The Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony and Northern State University College Choir with guest baritone Chad Shultis will perform Five Mystical Songs by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at its Feb. 26 concert.
The work celebrates the Easter season, and is very appropriate for this concert, which falls near the beginning of Lent. Timothy Woods prepared the 130-voice NSU College Choir for this performance. This is the largest college choir the university has fielded in many years.
The Easter holiday has been the inspiration for innumerable musical masterpieces, including such works as J.S. Bach's Easter Cantata and Saint Matthew Passion, Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ, Rimsky-Korsakov's Great Russian Easter Overture, Richard Wagner's Good Friday Spell from Parsifal and Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives, to name a few.
Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs is a 20-minute choral/orchestral work based on the poetry of George Herbert. The five movements are titled Easter, I Got Me Flowers, Love Bade Me Welcome, The Call and Antiphon.
Herbert was a 17th-century poet and Anglican priest, and all of his poetry is of a religious nature. His contemporary, Richard Baxter, wrote of Herbert: He speaks to God like one that really believeth in God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books."
Williams himself was an agnostic, but that did not prevent him from composing this work. The songs were originally composed for voice and piano, and later transcribed by the composer for baritone, chorus and orchestra.
Williams, who lived from 1872 to 1958, drew the texts from Herbert's collection of poetry, The Temple: Sacred Poems, which Herbert wrote in 1633. Also at the concert, the orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy. It is one of Tchaikovsky's most popular instrumental works and is considered his first masterpiece.
The concert begins at 7 p.m. at the Johnson Fine Arts center. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors. All students are admitted free of charge. Tickets are available in advance at Engel Music in downtown Aberdeen and may be purchased at the door.