Aldeburgh Festival


What a great boon to have my recent choral piece One Day to Sing included in the BBC Singers' programme at Aldeburgh. This short anthem was written for London's three Cathedral choirs and performed by them, all together, at the service traditionally held somewhere around St Cecilia's Day by the charity Help Musicians. This event in late 2021 inevitably focused around the difficult Covid years we musicians in particular have undergone. On that occasion, the three men-and-boys choirs of course did a very good job on a totally new piece in a very boomy space. But I was overjoyed to hear the recent Singers' BBC radio broadcast of this new piece, inevitably more sharply etched, in the fantastic Snape Maltings acoustic.


The first half of this concert, marking the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, appropriately revived a suite called A Garland for the Queen which was commissioned on the occasion of the 1953 Coronation from ten big name composers of that era, and ten poets. It was first performed in the very new Royal Festival Hall on the eve of the great Westminster Abbey event. We learned that Britten and Walton weren't included in the group because they were already so busy writing other Coronation themed work (and how !) Also not included were any women composers, and there was but one woman poet represented - it was dear Ursula Wood, a welcome inclusion by the composer husband she'd recently married, Ralph Vaughan Williams. While marvelling at the skill and energy of the BBC Singers under brilliant Owain Park at working their way all through this long and complex suite, it felt like a heavy first half to a concert, and often repetitive in sound and style. Much more to my enjoyment were new works in the second half by Hilary Campbell (also Jubilee-themed, with a text ingeniously found amongst the writings of E Nesbit) and Omri Kochavi.


Pictured - I couldn't attend the Aldeburgh Festival, but on the concert day made a point of looking carefully at the reeds in Naarden-Vesting, North Holland.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer