Alnwick, Recorded Music Society,

Boat moored in Alnmouth estuary
Boat moored in Alnmouth estuary

Maritime music

A maritime influence prevailed when Alnwick Recorded Music Society member Stanley Trafford presented his choice of music associated with the sea.

After a brief choral blast from the opening movement of Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, Stanley explained that he had chosen a range of music in which the sea figured either as an expression of mood, a setting for an action or, more deeply, as a metaphor.

His first choice was Benjamin Britten’s expressive Four Sea Interludes in a recording by Andre Previn with The London Symphony Orchestra.

Next came the overture to Richard Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, performed by Pinchas Steinberg with the ORTF Symphony Orchestra of Vienna. Stanley outlined the plot of the opera for which this music provided the setting.

Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures are a rich metaphor for the trials and joys of love, and Stanley chose two dramatic songs performed by Jennifer Johnston with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

In contrast, his next choice was the Sailor’s Song from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, with the tars taking “a boozy short leave” of their lovers, but “never intending to visit them more”. The recording was by Les Arts Florissants, conducted by William Christie.

Back to the 20th century, we heard John Ireland’s wonderful setting of John Masefield’s Sea Fever sung by Thomas Allen accompanied by Roger Vignoles.

This was followed by Thom Allen again, this time with Sarah Walker, singing an arrangement of the amusing traditional Mermaid’s Song.

Khachaturian’s music may have nothing to do with the sea, but its use to introduce the television series The Onedin Line will forever link it with ships and the ocean.

We heard an excerpt by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer.

To conclude an entertaining evening, Stanley took his presentation full circle by playing a recording of the entire final movement of Vaughan William’s epic Sea Symphony, performed by The Royal Liverpool Choir and Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley.