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A Celebration of Germanic Composers - including works by Praetorius, Schütz, Brahms and Bach's Jesu Meine Freude
Joy in suffering: the great paradox of Lent. It is a theme which has inspired some of the greatest German composers with its dramatic possibilities and wide emotional range. The centerpiece of this programme is Bach’s 11-movement Jesu Meine Freude, a motet with stark contrasts depicting heaven, hell and Jesus’ liberation of mankind from sin and death.
It is complemented by works from Praetorius and Schütz to Brahms and Bruckner which plunge the listener into existential questions about the misery of human life, whilst also exhorting us to turn to the Lord who is full of mercy. This is music for the soul.
The Merbecke Choir is a group of around 25-30 singers who sing a wide range of music to a high standard. The choir is mostly made up of people in their twenties and thirties, who meet to rehearse every Tuesday during term time. It is a regular contributor to the liturgy at Southwark Cathedral, notably at the monthly service of Compline and Eucharistic Devotions. It also performs regular concerts, usually one a term, has toured abroad and in the UK and has released a CD, Under the Shadow of Thy Wings.
In 2003, Southwark Cathedral founded the Merbecke Choir to be a place for boys and girls who left the Cathedral Choirs to explore a wide range of repertoire under expert tuition. The choir has grown since then and has a broad mix of ages and backgrounds, though former Cathedral choristers remain very welcome.
The choir is a staunch supporter of new music, having commissioned several new works, as well as being adept in the performance of Renaissance polyphony. They have performed for HRH Princess Alexandra, the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and contributed to Her Majesty, the Queen’s, Christmas Broadcast recorded at Southwark Cathedral in 2006.
The choir’s current director of music is Emily Elias.
The Choir is named after the Tudor composer, John Merbecke (1510-1585), who composed one of the most popular settings of the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service. Merbecke with three other companions was tried for heresy in 1543 in the Retrochoir at Southwark, which was used for this purpose at the time. He was found guilty and condemned to be burned at the stake. However, his sentence was commuted by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the then Bishop of Winchester, who decided that as a mere musician Merbecke ‘knew no better‘ and so was released to continue his music making.