IN tune with recent celebrations of the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, Henley Choral Society’s summer concert at the Christ Church Centre is called Shakespeare and Summer Songs.
The programme includes works by favourite British composers such as Elgar, Parry and Sullivan as well as part songs and madrigals by Shakespeare’s contemporaries — John Wilbye, Thomas Weelkes and Orlando Gibbons.
Twentieth century works include Shakespeare-inspired songs by George Shearing, the blind British pianist and jazz musician, and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music. Vaughan Williams took his text for Serenade from a discussion about music in The Merchant of Venice. It is rumoured that Rachmaninov was so overcome by the haunting beauty of the music at the première that he wept.
Henley Choral Society chairman Melissa Ewen explains: “This gorgeous collection of songs inspired by Shakespeare is about universal themes — love, longing, loss and joy. Part of new musical director Benjamin Goodson’s ambition for Henley Choral Society is to encourage us to sing a greater variety of works and secular works — this concert certainly delivers on that ambition.
“The concert also provides an opportunity for people in Henley to hear the wonderful talent of our regular accompanist, David Smith.