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GU choirs pay tribute to Benjamin Britten

Fri., Feb. 22, 2013, midnight

The Gonzaga University Choirs will perform tonight at 7:30 at Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The Gonzaga University Choirs will perform tonight at 7:30 at Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Composer among England’s most renowned

The Gonzaga University Choirs, under the direction of Timothy Westerhaus, will present a 100th Birthday Festival Concert tonight in honor of English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).

Organist John Bodinger is featured guest artist for the concert.

Spokane is one of 140 cities internationally that are honoring Britten this year.

The works to be performed tonight will be varied, wrote Westerhaus, Gonzaga’s director of choirs and vocal studies, in an email.

“The repertoire is both sacred and secular featuring a wide variety of Britten’s vocal music, from the Latin Missa Brevis to the exhilarating ‘scandal’ of the adulterers in ‘The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard,’ ” he said. “Britten was drawn to unique poetry, and this program features that of Christopher Smart for ‘Rejoice in the Lamb.’ (Smart) wrote ‘Jubilate Agno’ while in a mental institution … the poetry is profound.”

The text of the final chorus admonishes us to sing “Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable.”

Musicologist Anthony Burton wrote that “Benjamin Britten’s choral music inspires among performers and listeners both affection and admiration. Affection, because of his ability to write parts for amateurs and young singers which are, if not always easy, then certainly always rewarding and memorable … admiration for the technical command which can achieve those perfect settings, in a wide range of textures and harmonies, with intrinsically simple materials.”

Other choral selections scheduled for performance include: Jubilate Deo in C, “Country Girls” (from “Gloriana”), “Two Ballads,” and Te Deum in C.

Britten is perhaps best known to concert audiences through his “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” This popular work, along with other Britten compositions, wasfeatured prominently in the film “Moonrise Kingdom.” Estonian composer Arvo Pärt composed his most performed orchestral work dedicated to Britten’s memory. Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten was performed last season by the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes will provide a perfect acoustical space for the choral music of England’s most renowned and beloved 20th century composer. There will be a reception after the concert with birthday cake.


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