A recent episode of Mortimer and Whitehouse’s fishing programme, a supermarket shop and watching The Shawshank Redemption set me thinking about Plymouth Philharmonic Choir’s next concert at the Guildhall, at 7.30pm on Sunday 26 March, when they perform Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, writes Mary Johnson.
Paul Whitehouse was suggesting that Christmas should be run like the World Cup, taking place every four years. When I saw chocolate bunnies and eggs for sale as early as late December, I was almost in agreement with Paul and ready to include Easter. It’s easy to joke, but getting serious for a moment, for Christians across the world these are the two most significant times in the calendar. They have inspired some of the most wonderful music ever written.
Grief, hope, peace
The Stabat Mater, Latin for Mother standing (at the foot of the cross), is a 13-century poem attributed to Jacopone da Todi, which reflects on what Mary, the mother of Jesus, might have felt watching her son die on the cross. Dvořák’s work was composed after a period of unimaginable personal tragedy when, in the space of two years, three of his children died. He expressed his grief through this composition. Dvořák’s musical influences include Wagner, Brahms and Italian Opera and they are evident in this work which depicts every mood imaginable from grief through to hope and peace.
Dvořák was invited to conduct the work at the Three Choir’s Festival in 1884. Playing first violin, a young Edward Elgar wrote to a friend saying: “I wish you could hear Dvorak’s music. It is simply ravishing. So tuneful and clever, and the orchestration is wonderful… I cannot describe it: it must be heard.”
So, what about The Shawshank Redemption? A film that I didn’t think I’d enjoy. My favourite part was the transformative effect when the record was played over the Tannoy, so everyone could hear the music. Music reaches the very core of our being and unlocks something that is unique in each individual.
Plymouth Philharmonic Choir invite you to join them as they perform this profoundly moving work.
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