also has an ongoing project working with students at the University of

With all concerts in 2020 cancelled, The Hanover Band were determined not to let the year pass without celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the Band. In August 2020 an orchestra was put together to record, for online streaming purposes, Beethoven’s first eight Symphonies. The Band was then delighted to be joined by Sir Mark Elder to record and stream Symphony No.9 at the Mansion House in December. With restrictions still in place on indoor performances during 2021, two series of outdoor concerts were devised: one in gardens and another in bandstands along the South Coast. The Hanover Band is currently celebrating Schubert’s 225th birthday with a series of concerts in London’s Livery Halls in 2023.

Find out more about The Hanover Band and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Orchestra list

Orchestra manager: Stephen Neiman
Violin I: Matthew Truscott (leader), Julia Black, Ben Sansom
Violin II: Kelly McCusker, Emma Lake, Rebecca Windram
Viola: Sascha Bota, David Brooker
Cello: Richard Tunnicliffe, Jenny Bullock
Bass: Jan Zahourek
Flute: Laura Piras, Samantha Pearce
Oboe/Recorder: Geoff Coates, Cait Walker
Trumpet: Paul Bosworth, Sam Pierce
Timpani: Tom Lee
Harpsichord/Organ/Piano: David Wright

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