The NYCGB performs Toward the Unknown Region by Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Chorus is Glorious!

Hola. ¿Qué tal? Below is a superb performance of Toward the Unknown Region by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It’s performed by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (NYCGB – Ben Parry, Chorus Director). Assisting is Codetta (which is a Chamber Chorus) and the Irish Youth Chamber Choir. The Chorus is huge for this performance, which is conducted by Vasily Petrenko. He’s the principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra. The text for the piece is from Walt Whitman and it was RVW’s first choral work, although he called it a “Song.”

I’ve read that the acoustics are not very good in the Royal Albert Hall—the musicians can’t hear each other—except for large-scale choral works such as the Berlioz Requiem. I would think with the Chorus being split it would be difficult for one to hear the other, and there’s quite a distance between the two. In that case, one has to rely solely on the conductor. And apparently they did because they were splendid in this performance. The Chorus is very precise and polished. Also, one doesn’t hear any fluttery, wobbling, shrill sopranos in this Chorus as one does with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

I embedded this video on this article about Rachmaninov’s The Bells, from Boston University’s School of Music performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Someone left a comment about “Toward the Unknown Region.” He wrote that the Chorus was glorious and almost brought tears to his eyes. Yes, it has the same effect on me depending upon when I listen to it. The Chorus is superbly prepared and so is the Orchestra. Some nut said—referring to the Orchestra—that they sound like a professional Orchestra. They are a professional Orchestra whether they are paid or not.

I never performed this piece with any of the Orchestra Choruses I was a member of but I’ve always liked it and I learned the different choral parts on my own. Since I have the choral score only (Edition Novello), I didn’t realise until watching this performance that it requires such a large Orchestra including pipe organ, which is heard nicely at the end. The organist is not afraid to open it up. As I said in my Rachmaninov article, this performance reminds me of the first performance I heard of this piece by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (in the UK) with Norman Del Mar conducting. I played this video for mi amigo and asked him what he thought (and he usually tells me exactly what he thinks.) He said: “It’s a very relaxing piece to listen to, especially the first part and the Orchestra and Chorus are superb.” Yes they are. So enjoy. Chau.—el barrio rosa

7 comments on “The NYCGB performs Toward the Unknown Region by Ralph Vaughan Williams

  1. Anna

    I really don’t like vibrato with a chorus. I have a question. I was listening to the BBC Symphony Chorus (no vibrato). Then I heard them again joined with another chorus for a major choral work and I heard the vibrato in the women that you talked about Tanglewood FC having. Why the vibrato one time and not the other? They weren’t singing opera. It didn’t sound good. I stopped listening.

    1. el barrio rosa Post author

      Hola Anna. It sounds like the two Choruses were not matched well with one (BBC Symphony Chorus) having no vibrato and the other Chorus having vibrato. Not good. It sounds like someone didn’t know what they were doing when they asked one Chorus to join the other. They just threw two Choruses together without thinking apparently, or didn’t care. In other words, one contaminated the other. That happens when both Choruses are not of the same skill level and don’t have the same choral “sound.” I once bought a CD where that was the case. It was Messiah and I only bought it because it was the University of Maryland Chorus (I had sung with them), but they were combined with the Cathedral Choral Society (of Washington National Cathedral). I wasn’t pleased with the performance and sold the CD because the Cathedral Choral Society contaminated The Maryland Chorus. There was another case of that that I used to write about. An Anglican church had their main paid Chorus and then they had a “Family Choir” (as they called it) and the Family Choir contaminated the stellar main Chorus of the parish when the two sang together. Gracias for your comment. Chau.

  2. Alejandro

    Hola. I liked that. That’s a youth orchestra? Amazing. The conductor is very young and his age matches the orchestra and chorus. I liked your comment in response to D8.

  3. D8

    That’s beautiful. Loved the Chorus. I’ll be watching that again and again and I’m not just saying that. I heard the organ at the end. Beautiful!! I’ve heard some Vaughan Williams but not this. They are extremely talented young people. Do we have any people in the States like that? Not to many I’d guess based on the state of things.

    Don’t take this the wrong way. I enjoy what you write because you and I are often in the same place but I think I’d prefer that you write about music and these types of concerts that you bring to people’s attention. I enjoyed this article. You know what to look for musically and I don’t because I don’t have your musical training. I wouldn’t have found this video on my own.

    1. el barrio rosa Post author

      Hola D8 y gracias for that. Well to tell you the truth, I much prefer to write about music and music performances of pieces that I like. It’s not gastritis-inducing and doesn’t make me feel badly like other topics I could write about (such as politics…ugh…screw that! or the techie gentrification of San Francisco…ugh).

      The reality is that there’s nothing I can do about any of the other topics I write about—other than to bring them to people’s attention, as if anyone cares, and most people don’t seem to!—and I don’t live under any illusion that anyone cares what I think or that anyone agrees with me, especially locally. There’s one local blogger who shall remain nameless (since I can’t stand him) who claims/pretends to be “progressive” (he’s really a staunch Dembot) and he lives under some illusion it seems that his opinion matters to the corporate-fascists in power in San Francisco today (which mealy-mouthed people call an Oligarchy; I call it what it is: corporate fascism). That blogger is delusional when and if he thinks that his opinions matter to these corporate-fascist basura, since the only opinion that matters to them is that of their corporate owners including the billionaire techie that owns San Francisco today and has 100% control over el alcalde/the mayor.

      Do we have extremely talented young people in the US like they do in Britain in this Orchestra and Chorus? Ha! LOL. You wouldn’t know it by looking around, would you? We do have some and they are in conservatories and music schools, but I certainly get your point. The musicians in this video from The BBC Proms—and not just anyone can perform at The Proms—do seem very mature for their age. That’s one thing I noticed about them. The discipline, dedication and conviction required (the hours of practise time, for example) for where they are musically in their lives—being in this Orchestra and Chorus, as one example—does require a level of maturity. It’s not something one sees in this shallow and superficial “US Pop Culture,” where stupidity, immaturity (acting like a toddler), and being/acting dumb and ignorant seem to be “in.” Ugh. As mi amiga says: Let me out of this country!

      I enjoy writing about performances such as this because it’s a superb performance and it’s a pleasure for me to write about it. I’m glad you enjoyed it y gracias for your comment. Chau.

      1. D8

        I know the blogger you’re talking about. He turned me off when he was at the BG. He refers to the politicians around here as “moderates” because that’s how they define themselves. They’re conservatives, just look at what they stand for. I’ve lived here a long time and common knowledge has it that in San Francisco a “moderate” is a conservative by our standards. That blogger seems to go to any length to not offend establishment politicians while as you say he defines himself as a progressive. We don’t need progressives like him. They are the problem. I’ve seen what he does on his blog. He’s part of the problem.

        I watched this RVW again last night and I heard and saw things I didn’t the first two or three times.

        Do you know the age requirement for the orchestra and chorus members?

        1. el barrio rosa Post author

          Hola D8. Regarding the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, they’re all teenagers. New applicants have to be 18 or under. If a musician is applying for a new position in the Orchestra s/he must be 19 or under.

          For the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, the audition requirement is: school year 6* (year 5* for boy trebles) up to age 22.

          Gracias for your comment. Chau.

Fin. The End.