Bass Stephen Hines finally gets the chance to sing The Creation by Haydn with us tonight – and he’s delighted:
Splendid! After 14 years of singing with London Philharmonic Choir, I think this is my first opportunity to run this delightful work. I did however get plenty of practice doing it with The Philharmonia Chorus.
During the 22 years I spent with the Philharmonia Chorus, I believe I clocked up about ten performances of this masterpiece! The earliest of these, 18 June 1982, was a performance in The Royal Festival Hall conducted by Seiji Ozawa. Our chorus master at that time was the late Heinz Mende.
The Creation continued to pop up quite regularly until the choir was sourced by an American conductor by the name of Gilbert Levine. He invited us to come to Baltimore and sing it, so needless to say there was no shortage of volunteers in the choir for a trip to the USA. Our performance there, took place at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virginia Mary. Quite a mouthful, but we also performed it at Westminster Cathedral with Mr Levine a month later.
From the opening ‘Representation of Chaos’ through to the finale, ‘Sing the Lord, ye voices all’, this work is a delight to perform, or indeed just listen to. Many will know that this final number is written for choir and soloists, however it is the first time in the work that Haydn writes a part for an Alto soloist. And it is short! No concert promoter is ever going to pay a fee to a professional Alto to stand by for the entire performance, just to sing these few bars. In performances which I have witnessed, a volunteer is usually found from the choir to join the solo line up for this. Er, No squabbling please. Would the Alto section form an orderly queue!
My personal favourite moments are really the solo numbers in this. I have long admired the wonderful soprano solo ‘On mighty pens’. Although I have often wondered from where the word ‘pens’ originated; perhaps a poor translation from German? I am informed on good authority however, that English is the original language of the Oratorio.
Curiously, I have had the opportunity of singing this in German. The Philharmonia responded to a request for a German performance from Claus Peter Flor 15-16 June 1991. The choir’s German chorus master by this time had changed from Heinz Mende to Hurst Neumann.
I have myself enjoyed trying my hand at the bass aria ‘Now Heaven in Fullest Glory Shone’. I have had fun, experimenting with this in German and English. The other bass aria in The Creation is of course ‘Rolling in Foaming Billows’, but I haven’t so far had the nerve to ask any pianist to play the continuous running right hand semiquavers at crotchet=132!
I am certain that those of us in the choir who are revisiting The Creation after previous performances will enjoy this concert, and we will heartily recommend it to those reading it for the first time. It is one of Haydn’s most popular works, but I am wondering when we will get the chance to air some of the much neglected masses…
Enjoy the concert everyone!
Sir Roger Norrington conductor
Lucy Crowe soprano
Thomas Hobbs tenor
Christopher Maltman bass
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Philharmonic Choir
Haydn The Creation
This performance will be sung in English.