Karl Jenkins: first performances of Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption
Music from Karl Jenkins's latest work is heard for the first time at his 75th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall, at a Grayshott Concerts event broadcast by Classic FM, and at Carnegie Hall in New York.
This autumn brings first performances of Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption, Karl Jenkins's new work for soloists, choir and strings. Selections from the score are included in the composer’s 75th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall (13 October) and the complete 45-minute work is unveiled by Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia under Stephen Layton at Grayshott Concerts (29 November) with a broadcast on Classic FM. The first recording of Miserere will be released by Decca Records to coincide with the Royal Albert Hall concert.
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The final large-scale London celebration for Karl Jenkins's 75th birthday year is the concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 13 October, conducted by the composer. Selected movements from Miserere are performed by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra together with mezzo Kathryn Rudge and cellist Abel Selaocoe. The programme also includes Jenkins organ concerto 6000 Pipes with Jonathan Scott as soloist, extracts from Symphonic Adiemus, Palladio and a complete performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace – the work that has been travelling the world in the composer's 75th year and received over 200 performances in the Armistice Centenary year.
The first complete performance of Miserere is presented on 29 November by Grayshott Concerts following their successful premiere of Jenkins's The Healer in 2014. Performers include Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton, with countertenor Iestyn Davies, cellist Abel Selaocoe, harpist Catrin Finch and percussionist Zands Duggan. The performance will be recorded for future broadcast by Classic FM.
The North American premiere of Miserere will be given by Distinguished Concerts International New York in a concert at Carnegie Hall on 20 January under the baton of DCINY Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Jonathan Griffith. The concert also celebrates the 20th anniversary of The Armed Man in 2020. Karl Jenkins conducts a UK tour of Miserere in June 2020, visiting London, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham.
Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption is scored for countertenor (or mezzo soprano), mixed chorus, solo cello, strings, harp and percussion, which includes instruments indigenous to the Middle East: riq, darbuca, zarband, bendir. The mey, an ancient double reed oboe-like instrument from the region, is also heard, as is the qanun, a kind of large zither from the Arab world. The text is, in the main, sung in Latin and English but the word 'mercy' (in the sense of compassion) is also heard in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek (the languages of the Holy Land of Biblical times), as well as present-day Arabic.
The composer writes that "Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption is dedicated to all who have suffered or perished during the tragic conflicts of the Middle East over the last 70 years. As we are only too well aware, the violence, horror and destruction have not been limited to that geo-political area. Miserere is the Latin imperative for 'have mercy' and is often used as a title for Psalm 51, which forms the text that begins: Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy upon me, O God)."
Jenkins's Miserere take its place in a prestigious line of works drawing upon this text. Composers who have set the psalm to music include Josquin des Prez, Verdi, Górecki, Pärt and perhaps most notably Gregorio Allegri whose Miserere was composed for the Sistine Chapel in in the 1630s. Jenkins's works for choir, soloists and orchestra are among the most performed works in the genre by any living composer, including Adiemus, The Armed Man, Requiem, Stabat Mater, Gloria, Te Deum, The Peacemakers and Cantata Memoria.
> Further information on Work: Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption
Photo: Rhys Frampton