The Durban Chamber Choir (DCC) is set to perform a programme of English choral repertoire drawn from the 16th and 20th centuries, enticingly grouped under the title, Bittersweet. This can be heard in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 27 May, and in Durban on Sunday 3 June.
Innovatively curated by the Choir’s Director, Dr Christopher Cockburn, the upcoming programme will feature music capturing a wide spectrum of emotions and mind-sets, ranging from light-hearted love songs to darker-tinged pieces reflecting a more sombre mood.
Works to be heard will include those by early music masters such as Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585), Thomas Morley (1557 – 1602) and John Wilbye (1576 – 1638), alongside pieces by Sir Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) and others, including a short setting of George Herbert’s poem ‘Bitter-sweet’ composed by Cockburn himself.
In all the 16th-century pieces the texts themselves mention either the word ‘bitter’ or the word ‘sweet’, or both. Some focus entirely on the ‘sweetness’ of their subject (primarily love), as in Morley’s well-known madrigal ‘Now is the month of Maying’. Others, such as Tallis’s ‘Like as the doleful dove’ focus on its ‘bitterness’. The really interesting ones are those who see both, and fuse them together in that apparent contradiction of ‘bitter-sweetness’, as in John Wilbye’s remarkable six-part madrigal ‘Draw on sweet night’. Music’s ability to express contrasting emotional states simultaneously was picked up by the English composers of the late 19th to the mid-20th century, who were able to capture a characteristic mood of gentle melancholy, of radiant beauty tinged with sadness. This can be heard in different ways the two part-songs by Elgar, and the two anthems (accompanied by organ) by Edgar Bainton and Herbert Howells, which are accompanied by the organ and are staples of the English cathedral repertoire.
DCC’s Bitter Sweet programme will be performed at the Lutheran Church in Hayfields, Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 27 May, and reprised at St Thomas’s Anglican Church, Musgrave on Sunday 3 June. Both performances start at 3pm, and last about an hour. Refreshments will be served after the concerts. Tickets are available at the door from 2pm, and admission to the venues is from 2.30pm. Tickets are R70 per person (student/scholar OAP concessions R40). School groups are admitted free, and group bookings may be made, by prior arrangement with the Choir (firstname.lastname@example.org).