Sat 28Sep2024

Song of Songs

All Saints Church, Clifton, Bristol.

Organiser: Jenny Tribe

Bruce Saunders

Bruce Saunders was a choral scholar at Cambridge where he trained with John Carol Case. He sang with Bristol Intimate Opera in the 1970s and in the University production of Vaughan Williams’ ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’. He was a founder member of ‘Westron Wind’ who, under David Stancliffe, put on some of the first ‘original instrument’ performances of Schütz, Monteverdi and Bach in this country. An experienced recitalist, he has also sung on the operatic stage. As an oratorio soloist, he has appeared with many choirs and choral societies in London and elsewhere in repertoire ancient and modern. For many years, he has enjoyed performing the works of J.S.Bach with orchestras using period instruments and has continued his interest in exploring the less familiar medieval and Renaissance choral repertoire. In London he founded and directed New Renaissance Voices from 1986 to 2014. Returning to Bristol in 2014, he founded and directs Nova, an early music vocal ensemble specialising in pre-1600 European polyphony, and is one of the founding trustees of the Bristol Early Music Festival.

The Voice of the Turtledove
A workshop for singers on settings of The Song of Songs

Sacred or secular? Erotic or spiritual? This tantalising collection of poems does not hide away in the Apocrypha but takes its place among the canonical books of the Old Testament. Confronted by a work of unambiguous sensuality, Judaism preferred to treat the poetry as an allegory of the tempestuous love-story between God and his people. Medieval Christianity used verses from The Song of Songs, suitably doctored, as hymns of adoration to the Virgin Mary or as spiritual love-songs between Christ and his bride, the Church. Composers across Catholic Europe loved it. By the end of the 16th Century, they were keen to explore the more expressive musical styles of the madrigal and early opera, yet in church they were confined to using sacred texts. The Song of Songs allowed them to do both.

In this workshop we will sing settings by Palestrina, of course, but other composers too from all over Europe. The workshop may not be erotic, but musically it will certainly be fascinating and fun.

Full details and application forms to follow.

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