Adiemus and Requiem
by Karl Jenkins
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Bless Ye the Lord (Benedicite)
by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Winter 2007 Concert Notes
Connecticut Master Chorale Orchestra
Adiemus and Requiem – Karl Jenkins
Karl Jenkins was born in Wales in 1944. His initial music education was with his father, a local school teacher, organist and choirmaster. Jenkins began his diverse musical career as an oboist in the National Children’s Orchestra. He went on to study music at University College Cardiff and at the Royal Academy of Music. He first made a name for himself as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards, and oboe.
Jenkins soon gained attention as a composer of advertising music, twice winning the industry prize for best music, among other awards. Perhaps his most-heard piece of music is the classical theme used by De Beers diamond merchants for their famous television advertising campaign. He later included it as the title track in a compilation of various works called Diamond Music. His compositions have been used by Levi’s, British Airways, Renault, Volvo, C&G, Pepsi and many others.
Today Jenkins is probably best known for his classical works, including the Adiemus project. Although composed as a separate piece, unrelated to Jenkins’ advertising music, ironically Adiemus was introduced to the American public as the background music to a Delta Airlines commercial which uses the title track Adiemus from Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary. Sprung to success by the airline commercial, Adiemus (translated “we will draw near”) became a series of albums which have topped the classical and pop charts around the world. Jenkins has conducted the Adiemus project in Japan, Germany, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as London’s Royal Albert Hall.
In August 2006, EMI records released Kiri Sings Karl in which the great soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings Jenkins compositions as well as his orchestrations of seven other works by noted composers.
Requiem received its world premiere at Southwark Cathedral in London in June of 2005 and was an instant success. In this work, Jenkins interpolates the usual movements of the Requiem Mass with settings of a series of haiku in Japanese, moving between the liturgical view of death and that observed in the world of nature. Music Week, the influential weekly guide to Europe’s music industry, designated Requiem “the ultimate in postmodern Requiems”. Another reviewer wrote, “This Requiem is completely different. From the opening movement, this work is full of spine tingling vocals and passionate instrumentals. The 'Dies Irae' is like no piece of Requiem music you have ever heard – possibly comparable to Orff’s Carmina Burana. This is a sheer joy to listen to… The final movement, 'In Paradisum', literally brings me to tears it is so beautiful.”
Ye the Lord (Benedicite) – Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) is arguably the greatest composer Britain has seen since the 17th century and the most distinguished English composer of the 20th century. In a long and extensive career, he composed music notable for its power, nobility and expressiveness, representing, perhaps, the essence of 'Englishness'. Born at Down Ampney, he was educated at Charterhouse School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a pupil of Charles Stanford and Charles Hubert Parry at the Royal College of Music, after which he studied with Max Bruch in Berlin and Maurice Ravel in Paris. He later became a teacher and conductor at the Royal College and also served as a lieutenant in World War I.
At the turn of the century, he traveled to the countryside to collect English folk songs, and assimilated their rhythms, scales, and melodic contours into his own style. Also helping to form his style were English music of the 17th century and English hymnody. He served as music editor for the English Hymnal (1906), for which he wrote the well-known hymn tune Sine Nomine (Without Name) as a setting of the text "For all the saints," and he also edited Songs of Praise (1925) and The Oxford Book of Carols (1928).
Vaughan Williams wrote Bless Ye the Lord (Benedicite) in 1930 for the Leith Hill Musical Festival in Dorking, where the composer conducted the first performance on May 2. This exuberant cantata is a setting from the canticle Benedicite, omnia opera (“O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord”) and from a poem by the 17th century poet John Austin.
Following a jubilant, striding orchestral introduction, the chorus proclaims that the Heavens, the Waters, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, Winds, Frosts and other astronomical and meteorological phenomena all exult in a great paean of praise to the Lord. The work changes mood with the soprano focusing on how the Earth pays tribute to the Lord. The chorus, in hushed ecstasy, weaves in gently flowing contrapuntal lines. The soprano also introduces Austin’s poem (“Hark, my soul, how everything strives to serve our bounteous King”). The final section returns to the vigorously joyful exclamation: “Praise Him and magnify Him forever!”