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Judith Bingham Shakespeare Requiem

07/11/2008
Major world premiere for Leeds Festival Chorus
Saturday 29 November 2008
Leeds Town Hall, 7.30pm
Mary Plazas soprano, Giles Underwood bass

Leeds Festival Chorus, BBC Philharmonic/Simon Wright conductor
Commission sponsored by Addleshaw Goddard and supported by the PRS Foundation, Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, the Friends of Leeds Festival Chorus and Leeds Youth Choir.

Leeds Festival Chorus is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a concert on 29 November 2008 at Leeds Town Hall which will include the world première of a specially commissioned work by award-winning composer Judith Bingham. Shakespeare Requiem combines the Latin text of the Requiem with lesser-known lines from Shakespeare, woven together to create a developing drama between two characters. The concert will form part of the Leeds International Concert Season.

Bingham says “I was brought up in Yorkshire and have a great love for the choral tradition in the North. I’m honoured to be part of Leeds Festival Chorus’s anniversary celebrations.”

In a special message to Chorus members, she describes her choice of subject as “strangely prophetic”: she speaks of the work’s themes as “the universality of grief, the vulnerability of the world we live in, and Man’s addiction to conflict”.

Programme Note:
Sometimes the choice of subject or text for a piece can be strangely prophetic. This piece was commissioned by Leeds Festival Chorus several years before I began it, and I decided early on to do a standard sacred text, as my previous three works for choir and orchestra had been loosely secular. I soon fastened on a Requiem and then set about thinking of how I would approach a text that had been set so many times and so famously. An early idea was to make the progress of the piece about the stages of grief. It was disturbing, therefore to find myself writing the music during my own brother’s long illness and death in 2007.

I knew that I would have two soloists, but it took a long time to think of who they were in the unfolding drama. Whilst trying to find poetry for the solo movements I found myself in a bookshop, staring at shelves of books on Shakespeare, and from that moment came the idea of the soloists being a King and Queen, and their words lesser known speeches from Shakespeare that did not suggest a particular time or place.

The speeches are connected to make a developing drama between the two characters. The scenario is this: in a war-torn country that could be tomorrow or five thousand years ago, a bad military decision by the King has caused the death of his eldest son. The work opens (Absolve) at the funeral. The King is thinking of revenge, while the queen is inconsolable and thinking of her son as a child. In the second movement (Libera Me) the King’s rash, anger-fuelled military action only brings more chaos and despair. In the third (Liber Scriptus) he realises the weight of his actions and asks for forgiveness, but the Queen in the fourth movement (Lacrymosa) is unable to move on from an all-consuming grief. In the last movement (Lux Aeterna) the King tries to broker an uneasy peace. The work ends in a mood of fragile hopefulness. The interspersions of the Requiem text by the chorus have a dramatic role which is semi-operatic. Their involvement in the action reflects the work’s themes: the
universality of grief, the vulnerability of the world we live in, and the Man’s addiction to conflict. © Judith Bingham

> Press tickets: Available from LICS. Ring Katie Pearce or Matthew Sims on 0113 247 8335

> The current brochure in pdf form is on Leeds Festival Chorus website
> Contact Chloë Brookes for more information: chloe.brookes@editionpeters.com
 

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