Showing posts with label Anthony Ritchie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anthony Ritchie. Show all posts

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Gallipoli to the Somme in the UK

Gallipoli to the Somme, London, 13 June 2018  Photo: Ian Thomson
By all accounts the two performances of Anthony Ritchie’s Gallipoli to the Somme at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford on 2 June and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on 13 June 2018 we brilliant, to say the least. 

Simon Over conductor 
Anna Leese soprano 
Jon Stainsby baritone 
City Choir Dunedin (New Zealand) 
The Parliament Choir 
Southbank Sinfonia 
Concertmaster and solo violin: Tessa Petersen (Dunedin Symphony Orchestra)

It was an honour and a privilege for 30 members of City Choir Dunedin to travel to the opposite end of the world to participate in these performances and enjoy the generous and warm hospitality of the Parliament Choir singers and the Southbank Sinfonia players.


‘The concert was absolutely magnificent and Gallipoli to the Somme a most moving and inventive combination of words and music. Who knew that extracts from war diaries could be such an effective foil against the very varied patchwork of poetry and lyrics. Absolutely incredible and no wonder it got a standing ovation.’ 

Jenny Lewis, poet and author of ‘Taking Mesopotamia’

‘Congratulations to all who conceived and then realised such an aurally, textually and metaphorically even monumentally perfect event with which to end the Series formally (although there remains the poetry evening on Tuesday). It was a superb programme. The Lark Ascending began with unprecedented saxophone accompaniment which didn’t deter the soloist and orchestra one bit, and then ended with real birdsong as the final violin strains faded away – a moment of pure enchantment, so English, so right for the occasion. To my shame, I had never heard of Augusta Holm├Ęs, but I loved her orchestral piece, rich and sonorous, uplifting and operatic. As for the Ravel, rarely can a performance have had such poignancy and power, despite the light-hearted nature of some of the movements, generating contrasting emotions which seem to have regularly surfaced during the year. All three pieces were hugely enhanced by Kate Kennedy’s illuminating programme notes. 

However, Anthony Ritchie’s personal, colossal, majestic, ironic, heartbreaking piece was what took all our breath away. The programmatic selection of texts – many of which were little-known and may now become deservedly less so – was itself given new depth through that compelling music, somehow conveying a glimpse of the unfathomable. The symbolism of that violin suddenly became clear to all, too. The bitter juxtaposition of jolliness and catastrophe, of dreams and shattering reality: all was encompassed in the infinite range of vocal, choral and orchestral expression. On a personal note, Vive la Compagnie! brought back to mind a performance of the stirring original for male voices that I had conducted early in my career, without, of course, knowing anything of its being sung just before the Battle of the Somme. Last night’s version was overwhelming, the utterly unexpected disintegration of both words and music at the end evocative of the end of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony or Das Lied von der Erde, in both of which words and music, finally, give way to silence, because that’s all we are left with. And to close with that intimate setting of Ataturk’s embracing, almost comforting sentiments was nothing short of 

My apologies for rambling. I will not be the only one to have been profoundly affected by last night, and not least by the UK-NZ cooperation with all its symbolism.’ 

John Dunstan, musician and educator

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ritchie oratorio launched to heart-rending effect

1 October 2016, Dunedin Town Hall. Photo credit: Pieter du Plessis
Gallipoli to the Somme
Saturday 1 October 2016, Dunedin Town Hall

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Over, performed another 50th anniversary celebration in the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday evening with a world premiere marking 100 years since the loss of so many New Zealand soldiers at the Battle of the Somme.

Anthony Ritchie’s oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme for orchestra, choir and two soloists drew text from diaries, poems and traditional songs, taking its title from Alexander Aitken’s book of war experiences in the Otago Battalion.

Aitken carried his violin to war with him, and the 55-minute work began with a beautiful lyrical violin solo (Tessa Petersen) setting the mood for an enduring memorial performance by DSO, 120 members of City Choir Dunedin and Southern Youth choir (directed by David Burchell) and Dunedin’s internationally acclaimed soprano Anna Leese and bass Martin Snell.

The choir was superb, rising to every demand of shading and balance, especially in the strong anthems E te ope tuatahi and All the Hills and Vales Along.

Programme text and detailed references enabled the audience to follow the powerful content of this emotional work, as soprano solos farewelled a lover or mourned the loss of three sons.

Train journeys and military action were assigned bass solos.

Declamatory, often unaccompanied solos were all gloriously delivered, emotional and heart-rending.

Noticeable was the ingenious scoring, never too busy or overshadowing text, yet always in character.

Percussion was important throughout.

After the final chord, complete silence held the audience before prolonged applause and standing ovation rewarded this brilliant new work.

Ritchie will be remembered as one of the greatest composers of his time. There were three other items.

Le Tombeau de Couperin, by Maurice Ravel, originally a six-movement piano suite in memory of six friends killed in World War 1, was later orchestrated.

Swirling sound from tight, tidy strings impressed throughout, with melodic themes suitably prominent. Australian born F. S. Kelly (1881-1916) composed few works before he was killed in action in France.

Elegy for String Orchestra ‘In Memoriam Rupert Brooke’ was written after the death (also at war) of his great friend British poet Rupert Brooke.

Again, the strings (including harp) excelled with rich texture, haunting lyricism and an emotionally laced, soft peaceful final passage.

A big, full orchestral sound for Wagner’s Prelude to Die Maeistersinger ended a magnificent programme.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, Monday 3 October 2016.