Lent starts tomorrow; the season of abstinence, penitence, reflection or improvement, depending on your particular outlook. Lent provokes powerful emotions as it invites us to reflect first on our own weaknesses, and then on the devastating events of Jesus’s death, and so it’s hardly surprising that it should have inspired so many composers to pour the deepest thoughts of their hearts into music. Whatever our own beliefs, Lent offers us all a chance to step back, to examine our lives and our souls, and the extraordinarily beautiful music for this time of year can help to guide our own contemplations.
As I did at Christmas, I’ve collected all my seasonal listings together on a separate page. Durham University Chamber Choir got in first with their St John Passion last weekend, reviewed here and there’s more Bach at Brancepeth on 23 March when David Stancliffe and The Bishop’s Consort perform a selection of Bach’s canatas under the title “Music for the Passion“.
The season of preparation before Christians mark Christ’s death and resurrection leads us to ponder our own mortality and the sacrifices of others. Durham Cathedral choir invite us to do both in their concert on Saturday 8 March when they sing the Requiem settings by Brahms and Howells in a concert to mark the start of the First World War centenary. Both of these settings use a selection of vernacular texts compiled by the composers instead of the traditional Latin Mass, presenting two very personal reflections on death, and what it means to remain alive and mourn.
The traditional Latin Requiem text can be heard the following week on 15 March, when Durham University Choral Society perform Mozart’s Requiem. On a more directly Lenten theme, they are also performing a new work by Ben Rowarth – Christus: A Passiontide Sequence, which you can read all about here in my feature article.
We also have a visit from the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds, who are coming to Durham to sing Renaissance English music for Passiontide in Durham Castle’s Norman Chapel on 3 April. It looks like an absolutely wonderful choice of music, and it’s free!
And finally, Messiah – the only major work I can think of, off the top of my head, that we get to enjoy at both Christmas and Easter. This year, Durham County Youth Choir are celebrating their 50th anniversary in a special performance in Durham Cathedral that brings together past and present members of the choir.