2:05pm Wednesday 29th February 2012
By Nicola Lisle
Benjamin Britten’s epic War Requiem is being given a 50th anniversary outing at Oxford’s Town Hall on Monday, under the baton of former BBC Young Musician of the Year Mark Simpson. With around 150 performers, this is sure to be a memorable event — and there’s an open rehearsal in the afternoon for anybody who wants to delve a little deeper into this stirring work.
The project took root while Mark was still an undergraduate at St Catherine’s College, but it is only since graduating last summer that he has found time to put his plan into action. Now he hopes to share his passion for the Requiem with as many people as possible.
“I first heard the War Requiem when I was about 12, and I was overwhelmed by how powerful the music was,” he tells me. “I was lucky enough to play it with the National Youth Orchestra, and it was absolutely amazing.
“I think the music has a very special meaning and a very particular resonance within the choral repertoire. The most profound thing is the fact that Britten marries the Requiem text and the Wilfred Owen poems in a way that is so dramatic, so emotionally direct.”
Another of Mark’s passions is involving younger people in music, so many of his performers are university students from Oxford and London. Tenor soloist Nicholas Pritchard and baritone soloist Dominic Bowe are recent Oxford graduates, while soprano soloist Maud Millar is a recent Cambridge graduate.
The open rehearsal in the afternoon is another opportunity to involve as many people as possible. “The idea is that we have this huge interactive rehearsal, for anybody who wants to come,” he explains. “People can hear the orchestra and ask questions if they want, and it will be completely informal.”
Britten’s War Requiem is at the Town Hall, Oxford, on Monday at 7.30pm, with the afternoon workshop at 2pm. For tickets, visit www.wegottickets.com/event/156348
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