Monday, 11 August 2008

Leslie Woodgate, The Festival of Britain & Nuneaton: A fine selection of British Music

If I see an old concert programme in a second-hand bookshop or charity shop I nearly always buy it if 1) it is reasonably priced and 2) has a work that interests me. Recently I came across a programme for a concert sponsored by the Nuneaton Community Council ‘under the patronage of His Worship the Mayor and the Borough Council’. The date was Tuesday & Wednesday, 23rd & 24th October 1951.
Initially, it was the name of the conductor that caught my eye, Leslie Woodgate. Now I intend to write a short bio about this gentleman in a subsequent post, but suffice to say that he was a friend and colleague of both John Ireland and Roger Quilter.

The concert was part of Nuneaton’s celebration of the Festival of Britain, which of course was concentrated in London, but had events throughout the entire United Kingdom.
But it is the programme that impresses most. An entire concert devoted to British Music and repeated on two consecutive nights. I give the batting order and append brief notes on the lesser known works.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie: Overture Britannia
This overture was composed in 1894 and is surely a very good opening number for a concert of British Music. Of course extensive use is made of Thomas Arne’s patriotic song Rule Britannia which was composed c. 1740

Roger Quilter: Non Nobis Domine (full choir and Orchestra)
This was a setting of words by Rudyard Kipling -a poet and author who typically offends people who have never read his work. The text was written for the Pageant of Parliament at the Royal Albert Hall in 1934

John Bennet: All creatures now are merry minded (full choir)
Thomas Morley: Sing wee and chant it (full choir)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Greensleeves

Gordon Jacob: Pretty Polly Pillicote (ladies voices)
This is a ‘gay little piece’ for ladies voices. An example of a part song for which Jacob was once popular.

Leslie Woodgate: Silent Land (male voices)
A setting of words by Longfellow, this song has an air of “sadness and tranquillity.”

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry: England (full choir and orchestra)
This text was paraphrased from John of Gaunt’s speech in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard II’.


Sir Edward Elgar: Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf Op.30 (full choir and orchestra)

Alas I was unable to find any reference to this fine concert in the musical literature or The Times newspaper. Currently, six out of the eight works are available on CD.
Finally, I cannot help wondering how successful a concert like this would be today?

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