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World premier of commissioned work celebrating Canterbury

World premier of commissioned work celebrating Canterbury

More than two years ago the Christchurch City Choir received funding from Creative New Zealand to commission city-based composer Philip Norman to create a work celebrating Canterbury as part of the Choir's 20th anniversary programme in 2010.

There was no opportunity to present it owing to the earthquakes. Now however, “At the Lighting of the Lamps” will be performed as part of a Sunday afternoon “Splendour and Light” concert presented by the Christchurch City Choir and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra on 30 September 2012 at Christ’s College Assembly Hall.

Philip Norman has used the words of At the Lighting of the Lamps, by Christchurch poet Ursula Bethell (1874 – 1945), in which she describes the sun setting behind the Southern Alps from her Cashmere garden.

Music Director Brian Law said the uniquely Canterbury-inspired work weaves together words, images and music to reflect the distinctive plains and mountain landscapes which are so loved by people in Canterbury.

“Just as Ursula Bethell created layers of shade and colour in her word-pictures so the composer has created a beautiful composition capturing and reflecting the verbal colours and harmony of the poem,” Brian Law said.
The premier will be part of a programme of choral music and orchestral works with royal connections by Vivaldi (Gloria 1st movement), Purcell (I was Glad), Handel (The King Shall Rejoice) and Britten (Gloriana Dances), and includes Williamson’s Jubilee Hymn written for Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

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The concert starts at 2.00 p.m., on Sunday 30 September 2012 at the Christ’s College Assembly Hall, Rolleston Avenue..

Tickets are $25 for general admission (with a special price for $10 for under 14s) and are available from the Christchurch City Choir by email to or phone (03) 366 6927. Seating is limited.

The Choir will perform Handel’s Messiah on 8 December.

Ursula Bethell’s poem “At the Lighting of the Lamps” (verses 1 & 2)

The solemn, soundless music
Of the sun's setting reverberates
Along the low red cloud-reefs,
And the last echoing reflections
Of his great incandescence
Diminish among the mountain-tops,
As the sky's ebbing harmonies
Die down in modulations
Of gold and red to red-gold,
Old gold, pale gold, gold-veiled
Lingering pearl-greyness,
Grey silence of sleep.
The mountains stand round about
Like sable-vestured chorus,
Until they are swallowed up
In the all-encompassing dark.
But see! from the deepening dark
Of the dumb and slumbering plain,
Sudden a new song sprimgs;
Gold lights on the plain
Suddenly gleam and quiver,
Suddenly, over all the plain
Glimmer, now, golden lights.
As instruments with strings
Quiver, as dreaming reeds
Gleam, soft, in symphonies,
On the wide orchestral plain,
From the foot-hills to the sea's
Margin, bright companies,
Choirs of golden lights.
O glittering harmony!
O tranquil jubilee!
The lamp-set champaign sings!
A thousand golden lights
Gleam, a thousand sparks
Glow, out of the deepening dark
Now, the deepening night.

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