Sunday, March 18, 2007


In what looks like a bit of a faux pas, the Bank of England has chosen this year—the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edward Elgar—to replace Elgar's picture on the reverse of the £20 note. In a periodic redesign intended to combat forgery, Elgar and Worcester Cathedral will be replaced on the £20 with economist Adam Smith and a picture of a pin factory. (Elgar was preceded on the £20 note by scientist Michael Faraday.) In a little over a month, I'll report to you from Worcester Cathedral (Clara and the St. Michael's Singers are giving a concert there with the English String Orchestra) and, perhaps, the nearby Elgar birthplace.

Meanwhile, this has been a week of great music. On Tuesday evening, I had the treat of listening to the University of Warwick orchestra and chorus perform Elgar's "The Music Makers" and Mahler's massive second symphony. My niece Margaret was shining in the violin section, and in the viola section I spotted Harold Wyber, a member of the University of Warwick's University Challenge team, which pulled off a thrilling 165-160 victory over the University of East Anglia three weeks ago. The Mahler second was thrilling, too, and loud, anchored by a particularly good horn section.

Last night, Clara and I drove down to Tewkesbury again for a concert in the abbey by the choral group The Sixteen–part of their annual Choral Pilgrimage, which takes them to various cathedrals and major churches around Great Britain to perform a special programme of choral music. This year, it was glorious music by sixteenth century papal composers Palestrina, Felice Anerio, and Allegri, in a programme called "Music from the Sistine Chapel." It was heavenly to sit in Tewkesbury Abbey, under the decorated Gothic vault of the nave, listening to one of the greatest choral groups in the world. The high points were Allegri's famous Miserere, with breathtaking high-Cs provided by soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, and Anerio's Stabat Mater. Most of the works performed at the concert are available on CD.

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