Purcell, Two Odes

"Hail, Bright Cecilia" & "Of Old, When Heroes Thought It Base"


Between his twentieth year and his death in 1695 at the age of 35, Purcell composed two Odes per year. 

Although they contain true masterpieces, these Odes have long been neglected and most of them are almost never performed, with the exception of two, of which “Hail, Bright Cecilia”. St Cecilia being the patron saint of musicians, this ode became one of the composer’s hits after being a real success at its first performance in 1692 since it is reported to have been encored. It has also been reported that Purcell himself sang the countertenor part with incredible grace.

Face to face with this classic, and on the same programme, Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien have chosen to play a lesser-known ode for today’s audience “Of Old, When Heroes Thought It Base. The Yorkshire Feast Song’ (which could be interpreted as ‘When Heroes Tell of Old Times. The Yorkshire Feast Song).

At that time, people from certain counties or towns used to meet in London every year. They would attend a church service and then participate in a festive and convivial celebration. In January 1689, the Yorkshire festival was announced for 24 February. The press reported that “a sermon will be delivered at Bow Church that morning for the Society”. James II having fled before Christmas, and the throne being vacant, the celebration was postponed until the following 27 March, the anniversary of the County of York. The ode was described in the press as ‘set to music by Mister Henry Purcell… one of the finest compositions he ever created, costing a hundred pounds for the performance’ (which is a large sum. Indeed, the ode form illustrated by Purcell requires many musicians: orchestra, choir and soloists).

Later critics noted the fine musical craftsmanship and an extraordinary tenor solo written on a 5-note ground bass: “So,When The Glitt’ring Queen Of Night”.

Translation: Christopher Bayton

Approx. 1h20

28 artists
Tim Mead, counter-tenor
William Shelton, counter-tenor, choir
Zachary Wilder, tenor, choir
Victor Sicard, baritone/bass, choir
Emilie Rose Bry, soprano, choir
10 choristers – Denis Comtet, choirmaster
13 musicians
François Lazarevitch, direction & flute

Co-production Le Volcan, scène nationale of Le Havre


Hail, Bright Cecilia (1692)
Livret Nicholas Brady

* Introduction : Canzona – Adagio – Allegro – Grave – Allegro 
* Hail! Bright Cecilia 
* Hark! hark! each tree
* ‘Tis Nature’s voice 
* Soul of the world 
* Thou tun’st this world 
* With that sublime celestial lay 
* Wondrous machine! 
* The airy violin 
* In vain the am’rous flute 
* The fife and all the harmony of war 
* Let these among themselves contest 
*Hail! Bright Cecilia, hail to thee 

Of Old, When Heroes Thought It Base. The Yorkshire Feast Song. (1690) 

* Symphony
* Of Old, When Heroes Thought It Base / Brigantium, Honour’d With A Race Divine 
* The Bashful Thames, For Beauty So Renowned 
* The Pale And The Purple Rose 
* And In Each Track Of Glory Since 
* Symphony 
* And Now When The Renown’d Nassau 
* They Did No Stroms, No Threat’nings Fear 
* So When The Glitt’ring Queen Of Night 
* Let Music Join 
* Sound, Trumpets, Sound! 
* Sound all to him


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