This year marks the centenary anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in World War One. In celebration of this November 1918 armistice, the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra present two relevant major works of the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams served in World War One, which resulted in the deaths of over 8.5 million, and he pondered how one might recover from such savagery, carnage and the loss of friends. Vaughan Williams held to his belief that music was a means to preserve civilization, even in the midst of conflict and war, and these two works are perhaps the composer’s most heartfelt statements about the horrors of war and the destiny of the human soul.
Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote Dona nobis pacem in 1936, when the destruction of the First World War was not far in the past and Europe was once again facing the signs of war on the horizon. This powerful oratorio, with an overarching message of peace and reconciliation, warns of the destruction and death brought about by war and violence. Using a variety of texts, including Walt Whitman poetry, political speeches, Biblical passages, and text from the Mass, Vaughan Williams created this transformative work that is as relevant today as it was in 1936.
For this concert, AFCO pairs Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem with his oratorio Sancta Civitas. Completed in 1925, Sancta Civitas sets excerpts from the book of Revelations, taken from various sources, including the King James Bible and the Taverner Bible. With movements covering the gamut of emotions, from ethereal, gentle, and ecstatic to powerful, intense, and somber, Sancta Civitas was the composer’s favorite of his choral works, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest English choral works ever written.
Both of these unique oratorios have monumental forces behind them. In addition to the orchestra, the American Festival Chorus will be joined by the Lux Singers and the combined Cache Children’s Choir and Bear River Middle School Girls’ Choir. Soloists: Cindy Dewey, soprano; Cory Evans, tenor; Errik Hood, baritone.
Sunday’s concert will be a prelude to the American Festival Chorus’ 2018 tour of England in July, where they will be performing at Ely Cathedral, Coventry Cathedral, Kneller Hall in Coventry, and Holy Trinity Sloane Square in London.