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C.A.B. Concert feature Purcell, and Astronomy?


THUNDER BAY,  ON   --------  November 21, 2009  ----  Consortium Aurora Borealis, Thunder Bay,  a vibrant local chamber music organization now in its 31st season,  is commemorating two significant historical events this weekend with a special concert. It joins the rest of the world in celebrating the International Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope heavenwards. At the same time it commemorates the 350th birthday of the illustrious English composer Henry Purcell, who died in 1695 at the age of 36, on November 21 (the date of our concert), on the Eve of St. Cecilia’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of music.



 1609 marked a turning point in the development of astronomy. First Kepler, the noted German astronomer (died 1630), published his influential “Astronomia Nova”, “New Astronomy”, dealing with planetary orbits, which he claimed were elliptical, not circular. Next Galileo, son of a musician and lutenist, and himself a music lover and player of the lute, developed his “spy glass” (not called a telescope until 1611), demonstrated it at the top of the campanile in Venice, and presented it to the Doge. The rest is history.

Galileo summarized his findings the next year in a pamphlet: “The Starry Messenger,  revealing great, unusual, and remarkable spectacles, opening these to the consideration of every man, and especially of philosophers and astronomers, as observed by Galileo Galilei, Gentleman of Florence, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Padua, with the aid of a Spyglass, lately invented by him, in the surface of the Moon, innumerable fixed Stars, in Nebulae, and above all in Four Planets [moons] swiftly revolving about Jupiter at different distances and periods, and known to no one before the Author recently perceived them…”

Purcell’s contemporary Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) carried Kepler’s  and Galileo’s work yet further, and built the first functional reflecting telescope. Kepler and Newton also wrote treatises on music as well, which makes it appropriate for Consortium to celebrate both music and astronomy in the upcoming concert.

In the field of music, Henry Purcell is regarded as one of the greatest 17th-century composers, and certainly as one of the greatest English composers ever. As a member of the Chapel Royal he composed and performed music for Westminster Abbey, and was Court Composer for Charles II. In later life he turned his attention to composing music for the theatre. His musical output included secular songs, boisterous catches, church anthems, theatre music, occasional odes such as those written to St. Cecilia or in honour of royal birthdays, and various instrumental works. His theatrical work Dido and Aeneas has been performed twice in Thunder Bay in the past 12 years by local musicians. Purcell’s will was hastily drawn up on the day of his death, suggesting that perhaps a minor infection took a sudden turn for the worse. He is appropriately buried at the foot of the organ in Westminster Abbey.

The concert this Saturday will include works for voices, trumpet, strings and keyboard, from church and  theatre, for royalty as well as for the common man. The mood will range from festive and lively to touching and tearful. In addition, readings will touch upon the music of the spheres, the stars and the heavenly regions, astronomical advancements of the time, and of course the genius of Purcell.

The music will be performed by the Purcell Singers, directed by Dean Jobin-Bevans, trumpeter Merrie Klazek, soprano Susan Korstanje, organist Elizabeth Ganiatsos, and a string ensemble.

Three Queens figure in the programme, with hornpipes and other dances from Purcell’s semi-operas The Fairy Queen (based on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream) and The Indian Queen (on the Incas and Aztecs), as well as the moving Funeral Music for Queen Mary, which was also used for Purcell’s own funeral almost nine months later.

The concert is given in collaboration with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Thunder Bay Centre, whose representatives will speak briefly on the legacies of Galileo and Newton. They will mount a display on astronomy and will be available to answer questions afterwards. A visual presentation of images from the Hubble Space Telescope will be projected during a portion of  atmospheric music and readings which evoke night, the moon and the stars.

Telescopes will be available to the public for star gazing at the conclusion of the concert, weather permitting.

The concert takes place on Saturday, November 21 at 8:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Church, 349 Waverley Street, Thunder Bay. Admission is by donation at the door, no tickets required in advance (suggested $15 adults, $10 seniors and students).

Everyone is warmly welcome to this diversified anda intriguing community event.
For further information: 345-1808; 767-6028. 

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