Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Sir Arthur Bliss ~ a glorious homecoming.

Well, it happened and what an occasion – a true moment of music history.

For Michael Foster, this was the culmination of a 21 year dream – to bring The Beatitudes home to be performed in Coventry Cathedral, the iconic building for which it was commissioned and written and where it should have been performed on the evening of the Cathedral’s Consecration in May 1962.

Not only was it not performed in the Cathedral then, but it had to wait 50 long years to be so, Saturday last, 22nd September 2012.

In conversation, Michael said that for other men they might have a vintage car or perhaps a boat that was their life’s dream and passionate hobby, but for him it was The Beatitudes and that it should perform in Coventry.

I was lucky enough to help with the marketing of the project, not least the writing of this Blog to tell and share the amazing story that was to become Bliss’ journey, home to Coventry. When corresponding with Michael (many times daily) I would sign myself off Rodney Bashford, Chandlerthis was the night Michael Foster’s boat came in.

I am not a musical journalist – anything but, so this is not a review of the evening. I leave that to the professionals and none perhaps more so than John Quinn who writes for MusicWeb International. This is John’s review: http://www.seenandheard-international.com/2012/09/23/the-beatitudes-in-coventry-cathedral-50-years-late/.

For me that’s it. The boat is home and we have done our level best to honour the memory of a gentleman – Sir Arthur Bliss.

These are some final thoughts, the memories I leave to the photographs that follow.

For Jonathan Crown, son of Jennifer Vyvyan, Bliss’ Soloist for the fated premier of The Beatitudes, I’m sure he felt that his own mother’s memory was beautifully heralded by the joyous voice of Orla Boylan, soloist for the homecoming.

To a person, orchestra, chorus, soloists, everybody had that extra lift to do justice to the work that night. Paul Daniel, conductor, put personal grief behind him and was so clearly enthused to lead, as he put it “the real premiere of this magnificent work”.

John Spence, Director of Membership at the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus told me beforehand “how much the chorus was looking forward to the performance. They knew the story and were each delighted to be playing their part in musical history”.

So, beginning with the Chorus gathered before the West Screen of Coventry Cathedral in advance of the concert, I invite you to enjoy the photographs of Richard Lycett who has superbly captured this extraordinary journey’s end:

Andrew Kennedy, Tenor - Orla Boylan, Soprano - Paul Daniel, Conductor:

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra:

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus:

Omar Ebrahim, narrator - Schoenberg's 'A Survivoor from Warsaw':

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