Ex Cathedra’s Exclusive Preview of Gerontius

By on 10/09/2010 in Culture, News

What: A week prior to the full concert at Town Hall Birmingham, over 80 members of the Ex Cathedra choir perform a piece from Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius as part of artsfest.

Where:  Town Hall Birmingham

When: 11/09/2010

Time:  12 noon

A week ahead of the commemorative performance of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius to celebrate the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, Over 80 members of Ex Cathedra choir will be previewing an excerpt from the oratorio at the Town Hall Birmingham (12 noon, Saturday 11 September), especially for visitors to artsfest.

Birmingham's acclaimed Ex Cathedra choir will be opening their free appearance at artsfest at Town Hall, Birmingham with 'Praise to the Holiest' a choral highlight from the oratorio.  The choir will then return on 18 September, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, to perform the entire piece for the general public, Bishops and dignitaries who will be in the city on the eve of the Beatification of Cardinal Newman by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Dream of Gerontius is an oratorio for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ.  Elgar composed the text for the oratorio using text from Newman's poem which tells the journey of a pious man's soul from his deathbed to his judgment before God and his settling into Purgatory.  Elgar wrote a personal inscription on the original score that stated that the work was '…in memory of Cardinal Newman whose poem I have had the honour to attempt to set to music'. On the final page of the score he also inscribed, 'this is the best of me…' and always thought it his finest work.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Orchestra are celebrated for playing period instruments - and will sound quite different from a modern orchestra.  The performance on the 18 September has been specially arranged by Ex Cathedra and the Orchestra to recreate the sound world of when it was performed in 1900. 

Tickets remaining are priced at £25, £50 and £75.  Ticket bookings can be made through the Birmingham Town Hall Box Office www.thsh.co.uk or 0121 780 3333

– Ends –

Media Contact : Jason Lewis 0121 303 4266 jason.lewis@birmigham.gov.uk or sarah.kirby 0121 303 3885 sarah.kirby@birmingham.gov.uk
ON THE DAY CONTACT  THOMAS JEAVONS 07766 923352, 07521 754562

Notes to Editors


Sat 18 Sep 5:30pm
Town Hall
Ticket prices£50 and £75

Ex Cathedra Choir and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment reprise their critically-acclaimed period performance of The Dream of Gerontius to celebrate the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

This performance will be attended by many distinguished guests staying in the city for the beatification of Cardinal Newman the following day.


Newman’s poem tells the story of a soul’s journey through death, and provides a meditation on the unseen world of Roman Catholic theology. Gerontius is a devout everyman.

In the first part, we hear Gerontius as a dying man of faith. A group of friends join him in prayer and meditation. He passes in peace, and a priest, with the assistants, sends him on his way with a valediction.

In the second part, Gerontius, now referred to as “The Soul”, awakes in a place apparently without space or time, and becomes aware of the presence of his guardian angel. After a long dialogue, they journey towards the judgment throne.

They safely pass a group of demons, and encounter choirs of angels, eternally praising God for His grace and forgiveness. The Angel of the Agony pleads with Jesus to spare the souls of the faithful. Finally Gerontius glimpses God and is judged in a single moment. The Guardian Angel lowers Gerontius into the soothing lake of purgatory, with a final benediction and promise of a re-awakening to glory.

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