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July 9, 2011

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Sweet music of UK boys' choir

The Choir of King's College Cambridge, a renowned 600-year-old boys' choir, will perform in a summer concert on July 17 at Shanghai Concert Hall.

Music director Stephen Cleobury will conduct the a cappella choir of 30 boys and young men in 10 works by relatively modern British composers about nature and music.

The program includes Patrick Hadley's "My Beloved Spake," Vaughan Williams' "Three Shakespeare Songs" and "Silence and Music," Benjamin Britten's "Five Flower Songs" and "Hymn to St Cecelia" and William Walton's "Where Does the Uttered Music Go."

"For me, music and the natural world have the greatest power to move the emotions. I imagine that this is true for many - some will make a religious connection, some will not," says Cleobury.

Like many 20th-century British composers, Vaughan Williams responded strongly to poetry from an early age. He evokes the sound of bells and strangeness (an early use of note clusters) to describe the solemn grandeur of man-made things, then subside into the peaceful sleep of dreams, and finally to portray the world of nature in a scherzo-like mood.

Similarly, Britten's "Five Flower Songs" draws upon the reactions of a number of poets to the beauty and power of flowers.

Established in 1441, the Choir of King's College Cambridge is one of the oldest boys' choirs in the world, as well as one of the most prestigious. It was founded by Henry VI to provide daily singing service in the chapel inside King's College, and the tradition lives on today.

According to the religious canon in the Middle Ages, the choir was composed of 16 boys aged from 9 to 13, who were studying at schools attached to King's College. In the 20th century it expanded by adding 14 undergraduates at King's College. The same number of boys and young men is maintained today.

Musical and vocal potential, alertness, motivation and enthusiasm are among the criteria for selecting choir members, and academic ability is also considered, according to Cleobury. Choral scholars must satisfy entrance requirements of Cambridge University and King's College.

Performance of "The Nine Lessons and Carols" has become a British tradition at Christmas.

Although the traditional format may seem as old as the choir itself, Cleobury believes that the traditions have to be renewed in some way to stay alive.

Since he took up the position almost 30 years ago, he has broadened the Christmas repertoire by going back to medieval carols as well as introducing a new, specially composed carol every year.

Contemporary composers are also invited to create pieces specifically for the choir.

Date: July 17, 7:30pm

Address: 523 Yan'an Rd E.

Tickets: 100-580 yuan

Tel: 962-388


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