The weekend of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta begins with a Gala Concert on Saturday 13 June, featuring a new choral work by internationally renowned composer Tarik O’Regan, with a libretto by Alice Goodman. 'A Letter of Rights', commissioned for the occasion by Salisbury Cathedral, will be performed alongside classics from Elgar, Mozart and Pergolesi. The programme will be introduced with a fanfare written by the Director of Music of The Royal Artillery Band, Captain Anthony Adams and during the concert celebrated actor Edward Fox will read an extract from Shakespeare’s King John.
Composer Tarik O’Regan said of his new Magna Carta inspired work: "I was drawn in particular to the idea of poise, something which came directly from Alice's libretto. By which I mean both the extremely intricate way in which parchment was made in 1215 (and which Alice references beautifully in her text), but also the delicate nature of the very language which was written upon that parchment 800 year ago, and its subsequent interpretations. As a result, A Letter of Rights has an almost ritualistic quality to it: palindromic, divided into several text-driven movements interconnected by instrumental interludes for strings and percussion.”
The Gala Concert will be the first performance of an Alice Goodman libretto since the furore over the 'Death of Klinghoffer' in 1991. Referencing the European Parliament’s Letter of Rights in its title, her libretto is a wonderful combination of earthy images and high ideals, opening with a beautiful reflection on the physicality of the Magna Carta.
Alice Goodman said: “Amongst the treasures of Salisbury Cathedral is one of the finest of the few surviving copies of Magna Carta. To all intents and purposes it is a holy relic. It was the fact of the Cathedral’s possession of this copy of Magna Carta that motivated the Canon Chancellor to ask me to write something for this concert. So I began writing with a sense of the importance of the document itself, the piece of parchment to which King John fixed his seal. As I wrote, I discovered the paradoxes of the Great Charter; how quickly it was annulled, how little of it still matters to us, and yet how long and how powerful its continuing life has been, and how much we owe to it and rely upon it. The title that I chose with Tarik O’Regan for our cantata, 'A Letter of Rights', comes from Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2012 on the right to information in criminal proceedings. Persons arrested on suspicion of a crime must be given a letter of rights in a language they understand, a letter that they can hold and keep, read, and refer to. We are back to the thing itself. We open the glass case in which we’ve entombed Magna Carta. It comes up fresh and smelling of roses, newer than the latest news from the new government.”
The concert takes place at 19.00 on Saturday 13 June. David Halls, Salisbury Cathedral’s Director of Music, conducts La Folia orchestra and the full Salisbury Cathedral Choir.