New Arvo Pärt Work

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SDG joins in sponsoring this year’s Vale of Glamorgan Festival in Wales, in celebration of Arvo Pärt’s 75th birthday. The Vale of Glamorgan Festival has “frequently programmed music that focuses on the spiritual in what seems to be an increasingly secular society,” says John Metcalf, Artistic Director of the Festival. It is especially fitting, then, that this year’s Festival will feature the work of Estonian composer Pärt—and that SDG is partnering to sponsor the Festival. We are particularly excited about the September 9th premiere of Pärt’s In Spe (“In Hope”), based on Psalm 137.

Please take the time to read Peter Bannister’s thoughtful letter about how you can participate in this special event. And if you’re interested in traveling to Wales for the Festival, please let us know!

Peter Bannister speaks from the heart:

Summer 2010,
Paris, France

Dear Friends of SDG,

It has often been remarked that the twentieth century was something of a baleful time for sacred music. Writing from a European perspective, it is certainly the case that gone are the days when, to quote the conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt in his discussion of the age of Haydn and Beethoven, “the Sunday Mass in Latin was at the heart of every musician’s professional life.” A return to Bach’s Leipzig, when each new week would see a new cantata for worship, seems like an impossible dream. Of course the modern era can point to isolated heroic figures such as Olivier Messiaen, intent on keeping the sacred at the heart of the musical mainstream, but the evidence suggests that religious works were assigned a marginal place in the history of twentieth century composition.

On closer inspection, however, there have been remarkable signs of a renewal in musical spirituality over the last forty years or so, much of it stemming from unexpected quarters. One intriguing example is the powerfully expressive “new Jewish music” of figures such as Steve Reich, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Osvaldo Golijov. Another is the spiritual creativity that has emerged from the former Soviet bloc, as shown by the Polish composer Henryk Gorecki (whose Miserere was SDG’s first recording project) and the Estonian Arvo Pärt (whose Da Pacem won a Grammy Award in 2007). Their brand of what is sometimes referred to as “holy minimalism,” a radically simple, purified idiom, has clearly attracted a mass audience. Their work seems to be a precious beacon of hope, a timely reminder of values that our frenetic Western society has forgotten—contemplation, humility, and the search for inner peace—against a background of turbulent political history and oppression.

Arvo Pärt - (c) Universal Edition

In September 2010 the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in Wales will be celebrating Arvo Pärt’s 75th birthday with a major retrospective, programming no fewer than 14 of his compositions during the space of a week, of which the centerpiece will be the first British performance of Pärt’s Symphony No. 4 ‘Los Angeles’ (commissioned by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic). Two of the concerts will be broadcast nationally and on the internet by the BBC.

Under the visionary leadership of artistic director and composer John Metcalf, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival is in its 41st year and has a unique profile with its exclusive programming of works by living composers. It is an annual event of genuine international significance that has survived against all the odds on a budget no greater than that of some local choral societies.

SDG has the honour of having been solicited to participate in Arvo Pärt’s 75th birthday celebration, at which the composer will be present in person, by co-sponsoring the commission of a new arrangement by Pärt, made specially for the festival, In Spe (“In Hope”) to be performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Donors will be invited to a reception with the composer after the premiere, where they will receive signed copies of the score.

The board of SDG has made a commitment to support the 2010 Vale of Glamorgan Festival, and every donation will help us reach our goal. SDG would also be delighted to discuss the possibility of travel to the Festival in September with anyone who, like myself, sees this as an event not to be missed. But for those who can only “follow at a distance,” a donation, however modest, would provide a unique opportunity not only to engage with one of the greatest contemporary composers, but also to contribute personally to the renaissance of sacred music in a world which arguably needs it more than ever.

Peter Bannister Composer-in-Association, Associate Artistic Director Soli Deo Gloria

As Peter speaks from his heart, we urge you to respond from your heart. Click here to contribute to SDG’s renaissance of sacred music and the Arvo Pārt work. Every donation matters!