Sheffield Bach Choir is singing from an entirely different song-sheet to its more usual repertoire at St Mark’s Church, Broomhill on the 11th of June.
Although the choir will not be singing it, ‘Dan Cupid Hath a Garden’ may serve as an immediate clue as to what to some.
No?? – Edward German’s Merrie England!!
Once extremely popular, it is rarely encountered now. Not even its one-time inescapable arias, such as the foregoing Dan Cupid, the familiar opening line of The English Rose, which every British tenor worth his salt sang at one time.
Almost equal in fame are the baritone’s Yeomen of England, the mezzo-soprano’s O Peaceful England with, closely following, She Had a Letter From Her Love, Who Shall Say That Love is Cruel? – two for the soprano! and another for the tenor, Every Jack Should Have a Jill.
The work is choc-o-bloc with superb tunes among its two dozen-plus music numbers and has an array of historical characters: Elizabeth I (the mezzo); Sir Walter Raleigh (the tenor); Earl of Essex (the baritone); and Bess Throckmorton (the soprano).
While they don’t actually appear, the work’s witty librettist Basil Hood – who has one character summarising the plot of Romeo and Juliet using only the A-Z of the alphabet – writes Shakespeare himself, Robin Hood and Maid Marian into the scenario.
The latter two can be said to appear as Raleigh and Bessie play them – but none of this is really relevant as the work is being performed in concert form and without spoken dialogue.
Instead, a narrator will carry the story of love, intrigue and rivalry at the court of Elizabeth I around Windsor when a love letter from Raleigh to one of her ladies-in-waiting, Bessie Throckmorton, ends up in the Queen’s hands.
“Alan Horsey (providing piano accompaniment) who has a very dry sense of humour, has written the narration for his wife, Elizabeth, and there is no other dialogue,” confirms Sheffield Bach Society secretary Liz Buxton.
She adds: “The Horseys have performed Merrie England many times it seems and make very entertaining,” while noting that the performance’s perhaps unlikely conductor in some eyes, Simon Lindley: “has quite an affection for the work.”
The 1902 comic opera is the Bach Choir’s contribution to this year’s Broomhill Festival, which gets underway on the 8th of June.
It also concludes the choir’s present season and details of its new, more predictable one, including two Messiahs (one a special!), can be found in the Digest section on the Classical Sheffield website.