Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting HT NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Three Choirs Festival 2012 - The Canterbury Pilgrims
6:30am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Leisure
By John Rushby-Smith
Mention Sir George Dyson and most people will associate him with liturgical music, of which he was a prolific composer. Few will know of him as the composer of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra, but if The Canterbury Pilgrims is anything to go by, those not in the know have been missing a treat. Some years ago a jobbing composer revealed to me his secret for writing effective film scores: “ ’Arps and ’orns, dear boy, ’arps and ’orns.” Maybe it was Dyson who taught him the trick, for he certainly uses his fair share of ’arps and ’orns in a full-blooded, almost filmic score whose joyous wit is the match for the vivid text it sets: the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It presents a series of portraits of the characters who are to tell their tales. Whether pompous knight or coquettish prioress, self-indulgent monk or self-important guildsmen, whether seafaring merchant or acquisitive medic, humble parson or the jolly Wife of Bath, we come to know them all through Dyson’s clever music, which was lustily performed by the Festival Chorus and the Philharmonia Orchestra under the masterly control of conductor Martyn Brabbins. Bass-baritone Simon Bailey portrayed his characters colourfully, while in his projection of the narrative the wonderful tenor Alan Oke delivered a master-class in clarity. Although less clear, soprano Susan Gritton characterised her roles well. All in all, this performance was a triumph. It is to be broadcast on Radio Three. Be sure to listen.