BENJAMIN BRITTEN

A Sketch

Britten-sm.jpg (13150 bytes)Born in Lowestoft, England, on November 22, 1913; died December 4, 1976 at Aldeburgh, England.

Benjamin Britten was the foremost English composer, and ranked among the world's greatest. Athough living in an age of atonality, Britten insisted on creating music with harmonic reference, with the result that he was criticized by theorists and praised and loved by concert-goers.

Among his more important works are: the operas "Peter Grimes "The Rape of Lucretia1', "Albert Herring", "The Beggar's Opera", and "Billy Budd"; choral works: Rejoice in the Lamb, Saint Nicolas, Spring Symphony; symphonic works: Simple Symphony, a piano concerto, and a violin concerto. Surely his masterpiece is "A War Requiem", a monumental indictment of war.

During the Second World War, Britten's pacifism brought him to the United States, where he remained from the early summer of 1939 until March of 1942. Then, aboard a Swedish cargo boat for more than a month on his return to England, Britten wrote "Hymn to St. Cecilia" for unaccompanied chorus (Opus 27), and "A Ceremony of Carols" for treble voices and harp (Opus 28).

No one can deny that Britten has made a major impact on the world of music. Anyone who deals with boychoir learns to appreciate and love his contributions to the small repertoire of the genre.

The California Boys' Choir was singularly privileged to have had the opportunity during the summer of 1974 to work with the head of the Royal College of Music in London, David Willcocks, who had recently left his 17-year post as choirmaster at Kings College in Cambridge, after having recorded more than 70 record albums, including "A Ceremony of Carols".

The choir directors were therefore privy to the wishes of the composer regarding the proper pronunciation of the old English verses of "Ceremony". When asked by Mr. Willcocks, Britten replied, "Sing it as you like; there is no authentic pronunciation for the verses, and it would be better for today's audiences to understand the texts."

The staging of Robert H. Rogers underlines the power of naive faith. He says, "In its innocence, youth is true enlightenment, and succeeds, therefore, where sophistication fails. It has been said, 'for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven'." The costumes and banners were created by David Lane.

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