2013-14: Celebrating the Centenary of Benjamin Britten

Cantate’s tribute to Benjamin Britten ranges from his edition of Mozart’s Requiem to the staged area premiere of Curlew River.

A special message from Music Director Gisèle Becker

Why Britten?

A statement from Cantate Music Director Gisèle Becker

If Cantate Chamber Singers were to rename itself, it would certainly be called the Benjamin Britten Singers. From the intimate settings of Hymn to St. Cecilia to the last choral work Sacred and Profane, Cantate has prided itself on exploring the legacy of Britain’s greatest modern composer.   For his centenary, we will delve even further with rare performances of Britten’s edition of Mozart’s enigmatic Requiem and his church parable in the Japanese Noh tradition, Curlew River.

Why Britten? A turning point for me—personally, musically—was attending my first performance of his War Requiem at the National Cathedral on the day my mother died in 1992.  I was numb; it was exhausting, it was cathartic … it was where I had to be.  Even on a first hearing, I was convinced that the War Requiem was the greatest musical work of the 20th century.

It was then that I became interested in this conscientious objector who could produce such a profound statement through music. The world of Britten opened up for me. I read, I listened, I reviewed scores, and in 2012 I finally traveled to East Anglia where he had lived.  To me, not a religious person but a spiritually sensitive one, he is still there: in his library at the Red House, in his scores, his handwriting. A stained-glass window depicting three of his church parables blesses the Aldeburgh Parish Church with light from the north and looks out over where Britten and Peter Pears are resting side-by-side, with Imogen Holst standing guard behind.

My children will tell you that birthdays are a VERY big deal to me, and I have driven myself and those around me crazy with my obsession for making the birthday boy or girl feel special.  I suppose that is why this centenary of Britten has such meaning to me.

None of us will be around for his 200th birthday, so why not celebrate now, doing what we love to do? Creating music—and adding the audible completion to a composer’s written genius.

Gisèle Becker

Cantate, a nonprofit corporation under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is supported in part by funding from the Montgomery County government and the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Maryland State Arts Council, and The Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts.
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