March 6, 2013 in Music
A Birthday Celebration Concert for Mary Wollstonecraft
Haydn, Handel and Ravel soared to the vaulted ceiling of St Mary’s New Church in Stoke Newington on Saturday 27 April 2013 in celebration of the 254th birthday of the author of The Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft.
Wollstonecraft’s time running a school in Newington Green makes St Mary’s a fitting venue for the celebration, made more apposite by the society that Mary moved in at the time, a firmament of reforming ideas and discussion amongst passionate dissenters. Saturday’s concert was performed appropriately by the Chorus of Dissent and the Elastic Band.
An audience of friends, neighbours, music lovers and fellow dissenters hurried in from the sunny, chilly late afternoon High Street. A gathering chorus of singers gradually filled the chancel, proclaiming a collective sense of informal fun in their blocks of brilliantly coloured blouses, shirts and jumpers.
And then the orchestra struck up with Handel’s Zadok the Priest. Stirringly familiar to even a musical slouch like me, it tuned us all up and brought a smile to our faces as the chorus broke into song.
Conductor, sponsor and passionate dissenter Ruth Whitehead wittily welcomed us all to Mary’s birthday party and introduced the occasion and participants. The Elastic Band had it seems stretched itself for the evening into a symphony orchestra to perform Haydn’s Creation. Haydn was an apt part of the programme. His status as the Father of the Symphony having been awarded after his experimentation with musical form during the early years of Mary’s life. The choir rose to the challenge with exuberance and obvious enjoyment, with particularly fine performances from the soloists.
Location and occasion came fittingly together in the third piece, Ravel’s Pavanne por une Infante Defunte, a poetic contemplation on the death of a young princess. It was dedicated in the programme to 16 year old Derek Boeteng and his family. His untimely and violent death happened earlier in the week not far from St Mary’s. That sense of community and locale which gave rise to the Chorus of Dissent were also central to Mary’s philosophy and brought another dimension to the pavanne. As the French horn cut through the atmosphere of the church the audience responded to its poignant beauty with thoughts of Derek and of their own private losses. The moment was sealed when two small children slid into pews near the front, smiling at a singing parent and embodying the spirit and power of the event.
A special mystery guest had been announced – no mystery to me as I confess she is my partner. Barrister and novelist (her Frankie Richmond novels are set in Stoke Newington), Elizabeth Woodcraft provided a succinct and fascinating insight into Mary’s significance and her legacy for modern feminism; and an audience participation joke.
And finally to Handel’s Messiah. Performed by the composer in aid of the Foundling Hospital in 1750, it was a glorious and uplifting end to the evening. Mary would have blown out the candles at this party with gusto.
Caroline Spry is a film producer and feminist living in Haringay and working in Dalston.
Chorus of Dissent and the Elastic Band
Saturday 27 April 2013 at 5.30pm at St Mary’s New Church
Another delightfully short concert from Stoke Newington’s very own choir and professional orchestra, celebrating Mary’s 254th birthday that very day, and featuring music performed in London during her lifetime. Excerpts from Handel’s Messiah will be juxtaposed with Haydn’s Creation, the whole presented in our inimitable and inclusive Dissenting style.
A classy concert of celebratory music, featuring a special mystery guest…
The concert will be held at ST MARY’S NEW CHURCH, opposite Clissold Park on Stoke Newington Church Street, on 27th April at 5:30 pm, doors open at 5pm.
All proceeds will go to the smartn16 campaign to transform our lovely old Tudor church in Clissold Park into a versatile arts space. Work has already started, so watch that space!
Tickets are £10 . Under 16s go free. Available on the door only. Please arrive early to avoid the crush.
Date: Saturday 27th April 2013.
Time: 5:30 pm. Doors open at 5 pm.
Venue: St Mary’s New Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 9ES.
Buses: 73 and 476
Nearest overground: Stoke Newington station, 15 minutes walk away.
Dissenters was set up by Ruth Whitehead to offer local, inclusive and excellent creative arts experiences, without one iota of dumbing down. Drawing on her background as a professional musician she set up Chorus of Dissent and the professional orchestra, the Elastic Band. All Dissenters’ events are sponsored by her company Ruth Whitehead Associates, your local investment advisers and IFAs.