St. Cecilia feted by Victoria Philharmonic Choir

A workshop and concert mark the feast day of Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians

The Victoria Philharmonic Choir and music director Peter Butterfield launch their new season with a 500-year-old tradition – a workshop and concert marking the feast day of Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians on Saturday (Nov. 22).

While the story of this 4th century Roman Christian martyr is a tangled web of religion and legend, and very few historical facts, Cecilia has inspired a host of musical works by great composers, including Henry Purcell, G.F. Handel and Benjamin Britten, whose birthday falls on feast day.

“It was too great a coincidence to pass up,” said Butterfield, who has programmed Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia, set to a poem by W.H. Auden, as a feature of the performance.

The choir will also sing choruses from Handel’s joyous Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Samuel Barber’s poignant Adagio, and Canadian composer Paul Halley’s Freedom Trilogy, which interweaves Gregorian chant with South African hymns.

Guest musicians include Vancouver organist Michael Molnar, pianists Julian Greenwood and Margaret Skinner, and an orchestral ensemble led by violinist Raya Fridman.

Singers who would like to take part in the St. Cecilia’s Day choral workshop, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Peter Butterfield, guest mezzo-soprano Sarah Fryer, and the VPC, are invited to register at vpchoir.ca by Thursday (Nov. 20).

Cost of the workshop is $25 or $10 for students. Participants will have the option of singing some of the workshop repertoire in the concert.

All are welcome at the 5 p.m. concert, with entry by donation.