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Exeter Symphony Orchestra et al perform The Dream of Gerontius

Saturday July 6, 2019 at 19:30
Exeter Cathedral, Exeter
Reserved: £26 front nave; £20 front nave (restricted view); £20 rear nave; unreserved: £12 side aisles; full-time students and under 18s half price
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  1. The Dream of Gerontius Op 38 - Sir Edward Elgar

The Exeter Symphony Orchestra – with internationally-renowned soloists Thomas Hobbs (tenor), Madeleine Shaw (mezzo soprano) and Tim Murfin (bass), the Exeter Philharmonic Choir, the University of Exeter Chapel Choir and St david's Singers – is delighted to present a major performance of The Dream of Gerontius by Sir Edward Elgar. The Exeter Symphony Orchestra is also proud to form part of the Exeter Festival 2019.

The Dream of Gerontius is an unforgettable, large-scale work for orchestra, vocal soloists, chorus and organ; although according to its composer it is neither cantata nor oratorio, the piece is ideally suited to the great setting of Exeter Cathedral and will be a treat to hear. Even more so because our soloists’ names – Thomas Hobbs, Madeleine Shaw and Tim Murfin – will be familiar to many. All three singers have international reputations, but are Exeter-based; Thomas and Madeleine grew up in the city and the Exeter Symphony Orchestra is honoured to share the platform with them and three illustrious choirs.

Elgar based The Dream of Gerontiuson Cardinal John Henry Newman’s epic 1866 poem which relates the journey of a pious old man’s soul from his deathbed to God’s judgement; it is now universally accepted as his finest choral work. However, it was not always thus! Completed in a hurry for the Birmingham Music Festival in 1900, its UK premiere was nearly a disaster. The music had been published for just three months, the performance was under-rehearsed and it simply proved too challenging for its performers. However, after this inauspicious start, outstanding performances in Düsseldorf (witnessed by the great Richard Strauss), London (in Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral), New York, Sydney, Paris and Vienna followed, and by 1905 The Dream of Gerontiushad been recognised as a masterpiece. Even then it took many years to achieve full doctrinal acceptance in protestant circles and to be heard in Elgar’s home cathedral of Worcester. These days the doctrine no longer matters; the tenor (Gerontius), mezzo soprano (Angel) and bass (Priest) soloists simply tell a heartfelt story of loss and hope in the face of death, and the words and music are rightly cherished in place alongside Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

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