Calling all Anglophiles!

Anglophiles and British ex-pats will have a home this Friday in the Coolidge Auditorium at 12pm. The Library of Congress Chorale will perform “Britannia,” a concert celebrating the choral traditions of Great Britain. I happen to be the conductor of said ensemble and am an Anglophile through and through. I had the opportunity to complete my graduate studies at King’s College, London, which itself has a famous choir (separate from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Cleobury). While in London I sang regularly with the London Philharmonic Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus and London Symphony Chorus, three of the world’s great symphonic choruses. What becomes quickly apparent in the U.K. is the fact that choral music, of all varieties and forms, is an indisputably integral part of British culture (popular and otherwise). Many of the greatest British composers are renowned for their choral works—Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten, to name a few. Also of note are the operetta contributions of Gilbert & Sullivan (for where would we be without the Pirate King?).

St. Paul’s Cathedral & Blackfriars Bridge, London (G.W. Wilson & Co., 19th Century),  Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

St. Paul’s Cathedral & Blackfriars Bridge, London (G.W. Wilson & Co., 19th Century), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

During the holiday season, London is a wonderland. There is something about the architecture, lights, decorations, double-decker buses and spirit of Londoners that is positively charming and unique. Choral music is a significant part of this delightful atmosphere. You can hear sacred music in the famous carol services of Southwark Cathedral, King’s College, Cambridge, Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral. Massive nightly popular holiday spectaculars are presented at the Royal Albert Hall with London’s leading orchestras. Choral music is played throughout shops and singers serenade tourists at Covent Garden. Needless to say, the British holiday experience is incomplete without choral music.

Westfront of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (Engraving by J.C. Smith), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

West front of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (Engraving by J.C. Smith), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

American choral ensembles frequently perform British choral works, ranging from music of the Renaissance to the most contemporary compositions by composers like Sir John Tavener and James MacMillan (though the latter would surely prefer to be considered Scottish first). Leading British choral ensembles tour extensively throughout the United States. One of the hot choirs on the global scene is Stile Antico, a conductorless choir that approaches choral music with a collaborative chamber music mindset. Stile Antico appeared in the Coolidge Auditorium during the 2013-2014 Concerts from the Library of Congress season. A talk with Stile Antico members Andrew Griffiths and Helen Ashby may be viewed here. The Tallis Scholars, Hilliard Ensemble, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Choir of Clare College, Cambridge are just a few of the great British choral ensembles that perform throughout the United States.

The Library of Congress Music Division has a special relationship with British music, particularly from the twentieth century. Many important British composers have been commissioned by the Library and we hold many holograph manuscript scores of British works.

Here’s a glimpse of our contemporary British treasures:

Selected Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Commissions

-Bliss, Arthur: Music for oboe and four strings (1927)
-Bridge, Frank: String Quartet no. 3 (1927), String Quartet no. 4 (1937), Trio for violin, violoncello and piano (1929)
-Britten, Benjamin: String Quartet no. 1 in D major, op. 25 (1941)

Selected Koussevitzky Music Foundation Commissions

-Birtwistle, Harrison: Silbury Air, for chamber ensemble (1977)
-Britten, Benjamin: Peter Grimes, op. 33 (1944-1945)
-Davies, Peter Maxwell: Offenbarung und Untergang (1966)
-Harvey, Jonathan: Timepieces (1988) & Tranquil Abiding (1998)
-Holloway, Robin: Double Concerto, op. 67 (1989)
-Knussen, Oliver: Ophelia Dances I (1975)
-Tippett, Michael: King Priam (1961)
-Turnage, Mark-Anthony: Chicago Remains (2007)
-Walton, William: The Bear (1967)

The current Concerts from the Library of Congress season features several British figures and ensembles, as well as an American ex-pat who lives in the U.K. All events take place in the Coolidge Auditorium or Whittall Pavilion. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/concerts.

  • British composer Julian Anderson’s String Quartet no. 1, Light Music will receive its U.S. premiere on February 14, 2014. This concert by the JACK Quartet and pianist Ursula Oppens features Brian Ferneyhough’s Exordium and Thomas Adès’ Piano Quintet.
  • On March 7, 2014 the Elias String Quartet will perform Haydn, Kurtág and Beethoven.
  • Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, a native of the DMV (District-Maryland-Virginia) and current Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, will perform J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Kuhnau, Martinu and Takemitsu on April 4, 2014.
  • British composer/conductor Oliver Knussen will be in-residence at the Library from April 8-12, 2014. His residency includes the mid-Atlantic and Washington, DC debut of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Violinist Alexandra Wood and pianist/composer Huw Watkins will also be featured, along with cellist Ulrich Heinen, soprano Lucy Schaufer and baritone Andrew Sauvageau. British works to be performed include Knussen’s Cantata (Triptych, part 3), Ophelia Dances and Ophelia’s Last Dance, Britten’s Phantasy, op. 2, as well as Bridge’s Piano Trio no. 2.
  • The Danish String Quartet performed on November 2, 2013. It is a featured ensemble in the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme.
  • British musicologist, Liszt scholar and former BBC producer Alan Walker gave a lecture “In Defense of Transcription” on November 9, 2013 for #Wagner200. The lecture was accompanied by a recital by British pianist Valerie Tryon.
  • Listen to our recent podcast celebrating #Britten100, the global commemoration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary.

Event Listing
Friday, December 20, 2013, 12:00-1:00pm
Library of Congress Chorale Concert: “Britannia”
Nicholas Alexander Brown, conductor
Dan Meyer, accompanist
John Saint Amour, baritone
Stephen Czarkowski, cello

Program
Thomas Tallis | “If Ye Love Me”
Peter Warlock | “Adam Lay yBounden
Henry Purcell | “Sing, Ye Faithful” and “Britons, Strike Home!”
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor | “Viking Song”
Gustav Holst | “I Vow to Thee, My Country” and “In the Bleak Midwinter”
H.J. Gauntlett | “Once in Royal David’s City”
John Rutter | “What Sweeter Music”
Ralph Vaughan Williams | Fantasia on Christmas Carols

Coolidge Auditorium, Jefferson Building
Free, no tickets required

Program Booklet

Cupid holding British flag before bust of King George III (Engraving by W.N. Gardner, 1804), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Cupid holding British flag before bust of King George III (Engraving by W.N. Gardner, 1804), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Podcast: Song Travels | Michael Feinstein Interviews Rosanne Cash

Michael Feinstein, host of NPR Music’s “Song Travels,” recently interviewed Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal about Cash’s new album The River and the Thread. Rosanne Cash, in-residence at the Library of Congress from December 5-7, 2013, will perform in two concerts and present a talk with U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Here’s a special preview […]

The Belle Brown Collection: An American Opera Student at the Turn of the 20th Century

The Music Division’s archival collections feature the archives and personal papers of some of the most significant and influential artists and figures in music history, particularly 20th-century composers, conductors, scholars, and publishers. When researchers and performers think of the Music Division’s archival collections, names like Leonard Bernstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Serge Koussevitzky, […]

Music & Native American Heritage Month

The Library of Congress, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, maintains an exciting web portal for Native American Heritage Month. This web portal aggregates digital resources (exhibits, digitized print resources, audio and video) […]

#Britten100: Benjamin Britten & Peter Pears at the Library

REVISED July 21, 2014 to include the recording of Peter Pears reciting “The Composer” by W.H. Auden Friday, November 22, 2013 marks the hundredth birthday of British composer Benjamin Britten, OM, CH (1913-1976), who is known for revolutionizing opera and British art music in the twentieth century. Britten holds a special place in the heart […]

Walking with Danny Kaye

The following is a guest post from retired cataloger Sharon McKinley. I’ve always enjoyed living vicariously through the Music Division’s special collections. Staffers who work in the Acquisitions and Processing Section become quite intimate with the collections they process. The rest of us are more likely to happen upon wonderful finds by serendipitous means. The […]

Wagnerds Unite!

There comes a time in every anniversary year when the candles must be blown out—this year it is a necessity, as 200 candles each for Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi constitute a fire hazard, and the Library does not want to host its own “immolation” scene. But Wotan to your seats—Concerts from the Library of […]

Protest Songs Roundtable: Civil Rights, Unions, Immigrants and Stonewall

This Thursday the Music Division is pleased to present an engaging roundtable discussion that will examine the role of protest songs from the 1960s in shaping contemporary American culture. This program is part of a series of events at the Library of Congress that commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which took […]