Larking About: facts behind our St Cecilia celebration centrepiece

Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

One of the central pieces of our St Cecilia celebration concert is Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending.

This lush, evocative work is more often than not performed with violin and orchestra, but it was originally scored for violin and piano. That is how it will be heard in St Martin’s Church on November 23.

Vaughan Williams began working on the piece in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War. He did not score it for orchestra until 1920.

Here’s a few more ‘did you knows?’ about this most English of English-sounding music.

  1. The work was inspired by George Meredith’s poem of the same name.
  2. Vaughan Williams said that tune came into his head on a cliff walk while holidaying in Margate and he stopped to make some notes. This was on the first day of World War One and ships were holding fleet exercises off the coast. The composer then found himself under a citizen’s arrest by a keen young scout who thought he was a spy scribbling down details of the English coastline.
  3. Actor Peter Sallis  (Last of the Summer Wine and the voice of Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame) is said to have requested that a copy of The Lark Ascending be buried with him.
  4. The Lark Ascending regularly tops the polls.  This year it regained number one status in the Classic FM Hall of Fame chart after a rare slip to number three in 2018. It has also been voted the nation’s favourite Desert Island Discs track and, in a 2011 American radio survey, New Yorkers ranked it number two as the music they most wanted to hear to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks.
  5. Dedicated to violinist Marie Hall, she gave the work its first performance in Bristol in 1920.  Adrian Boult led the orchestral debut in London the following year.

We’re delighted to welcome Shulah Oliver onto our concert platform for this performance. One of the Chamber Music @ Worcester Festival’s founders and artistic directorial team, she regularly performs concertos and gives recitals throughout the UK and Europe.

Tickets for our concert, which also includes Serenade to Music are available from Eventbrite.

Singing aloud for St Cecilia

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We’re raising our voices to celebrate the patron saint of musicians at our next event.

O Sing Aloud! will encompass a wide range of composers and genres for the St Cecilia concert, due to take place in St Martin’s Church, London Road, Worcester, on November 23.

The programme spans the globe: France, Britain and America, the centuries: Purcell, Mozart, Vaughan Williams and Gershwin; and is interspersed with items from local musicians.

Worcester’s Ian Venables has created the piece from which the concert takes its title and ‘Three meditations’ have come from city-born Steven Kings.

The performance ends on an upbeat feel with a series of classic American songs arranged by former Worcester Cathedral Director of Music Dr Donald Hunt.

Readings reflecting the evening’s theme will be performed by Gabrielle Bullock and Vaughan Williams’ classic The Lark Ascending will be sent soaring aloft by violinist Shulah Oliver

Christopher Allsop, King’s School’s Assistant Director of Music, provides organ and piano accompaniment for the evening that, under the baton of Stephen Shellard, also includes Faure and Parry.

Tickets are available from Eventbrite or via www.worcestercathedralchamberchoir.co.uk