Dancing Day: Music of the British Isles – Winter 2006

dancing day

What is it that makes music from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales speak to us so clearly? Partly it is our common language: we will usually understand the words. British music is also eminently singable. Is it their heritage of folk tunes that has shaped British composers’ melodic sense? Or the legacy of hundreds of performances of Messiah and Elijah by those two most singable of German composers, Handel and Mendelssohn?

On Saturday, January 21, 2006, Women’s Voices Chorus performed Gustav Holst’s “Ave Maria,” along with music by Benjamin Britten, William Byrd, Imogen Holst, John Tavener, and John Rutter; and a Scottish folk song, “Tarry Wool.” The centerpiece was a choral suite, The Dancers, by Welsh composer Grace Williams. This rediscovered work from 1954 has wonderful texts by, among others, Hilaire Belloc and May Sarton, and is scored for strings and harp, as well as soprano soloist and women’s chorus.

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