Philharmonic marks 140 years with special concert

Belfast Philharmonic Choir
Belfast Philharmonic Choir

A special concert with music influenced by the works of CS Lewis is being held in the Ulster Hall tonight to celebrate 140 years of the Belfast Philharmonic Choir.

The programme has been commissioned to mark the milestone anniversary, and features a wide range of compelling music with the common theme of celestial spheres.

The Seven Heavens – CS Lewis in the Medieval Planets by Grammy-nominated James Whitbourn begins at 7.45pm with a pre-show talk by the composer at 7pm. In its first part, the concert includes mainstays of the choral repertoire: Handel’s Zadok the Priest, Serenade to Music (Vaughan Williams) with soloists from NI Opera’s Young Artists Programme, and Blest Pair of Sirens, Parry’s setting of Milton’s hymn of praise to the “Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse.”

The celebrated composer was asked to write a piece with strong Belfast connections and, as his great grandfather was born here in 1874, he chose CS Lewis’ life and works. Professor Michael Ward, an Oxford-based specialist who first identified how the seven planets of the medieval world play a key role in the imagination of the author, provided the libretto.

Conductor Stephen Doughty said: “The whole work is extremely well written for voices and, with its wide-ranging styles and sound-worlds is very enjoyable both for the performer and listener.”