Classical Music - The Esterhazy Choir
You might not have noticed it but Saint Cecilia probably passes through your hands nearly every day: she is pictured together with Edward Elgar on the back of the current £20 note. Cecilia, an early Roman Christian said to have been martyred in 210 is the patron saint of musicians, and has hence had a number of musical compositions created in her name. November 22nd is St. Cecilia’s day and to mark the occasion the Esterhazy Choir are performing a number of these works, including Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia, Bernard Rose’s Feast Song for St Cecilia and Peter Philips’ Caecilia Virgo, as well as Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and a few works of Thomas Tomkins, to mark the 350th anniversary of the Welsh composer’s death.
There has been a long tradition of writing odes and songs to St Cecilia in Britain and Benjamin Britten felt particularly attracted to such a task as he was born on St. Cecilia’s day. The words of the piece were written by WH Auden - this was the final collaboration between the two artists, who might be said to have reached a point of ‘artistic difference’. The score to the piece suffered an unusual fate: Britten wrote it in the States in 1940, but had it confiscated on returning to England in 1942: the customs authorities thought it might have been some sort of Nazi code. He had to rewrite the whole thing from memory.