What do the Bible, classical music and oratorios have in common? Quite a lot if you are thinking about George Fredric Handel (the 250th anniversary of whose death is being marked this year). However, younger generations are losing touch with all three fairly rapidly.
But librettist and cleric Derek Wensley has kept faith with an ancient tradition in a distinctly new voice, he believes, and this month (April 2009) he is rewarded with a performance in a major London chamber music venue.
The recently retired United Reformed Church minister from the East End of London has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream by compiling Re:Creation, a musical account of the biblical creation story. Using contemporary English, Derek has put together words from the Bible and synthesised them with an inspirational score from the music director of Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud‘s Youth Theatre, David Perkins.
The new oratorio for soloists, chorus and orchestra is to be presented by Consortium, a 24 voice professional choir at the world famous St John’s, Smith Square, in Westminster on Wednesday 22 April 2009.
Employing over 150 scriptural verses, Re:Creation re-tells the story of God's gift of life, redemption, and the promise of a new heaven and earth. It is inspired by the great sacred choral masterpieces of Handel, Bach and Haydn - though its originators do not claim to have achieved quite their greatness!
David Perkins has developed a sacred works portfolio which both singers and audiences delight to present and hear, those who have been involved with the process say. Re:Creation, his first full length work on a biblical theme, was premiered in Guildford in June 2007, with a 50 strong choir of local singers and soloists.
Its first two performances were presented to wide acclaim, sell-out audiences and standing ovations - and now it is hoped the magic can be worked again in London's West End.
The move to St John’s Smith Square gives choral music lovers the chance to hear Perkins’ score in its full setting with professional soloists, choir and the Chameleon Arts Orchestra. It works well for Easter, too.
The internationally acclaimed bass-baritone Jeremy White has agreed to sing the voice of God and appears by kind permission of the Royal Opera House. Sopranos Amy Haworth, Louise Crane, tenor Justin Lavender and baritone Wyn Pencarreg are the other soloists.
"Here is classical music that breaks new ground," says Luke Walton, the Bible Society’s arts development officer. ”The Bible has always inspired great artistic expression, but this fresh and contemporary libretto and score will carry that inspiration to a new generation. Derek Wensley and David Perkins are to be applauded for this work."
Tickets for the performance on 22 April, 7.30 pm, at St John’s Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3HA, cost £20 and £15. Bookings can be made online at www.sjss.org.uk or by phone from SJSS Box Office on 020 7222 1061.