We had a break from Rachmaninov at choir practice this evening, and looked ahead to the biggest work for our summer concert, Aaron Copland's "In the Beginning". It's a stunning musical depiction of the Creation story for unaccompanied chorus and alto solo: after singing Haydn last autumn, the words seemed oddly familiar, but the music is half a world away; jazzy, chromatic but just as full of colour and excitement. We're singing it at Ushaw College on Saturday 2 July along with pieces by Judith Weir, Herbert Howells and the second performance of "The Light" by Janet Graham. Our soloist will be Marnie Blair, a recent Durham University graduate; she sang with us in our Britten concert with Ben Rowarth in 2013, and in our Light concert last autumn, and this big, warm piece of Copland will suit her voice beautifully - it'll be a real treat to work with her on this.
Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Borodin, Chekhov, Mussorgsky, Dostoevsky and of course, Rachmaninov. Russian music and literature is adored across the world, but Russian art is less well known. Unless you've been to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, or have seen one of the rare travelling exhibitions, such as the display of portraits from the Tretyakov about to open at the National Portrait Gallery then you might not be familiar with the works of painters such as Levitan or Repin. We used Ilya Repin's famous painting of a peasant Easter procession for our concert poster: on the face of it, it seems to be a lovely scene, but look closer and there are some brutally realistic details that illustrate the hardship, chaos and poverty that most Russians lived under. To go with the poster, we've put together a little gallery of other Russian art that shows religious life:
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