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Opera – December 1982
The Sely Child (Drakeford). Little Missenden Church, October 9
For the 23rd Little Missenden Festival, an opera for church performance was commissioned from Richard Drakeford, with text by Jeremy Lemmon based on the Prioress’s Tale about the sely (innocent) child from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In seven scenes, with Prologue and Epilogue during which the singers, as in Britten’s Church Parables, enter and leave in procession, The Sely Child runs for 80 minutes. It is written mainly for boys’ voices, broken and unbroken, with a few roles for adults such as the Mother and the Provost of the City. Richard Drakeford played his own score on the piano—the Little Missenden Church is too tiny for even the smallest orchestra. The story is simple: ****a boy on his way home from school is brutally murdered by four Satan’s men, incited by a mysterious Yeoman****, for singing the plainsong hymn Alma Redemptoris Mater. The murderers are caught and sentenced to death, but the martyred child’s voice is heard begging for mercy
on their behalf. As so often in opera, it is the devil who has, if not all, then most of the best tunes. Satan’s men are well-characterized and given robust, snarling music, while the Yeoman has one spine-chilling phrase about meeting the others soon at his master’s fireside. The Mother has an effective prayer to the Virgin and a touching lament for her dead son, and the chorus of neighbours have a ferocious ensemble condemning the murderers before the Sely Child’s voice turns them from vengeance to forgiveness. Otherwise the musical setting is always apt, but scarcely memorable.
The performance was well-rehearsed and assured. Edward Wickham sang with pure tone as the child, his voice floating angelically from the organ-loft. Katharine Bown was restrained and moving in the Mother’s grief and Timothy Smithies made a suitably sinister Yeoman. The four Satan’s men, though far from evil in appearance, attacked their music vigorously, and the large chorus, drawn from St Clement Dane’s School, Chorley Wood and Harrow School, offered ringing tone and, helped by the ****conductor, Philip Cartledge****, good ensemble. Mr Lemmon produced; owing to lack of space, acting had to be by gesture or facial expression, and nearly everyone over-reacted in consequence, except for Mr Lemmon himself, whose grave Provost resisted that temptation. ELIZABETH FORBES
Click to access theharrovian231010.pdf
The Harrovian – 23 October 2010
A Weekend of Organ Music
with David Briggs Part 1
Speech Room Recital
To celebrate the final stage of the refurbishment of the Speech Room organ – and to finally mark its return to full health – a
celebrity recital was given on Saturday evening by David Briggs, Organist Emeritus of Gloucester Cathedral and Artist in
Residence of Ascension Memorial Episcopal Church, Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Mr Briggs is one of the world’s most eminent organists, with a busy international career, and we were incredibly lucky to
be able to attract him to Harrow to give a stunning recital on the much-loved four-manual Harrison and Harrison instrument
in Speech Room.
Mr Briggs gave entertaining and informative introductions through the programme, and revealed that he had played this
organ before. He admitted to being amazed to calculate that it was 28 years ago in 1982, while Organ Scholar at King’s
College, Cambridge, that he was invited to give a recital here by Mr Phillip Cartledge. He much enjoyed his return, and it fell to DNW to return to him that audience’s many thanks.
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