Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Two sopranos – one historic voice

Elizabeth Watts had been previewed as the soprano performing in the extraordinary musical event that brings The Beatitudes home to Coventry on 22nd September. Elizabeth was unable to fulfil the role and we are delighted to announce that Orla Boylan (pictured below) will now perform in this historic concert.

Perhaps it is fate that Orla will again be singing under Paul Daniel, conductor, with whom she recently performed Vier Letzte Lieder with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra under Paul Daniel and War Requiem with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Is this a sign?

 …for surely it was Britten’s War Requiem (together with no lesser a degree of ego-massaging miss-management) that ‘forced’ Sir Arthur Bliss’ Beatitudes to be performed, not in the iconic Cathedral for which it was written, but in Coventry’s old and acoustically challenged theatre.

The Times has described Orla Boylan as “…the Irish soprano in sensational form.” And we are all looking forward to welcoming her and The Beatitudes into Coventry Cathedral – home, finally.

It was Jennifer Vyvyan (pictured below) who, in May 1962, should have taken to the stage below the huge vaulted ceilings of the new Coventry Cathedral to sing the soprano sections of The Beatitudes, so caringly and passionately written by Sir Arthur Bliss (Master of the Queen’s Music) for the Cathedral’s Consecration – to be performed on the night of the Consecration.

But, this was not to be.

Jennifer Vyvyan’s son, Jonathan Crown, will be attending the concert on 22nd September and wrote: “ I am very much looking forward to attending this exciting event”.

For the original fated performance, Bliss was particularly pleased to receive the letter from Jennifer accepting his invitation for her to perform the soprano role. She was in fact on honeymoon at the time, having married Leon Crown.

She wrote to Sir Arthur – “Thrilled to bits with the parcel that arrived this morning.” -  He had posted the new score of The Beatitudes to Jennifer on her honeymoon - “am hard at work already and think it is wonderful. More soon. XXX J.V.”

[The original postcard can be seen in the Cambridge University Library.]

But it was not to be. She performed admirably, but the performance could not deliver what was intended as a grand celebration of everything Coventry’s new Cathedral was to stand for. Sir Arthur called it “a major disappointment” and Jennifer took in her professional stride what Bliss referred to as “a maladjustment most unfortunate to me…”.

Professional understatement in the shadow of a more vocal creative regime.

On 5 April 1974 Jennifer Vyvyvan suffered complications from a bronchial/asthmatic condition she’d been struggling to control for years, and died at her home in Fitzjohns Avenue, Hampstead, NW London. She left a husband, Leon Crown (married 1962) and a 9yr-old son Jonathan Crown.

Orla Boylan is no stranger to grand musical occasion. Her presence and her voice will carry Bliss’ memory to an audience who eagerly await this amazing homecoming. Under the familiar baton of Paul Daniel, who himself said: “I'm delighted to be a part of paying homage to Sir Arthur Bliss in this wonderful event. Putting things right after all these years is long overdue and I'm really looking forward to conducting the real 'premiere' of this magnificent work.” This promises to be a truly magnificent occasion.

 At 7.30 pm on 22nd September this year, Coventry promises a rapturous welcome and enthusiastic performance of The Beatitudes in a concert including:

Paul Daniel, conductor
Orla Boylan, soprano
Andrew Kennedy, tenor
Omar Ebrahim, narrator
BBC Philharmonic
Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus
Schoenberg: ‘A Survivor from Warsaw’ op 46
Beethoven: Symphony no 5 in C minor op 67
& Bliss: ‘The Beatitudes

For more information read on...

(Short code to Coventry Cathedral website)

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