As Melodia enters its 14th year and as we continue to delve into rarely heard repertoire, we have discovered a wonderful work for women’s voices that audiences in New York have never heard. Our spring 2017 concert, Awakening the Spirit, will feature a rare performance of The Dancers, a choral suite for women’s choir, harp and strings by welsh composer Grace Williams (1906 – 1977).
Grace Williams has several “firsts” among her accomplishments, including being the first British woman composer to compose the score for a feature film, Blue Scar (1949). Williams studied composition at the Royal College of Music, London, where she was taught by Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams – both of whom have composed pieces performed by Melodia. Imogen Holst, daughter of Melodia favorite composer Gustav Holst, was one of among the few other women composers studying at the College at that time. Benjamin Britten, also a champion of treble choral music, was a friend and colleague.
The Dancers was composed in 1951, a few years after Williams returned to live in Wales and devoted herself to full-time composing. The work was premiered in 1954 by the BBC Welsh Orchestra with Joan Sutherland performing the opening soprano solo. Following the broad acclaim of The Dancers, Williams composed several large-scale choral works, often using texts by Welsh poets.
For Melodia’s performances on April 29 and 30, 2017, the choir will be joined by harpist Rita Costanzi and a stellar all-female string quintet. Cynthia Powell, Artistic Director, will conduct. The concert also features the U.S. premiere of Visions by eminent British choral composer John Rutter, with violin solo performed by Areta Zhulla.
“To say that I’m excited about this music would be an understatement,” says Powell. “To be able to offer the U.S. premiere of a new work by John Rutter is a thrilling thing in and of itself, but to bring to life the gorgeous choral suite The Dancers’ by Grace Williams . . . add to that the exquisite playing of violinist Areta Zhulla, and we have a knockout concert.”
More information about Awaking the Spirit and tickets here.