Elgar's The Kingdom

Saturday 7 December 2019, 7.30pm

Winchester Cathedral

  • Elgar: The Kingdom

Eleanor Dennis, soprano

Katie Bray, mezzo-soprano

Ed Lyon, tenor

Stephan Loges, bass

The Waynflete Singers

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Lumsden, conductor

About this Event

'There is a great deal in The Kingdom that is more than a match for Gerontius' was the considered opinion of that great Elgar conductor, Sir Adrian Boult, and audiences will have a chance to reflect upon that judgement when the Waynflete Singers combine forces with the Newcastle Bach Choir for two performances of Elgar's great oratorio. The first of these will take place at The Sage, Gateshead on 24 November 2019 and will be repeated on 7 December 2019 in Winchester Cathedral.

The Kingdom is the second part of a planned trilogy of oratorios contemplating the life, work and influence of Christ's Apostles (part one is The Apostles and part three was never completed). The English choral tradition of the very early years of the twentieth century created the expectation of an oratorio, but Elgar's ambitious plans took him beyond this, into the realms of music drama (thus reinforcing his connection with a central European tradition rather than a purely English one). Yet, as well as the thrilling orchestral canvas which illuminates Elgar's own text and storms the heavens in his glorious climaxes, Elgar was also at pains to emphasise the human frailty of the Apostles - what he called their 'ordinariness'. Peter is made the focus of the work and musical highlights include the Pentecost scene and Mary's sublime solo 'The sun goeth down'.

The great conductor, Hans Richter, said that not only was he pleased with The Kingdom, but 'more than this - it is wonderful, a great work'. We hope that you, too, will find this magnificent work uplifting and thrilling.

Supported by the Elgar Society
We are grateful to The Elgar Society, who have provided a grant to support our performance.


Elgar's rich but complex oratorio The Kingdom is rarely performed but an enthusiastic audience in Winchester Cathedral was treated to a performance which turned into a seamless triumph. The music is Wagnerian in scale and harmonic inventiveness and the prose texts reflecting the lives of the disciples demand careful rhythmic treatment and delivery. Named soloists (Mary, Mary Magdalene, John and Peter) frequently join the choral commentaries against opulent orchestral backgrounds. This all creates sumptuous textures which demand clarity and smooth transitions from mood to mood.

The outstanding performers here were the partially augmented Waynflete Singers, four powerful solo singers and the magisterial Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. This ambitious programme was directed by Andrew Lumsden with impeccable choices of tempi and authentic rubato, good control of balance between instruments and voices and, despite great economy of gesture, a really dramatic response to the words.

The choir watched for and responded precisely to every entry with glorious, full tone from each section and thrilling tuning in the many unaccompanied passages. Their commitment was palpable as was their thorough preparation and confidence. Eleanor Dennis, a late replacement soprano, mezzo Katie Bray, tenor Ed Lyon and bass-baritone Stephan Loges set them fine examples in diction and sensitivity to text and all projected passionately into the building. Perhaps the largest share of words goes to the disciple Peter and here Stephan Loges was truly imperious and moving.

The BSO can often swamp amateur choirs but on this occasion they not only delivered Elgar's consummate scoring with characteristic warmth but spurred this excellent choir on to new heights of expressive intensity. Elgar would have been proud of this achievement.

Derek Beck