O Valiant Hearts
Baritone Gregory Servant had heard of composer Charles Villiers Stanford’s Songs Of The Fleet before but had never sung it until he was asked to perform it at South Shore Chorale’s upcoming concert.
The moment he listened to it, he felt it was “an unjustly neglected masterpiece.” Late Victorian works such as this are often looked down upon as outmoded, said Servant, “but there’s nothing old-fashioned about this score.”“It is profoundly beautiful,” said Servant, a voice teacher at Dalhousie University’s Fountain School of Performing Arts who has performed in opera halls from Zurich to New York.
Featuring the poems of Sir Henry Newbolt, the five-movement work for baritone and chorus looks back over Britain’s tradition of service to the sea with orchestral beauty, he said.“It captures some aspect of the sea, the ocean, in every movement,” Servant said, starting with a sense of new beginnings as a ship sets sail in the opening movement, Sailing at Dawn.“It’s quite a masterpiece. It is extraordinarily beautiful and the audience is really in for a treat,” he said.
The concert, titled O Valiant Hearts, will include works by Canadian composers Eleanor Daley with selections from Requiem and Halifax’s Alexander Tilley’s In Flanders Fields, among others. Conductor John Scott said the program will be punctuated by some of the great English hymns, which he described as “poignant in their lyric of the great sacrifices made during times of war.”
In recognition of Remembrance Day, the 100th Anniversary of WWI, and a keen awareness of the recent tragedies in Ottawa and Montreal, Scott said Newbolt’s words hold a timeless sentiment; “Mother, with unbowed head Hear thou across the sea The farewell of the dead, The dead who died for thee. For, saving thee, themselves they could not save. Greet them again with tender words and brave”.
O Valiant Hearts will be performed at St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg Friday, Nov. 14, at 7:30pm and at First Baptist Church in Halifax Sunday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for the Halifax concert and $12 for the performance in Lunenburg. Children under 12 are admitted free.