On 31 March SANSARA, directed by Tom Herring, perform choral works by Jonathan Harvey at St Martin-in-the-Fields, including the London premiere of a new version of the Harvey/Palestrina Stabat Mater, as part of the St. Martin’s Easter Festival. They also perform Harvey’s The Annunciation and his seminal tape and electronics work Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, which opens a programme including music by Josquin des Prez and Joseph Bates, who oversees the electronics used in the performance.
Bates talks about the electronics and vocal effects in Stabat Mater here, demonstrating the kaleidoscopic reimagining of Palestrina’s music Harvey’s 2004 piece entails, in which electronics are superimposed over double SATB choir. This realisation of the 14-minute work features electronics devised by Harvey and Gilbert Nouno in 2005 and updated by Gilbert Nouno in 2022 with the generous support of Lammermuir Festival, where the new version premiered last September. Hear a clip of SANSARA rehearsing the new version here.
The Annunciation (2011) is a 3½ minute setting of a poem by Edwin Muir for unaccompanied choir; Muir’s poem describes the moment at which the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to bear the son of God, as they stare into each other’s faces. “But through the endless afternoon / These neither speak nor movement make, /But stare into their deepening trance / As if their gaze would never break.”
It was one of the final works that Harvey composed, commissioned by for the choir of his Alma Mater St. John’s College Cambridge, where it was conducted and recorded by Andrew Nethsingha. Nethsingha has noted the way the music of The Annunciation is based on the Palestrina Stabat Mater, suggesting that this musical connection reflects the way the moment of Christ’s immaculate conception anticipates its end in the suffering of the Passion. Harvey’s piece also drew inspiration from Domenico Veneziano’s The Annunciation in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.
SANSARA give further performances of the Stabat Mater and Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco on 1 April at the Wiltshire Music Centre and the University of York on 17 May.