Ella Taylor, Anna Huntley, Darius Battiwalla, Ensemble 360, Abbeydale Singers & Lucy Joy Morris

St Mark's Church, Sheffield
Sunday 19 May 2024, 3.00pm

£10 UC, DLA or PIP
£5 Under 35s & Students

Past Event
Anna Huntley, one of the featured soloists in Visions. She is sitting forward with her hair down, wearing a sleeveless champagne sequined dress.

FAURÉ / MESSAGER arr. Morton, Messe des Pêcheurs de Villerville (18′)
FAURÉ Cantique de Jean Racine (6′)
FRANCK Prelude, Fugue and Variation for solo organ (15′)
HOLMÈS La vision de la reine (25’) 

An afternoon of glorious choral music. 

The Abbeydale Singers perform Cantique de Jean Racine, one of Gabriel Fauré’s most popular works, loved for its beautifully restrained nature and gorgeous harmonies. They are joined by Ensemble 360 for Fauré’s Mass, rarely performed in its entirety, composed in collaboration with his lifelong friend, André  Messager, in honour of fishermen from the tiny Normandy village of Villerville.  

Organist Darius Battiwalla plays César Franck’s mesmerising Prelude, Fugue and Variation before singers Anna Huntley and Ella Taylor, rising stars of the opera and concert stage, join Ensemble 360 and Abbeydale Singers for the shimmering sounds of the Queen’s Vision by the Irish-French composer Augusta Holmès.  

Note from Guest Curator, Steven Isserlis 

“This is a programme particularly close to my heart. The Messe des Pêcheurs by Fauré and his lifelong friend André Messager is simply gorgeous; I chanced upon it recently, and just could not stop listening to it. Cantique de Jean Racine, written while Fauré was in late teens and still at school, is a miracle of beauty; and the cantata by Augusta Holmès, the Irish-French firebrand so beloved by Franck, Saint-Saens and many others, is a fascinating curiosity. Such a fine idea to compose the part of the Minstrel not for a singer, but for a cello!” 

Part of Sheffield Chamber Music Festival 2024. 

View the brochure online here or download it below.


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FAURÉ Gabriel and MESSAGER André, Messe des Pêcheurs de Villerville

Kyrie (Messager) 
Gloria (Fauré) 
Sanctus (Fauré) 
O salutaris (Messager) 
Agnus Dei (Fauré) 

In August 1881, Fauré and Messager were staying with their friends, Camille and Marie Clerc at their summer home in the fishing village of Villerville, on the Normandy coast between Trouville and Honfleur. They had the idea of composing a collaborative Mass to be sung by the women and girls of the village, joined by those on holiday there, for an event to benefit the local fishermen. Preceded by a procession through the village by the fishermen themselves, the first performance was given at the Parish Mass on 3 September 1881 in Villerville’s twelfth-century church with accompaniment for harmonium and violin. A year later Fauré and Messager were again staying with the Clercs and decided to expand the instrumentation for flute, oboe, clarinet, strings and harmonium or organ. Fauré orchestrated the Agnus Dei and Messager took care of the rest and a second performance, using the new version, was given on 10 September 1882. The Fauré scholar Jean-Michel Nectoux has described the work as ‘a little holiday mass’, its music ‘so limpid and so lyrical … delicate, melodious and gentle’. The manuscript remained in the possession of the Clerc family for many years. In 1906, Fauré prepared his Messe basse which used some material from the work, but the original Fauré–Messager Mass was revived in 1980. In 1985, the descendants of the Clerc family donated the manuscript of the Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and this enchanting work was eventually published in 2000.  


© Nigel Simeone 

FAURÉ Gabriel, Cantique de Jean Racine

The Cantique de Jean Racine was performed at one of the celebrated series of chamber music concerts of the Société Nationale de Musique: on 15 May 1875 it was conducted by the work’s dedicatee, César Franck. Fauré had originally composed it in 1865 for a graduation prize at the École Niedermeyer, where he had studied composition with Saint-Saëns. It won the first prize, showing a young composer of winning melodic gifts. The text is Racine’s French paraphrase of a Latin hymn that ends – very aptly – by asking Christ to look kindly on the songs offered to His glory.


Nigel Simeone ©

FRANCK César, Prélude, fugue and variation for solo organ

 Published in 1868 as one of Franck’s 6 pièces d’orgue, the Prélude, fugue et variation was composed around 1860 and bears a dedication ‘à mon ami, Monsieur Camille Saint-Saëns’. The Prelude has strong echoes of Bach (as viewed through the prism of France in the nineteenth century), the flowing right-hand melody set against steady pedal notes. This is followed by a brief section marked Lento which leads to the fugue, in triple time. A held pedal note introduces the closing Variation, an elaboration of the opening Prelude, but now with a much more animated accompaniment. Franck also made an alternative arrangement of this work as a duet for piano and harmonium which he performed at a Société nationale concert with Vincent d’Indy.  


© Nigel Simeone 

HOLMÈS Augusta, La vision de la reine

Born in Paris to an Irish father, Augusta Holmès added the accent to her surname and became a French national. Though they were never officially married, Holmès and the poet Catulle Mendès lived together from 1869 until 1886, and had five children together, three of whom are depicted playing and singing music in Renoir’s charming painting, The Daughters of Catulle Mendès (in the Metropolitan Museum, New York). Influenced since childhood by Wagner, and counting Liszt among her friends, Holmès’s most important teacher was César Franck with whom she studied from 1876, and to whom she was devoted. La vision de la reine is scored for female voices (soloists and chorus) accompanied by piano, cello and harp, on a text by the composer herself. The score has a dedication to Daniel Colonne and was written to celebrate his birth in 1892. Daniel was the son of the conductor Edouard Colonne and his wife, the singer Eugénie Vergin, and this ‘allegorical cantata’ (as it was described by the publisher) was first performed at the Colonne home in 1893 by an ensemble including Holmès herself (piano), Marguérite Achard (harp) and Jules Loeb – dedicatee and first performer of Fauré’s Élégie – who played the important cello part. In this remarkable cantata, a queen sits by the cradle of her son and listens to the voices of heaven, wisdom, nature, love and homeland before a final choral lullaby in which all the voices and instruments ask for blessings upon the new-born child. 


© Nigel Simeone 

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