The next Open University Choir concert on 22 March has a Scottish theme, and presents two world premières; it also has a truly OU story behind it.
William Bowie was head teacher of music at the Royal High School in Edinburgh throughout the 1950s and 60s, during which time he completed his own musical studies by taking two external degrees at Durham University.
The OU Choir’s conductor, Bill Strang, was among his school pupils and two years ago the OU Choir sang three of Bowie’s short published pieces. In the audience for that concert was another former pupil, David Appleton, who in retirement was a student on the OU course Words and Music. David subsequently selected one of the pieces he had heard, Bowie’s setting of Charles Causley’s ‘Three Masts’, as the basis of his course project and whilst carrying out his researches at Durham, he located the manuscript of Bowie’s Master of Music Exercise which Bill Strang had previously failed to find.
This turned out to contain two compositions. One is a setting for soloists, chorus and orchestra based on the ballad ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ by Sir Walter Scott: this recounts how Thomas was spirited away by the Queen of Elfland to be endowed with special powers to write poetry and to foresee the future. The other is a purely orchestral piece, ‘A Scottish Overture’, which is designed to demonstrate the candidate’s grasp of symphonic form using themes inflected with folk-song elements.
Both these works will receive their first performances in this concert.
The programme will also contain complementary works which extend the Scottish theme, including another of Bowie’s published works and music by sixteenth-century Scottish composers reflecting Bowie’s interests as a conductor. It will be completed with Bill Strang’s choral prelude on the 12th-century Orcadian Hymn to St Magnus which he has revised for the forces available in this concert.
Our soloists in this performance are Amanda Morrison, soprano, and Paul Rendall, tenor.
The concert will take place in the Hub Theatre, Walton Hall, at 1 pm on Thursday 22 March. Thanks to the generosity of the Open University and the support of the OU Club we are able to present this concert free of charge. The concert is open to all, and all are welcome. The poster can be downloaded here.
Open University Choir website