Eric Paetkau, music director
Chelsea Mahan, soprano
Spencer McKnight, tenor
Greystone Singers, Dr. Jennifer Lang conductor
The SSO is honoured to give the North American premiere of Materna Requiem by composer Rebecca Dale. In 2018, Dale became the first ever female composer signed to a record contract with Decca Records – her first release from this partnership was a feature recording of her stunning Materna Requiem. Written in memory of her mother, Dale’s Requiem is at once uplifting and heartbreaking and features some of the most beautiful choral writing you’ll ever hear.
The Requiem features tenor Spencer McKnight, Gordon Wallis Opera Competition winner 2018, alongside longtime SSO collaborator soprano Chelsea Mahan.
The concert also includes Canadian Jocelyn Morlock‘s Oiseaux bleus et sauvages.
The evening is dedicated in memory of longtime SSO supporter Jeanne Walters. At the time of her passing in spring 2018, Jeanne had been a subscriber for more than 80 years and she had served in numerous volunteer capacities for more than 40 of those years.
A Shropshire Lad – George Butterworth
A Severn Rhapsody – Gerald Finzi
Oiseaux bleus et sauvages – Jocelyn Morlock*
Materna Requiem – Rebecca Dale
Requiem for My Mother
*Denotes Canadian composer
On the operatic stage, soprano Chelsea Mahan has been noticed in dramatic works for her “panache of character” (La Presse, 2015) while her comedic work on stage “creates some of the most memorable, funny moments of the night” (Star Phoenix, 2016). Equally at home in soundtrack recording, concert work, recital settings and productions in unconventional spaces, Ms. Mahan has lent her dramatic flare to up-close and personal performances in warehouses, abandoned churches and public libraries alike. As a prize-winning competitor, her achievements include first prize in both the 65th Young Artist Series Western Concert tour and the prestigious Gordon Wallis Opera Competition. Ms. Mahan was appointed a Laureate of Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques and named a finalist in the Concorso Internazionale per Giovani Cantanti Lirici in Italy.
Ms. Mahan has made appearances with La Compagnie Baroque Mont-Royal, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Regina Symphony Orchestra, Opera Nuova, Halifax Summer Opera, Saskatoon Opera, and most recently, Little Opera on the Prairie in collaboration with the Strata New Music Festival performing world premieres of two short Canadian operatic works. Stage credits include Monica in The Medium, Laurette in Le Docteur Miracle, Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte, both Tytania and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Elle in Poulenc’s one woman opera La Voix Humaine, Soeur Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites, Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and a dive into the world of comedic music theatre as Rita in The Volstead Blues with Souris Valley Theatre.
Ms. Mahan holds a B.Mus and B.Ed from the University of Saskatchewan and has recently returned to Saskatchewan from Montreal as a recipient of the Graduate Excellence Award and holding a M.Mus from McGill University. When not singing, Ms. Mahan can be found on stage performing as a founding member of the SHEnanigans all female improv comedy troupe, adjudicating music festivals or teaching from her private studio. Ms. Mahan is currently involved in projects throughout Western Canada, creating and collaborating to celebrate established repertoire and to introduce fresh, classical music to audiences, old and new.
Tenor Spencer McKnight’s has been described as “one of the finest tenor voices” in Canada.
began singing at the age of 17. He was encouraged to pursue music by an adjudicator who heard him sing at his local music festival. His passion for music finds him frequently immersed in the music of Handel, Rossini, and Britten.
Spencer’s garnered much attention both in concert and in competition over the course of the last six years, including multiple awards at a national level, and the 2018 winner of the Gordon C. Wallis Opera Competition. Though early in his career, Spencer has had the opportunity to sing a wealth of oratorio repertoire, and had recent engagements with the Regina and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestras.
Spencer’s recently toured with a recital program entitled Songs of the Great War. An artistic project many years in the making, the recital featured songs, both popular and art, from the World War One era, including the Canadian premieres of two songs by composer William Dennis Browne.
Some of the exciting upcoming engagements include the role of Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Italy summer 2019, and the North American premiere of Rebecca Dale’s Materna Requiem with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. In 2020 Spencer will join his long time collaborator Mark Turner in a tour of a new recital programme.
His voice is described as fresh and brassy with stratospheric high notes, Spencer is proud to be a recipient of funding from the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
A Shorpshire Lad – Butterworth
As a young man, George Butterworth became fascinated with English folksong. He and his friend and fellow British composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), made several visits to the English countryside to study and collect folk songs. These journeys exerted a profound influence on their approach to composition. Butterworth’s promising career was cut short when he died while fighting as member of the British Army in the Battle of the Somme. He was 31 years old. After Butterworth’s death, Vaughan Williams confided to Gustav Holst: “I sometimes think now that it is wrong to have made friends with people much younger than oneself—because there will only be the middle aged left and I have got out of touch with most of my contemporary friends…” From 1911-12, Butterworth composed a series of songs for voice and piano, settings of poems from the collection entitled A Shropshire Lad (1896).
Written by Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936), A Shropshire Lad explores life in the face of the specter of impending mortality. Butterworth composed his orchestral A Shropshire Lad as an “orchestral epilogue” to his song settings of the various Housman poems. The work received its successful premiere at the Leeds Festival on October 2, 1913, with the distinguished conductor Arthur Nikisch leading the London Symphony Orchestra. A Shropshire Lad’s melancholy lyricism, richly scored, is a poignant epilogue to George Butterworth’s settings of the Housman poems. That poignancy is only accentuated by the knowledge the work’s creator would be gone less than three years after the premiere.
A Severn Rhapsody – Finzi
Finzi’s Seven1 Rhapsody is prefaced by a well known quotation from Rupert Brooke:” … Oh! yet Stands the Clz~rrch clock at ten to tltree? And is there honey still for tea?” The work was written in 1923, when Finzi was living at Painswick in the Cotswolds, and dedicated to his friend, the Australian artist Vera Somerfield. The rhapsody is scored for flute, oboe doubling cor anglais, clarinet doubling bass clarinet, French horn and strings. The music gently evokes the mood of the English countryside and the meandering river. This unpretentious pastoral was well received and the work received a number of performances, to be published in the Carnegie Collectio~t of British Music, a sign of official approval.
Materna Requiem – Dale
Young British composer Rebecca Dale, the first female composer to sign to Decca Classics, will release her debut album ‘Requiem For My Mother’ on 31st August – featuring two major works: her brand new Materna Requiem and her choral symphony When Music Sounds.
At the heart of Rebecca’s first recording is her Materna Requiem – a beautifully moving and uplifting tribute to her late mother, who died in 2010. The work draws from both the traditional text of the Catholic Mass and contemporary poetry and is a homage to parents everywhere. It features the voices of soprano Louise Alder, tenor Trystan Griffiths and young choristers Hannah Dienes-Williams and Edward Hyde (BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year 2016) alongside the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The work will receive its world premiere performance at The North Wales International Music Festival in St Asaph Cathedral on 22nd September.
Rebecca Dale says of the album: “It’s an amazing feeling to be releasing my first album and sharing my music with everyone. The Requiem is a very personal piece to me, and it uses melodies I wrote when I was a child so you could say I’ve been working on it for most of my life! When I first wrote the Requiem I didn’t even realise it would receive a performance so it’s a hugely exciting moment to hear it on record, and I hope the piece connects with people.”
The first track from Rebecca’s new album, ‘Pie Jesu’, is out now and expresses a parent’s love for their son or daughter – so instead of using a child’s voice as is tradition for this movement, it’s represented as a father singing to his newborn.
The process of writing the Materna Requiem has been somewhat cathartic for Rebecca – she describes the musical tribute to her mother as “a way for me to build a bridge back to her”. Rebecca is keen to help others who have suffered the loss of a parent and is a supporter of Winston’s Wish – the UK’s first childhood bereavement charity. Donation buckets will be available at the premiere performance of the work, plus Rebecca will be taking part in ‘TrekFest’ for the charity.
Rebecca’s work first came to public attention when BBC Radio 3 premiered her choral symphony ‘When Music Sounds’ in 2014 and the track, ‘I’ll Sing’, went to No.1 on the Classical iTunes chart. It seems fitting that the whole piece is recorded on her debut album. Performed by the Cantus Ensemble – one of London’s leading chamber choirs – this inspiring orchestral work is a glorious counterpart to the Requiem and concludes the album in stunning style.
ABOUT REBECCA DALE
Born in 1985, Rebecca started composing from a very young age, completing her first full musical at the age of 10 and piano concerto at 15. She studied at Oxford University (New College) and the National Film and Television School. She made her mark in 2014 with her choral symphony When Music Sounds and in 2016 her orchestral work ‘Soay’ was featured on the chart-topping Decca album, ‘The Lost Songs of St Kilda’. Rebecca’s track ‘Winter’, commissioned by vocal group Voces8 for their album of the same name, was described by Gramophone magazine as a “masterpiece”.
A fellow of the famous Sundance Composers Lab and alumna of the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop in Hollywood, Rebecca writes extensively for film and TV. She has worked on a variety of big screen projects including Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, director Stephen Frears’ The Program, action film The Take starring Idris Elba, and Disney’s Queen of Katwe, while her score to Crossing The Line was nominated for best original music in feature film at the 2017 international Music & Sound Awards. Most recently, she contributed to BBC One’s three-part adaption of Little Women, starring Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon and Emily Watson.
As a concert composer, Rebecca has written for numerous artists and ensembles including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Scottish Festival Orchestra and the London Mozart Players. She is a fellow of the prestigious Macdowell Colony in New Hampshire (alumni include Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland), and has been an associate composer with the London Symphony Orchestra on its Soundhub programme. Rebecca was commissioned by Canterbury Cathedral Girls’ Choir for their debut album and has been 2017-18 Composer in Residence for the London Oriana Choir as part of its five15 project.
Earlier this year Rebecca became the first female composer to sign exclusively to Decca Classics. She has simultaneously signed to Decca Publishing as the first woman to join its growing roster.