Opening Gala: Tippett – A Child of Our Time


Wednesday 1st May 2013 

Cork City Hall, 8pm




The Festival’s Opening Gala Concert featured a performance of composer Michael Tippett’s renowned oratorio A Child of Our Time. The work is inspired by the 1938 assassination of a German diplomat by a young Jewish refugee, and the Nazi government’s reaction in the form of a vicious pogrom against its Jewish population—the so-called Kristallnacht. Featuring the Fleischmann Choir and members of the Cologne Philharmonic Choir as well as some of Ireland’s leading soloists, including Mary Hegarty (Soprano), Bridget Knowles (Contralto), Robin Tritschler (Tenor) and Owen Gilhooly (Baritone) along with the Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra, this Opening Gala Concert, conducted by Geoffrey Spratt, was a unique and unforgettable performance of a truly evocative work.

The first half of the concert platformed the Band of the 1st Southern Brigade, conducted by Captain Brian Prendergast. The band’s programme featured works by Eric Coates, Gustav Holst, and A. J. Potter. The Band of the First Southern Brigade has a national reputation for its musical quality, and regularly performs in concerts, military and State ceremonies providing a  rousing beginning to a spectacular night.


A Child of Our Time is a secular oratorio by the English composer Michael Tippett (1905–98), who also wrote the libretto.  Composed between 1939 and 1941, it was first performed at the Adelphi Theatre, London, on 19 March 1944.  The work was inspired by events that affected Tippett profoundly: the assassination in 1938 of a German diplomat by a young Jewish refugee, and the Nazi government’s reaction in the form of a vicious pogrom against its Jewish population—the so-called “Kristallnacht.”  Tippett’s oratorio deals with these incidents in the context of the experiences of oppressed people generally, and carries a strongly pacifist message of ultimate understanding and reconciliation.  The text’s recurrent themes of shadow and light reflect the Jungian psychoanalysis which Tippett underwent in the years immediately before writing the work.

The oratorio uses a traditional three-part format based on that of Handel’s Messiah, and is structured in the manner of J. S. Bach’s Passions.  The work’s most original feature is Tippett’s use of American spirituals, which carry out the role allocated by Bach to chorales.  Tippett justified this innovation on the grounds that these songs of oppression possess a universality absent from Christian and other hymns.

According to Tippett, “Part I of the work deals with the general state of oppression in our time.  Part II presents the particular story of a young man’s attempt to seek justice by violence and the catastrophic consequences; and Part III considers the moral to be drawn, if any.”  He later extended his summary to the following:

Part I: The general state of affairs in the world today as it affects all individuals, minorities, classes or races that are felt to be outside the ruling conventions.  Man at odds with his shadow (i.e. the dark side of personality).

Part II: The “child of our time” appears, enmeshed in the drama of his personal fate and the elemental social forces of our day.  The drama is due to the fact that the forces which drive the young man prove stronger than the good advice of his uncle and aunt, as it always was and always will be.

Part III: The significance of this drama and the possible healing that would come from man’s acceptance of his shadow in relation to his light.

The vocal score bears the inscription: “… the darkness declares the glory of light”


The Fleischmann Choir

Members of the Philharmonische Chor Köln (Dirigent: Horst Meinardus)

Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra (Leader: Hugh Murray)

Soloists: Mary Hegarty (soprano), Bridget Knowles (contralto)  Robin Tritschler (tenor) & Owen Gilhooly (baritone)

Conductor: Geoffrey Spratt

MAry_Hegarty_Ismall_resize_webMary Hegarty

Mary Hegarty studied at Cork School of Music and the National Opera Studio in London. Upon winning the Golden Voice of Ireland she represented her country in the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and subsequently built an impressive career on stages throughout Europe. Since making her debut in 1989 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Mary has sung principal roles with English National Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Adelaide Festival, Opera Theatre Company, OPERA 2005 and many more. Oratorio and concert performances include Messiah and Carmina Burana at the Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, The Barbican, with the BBC Symphony and Concert Orchestras, Orchestre Nationale de Belgique, RTÉ National Symphony and Concert Orchestra. Recent concerts include recitals with the Vanbrugh String Quartet and Cuarteto Casals, Cork Operatic Society’s production of Candide, and the critically acclaimed Cork Opera House production of Dido and Aeneas.

Bridget_Knowles-1_webBridget Knowles

Dublin born Bridget Knowles began her vocal studies with Robert Beare at the Cork School of Music and graduated with an honours BMus and MA degree from UCC. She continued at the Royal Northern College, Manchester before taking up a place at the National Opera Studio in London, studying with Felicity Palmer. Bridget has graced many top national and international stages including the National Concert Hall,the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and the Händel-Halle in Germany. She has performed with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the National Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and has worked with such conductors as Sir Charles Mackerras, Alessandro Anissimov and Prionnsias O’Duinn. Having moved to Waterford in recent years, she is now leading the vocal studies programme of the Music BA at Waterford IT. Future concerts include recitals of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder with pianist Malcolm Proud in May and October.

Robin_Tritschler_webRobin Tritschler

Robin Tritschler is equally at home performing concert and recital repertoire and operas. His concert performances include appearances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de Chambre du Luxembourg and many more. He was recently selected as a BBC New Generation Artist, and regularly performs and broadcasts with the BBC Orchestras. Robin has given recitals with leading accompanists namely Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau and Simon Lepper. He regularly performs at the Aldeburgh Festival, Aix-en-Provence Festival and the West Cork Chamber Music Festival. Robin’s recent opera performances include Il barbiere di Siviglia, Salome, Mitridate and Don Giovanni. Robin created the roles of Kipfer (Piccard in Space by Will Gregory) and Tenor role in Roger Waters’ Ça Ira. Robin will make his debut with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 2013.


Owen Gilhooly

Owen Gilhooly is a graduate of the Royal College of Music and National Opera Studio, and is currently pursuing Doctoral studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He represented Ireland at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2007 and 2009 and made his Viennese debut singing the title role in Conti’s Don Chisciotte. His roles for Opera Theatre Company (OTC) include Figaro (Barber of Seville), Marcello (La bohème) and Father (Hansel and Gretel). He has sung in concert with the RTÉ NSO, the Bournemouth and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras, and the Royal Liverpool and London Philharmonic Orchestras. Future plans include Brahms’ Requiem and the premiere of Seoirse Bodley’s Mignon und der Harfner, Il Conte (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Abraham in Sally Beamish’s new opera Hagar in the Wilderness.


Fleischman Choir

Fleischmann Choir & Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra (web)
The Fleischmann Choir was founded by Dr Geoffrey Spratt, Director of the Cork School of Music, in November 1992.  Initially called the Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra Chorus, it sang in public for the first time on 22 April 1993 when it gave a concert with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in Cork’s City Hall to mark the opening of the 40th Cork International Choral Festival. The programme was of music by Aloys Fleischmann – one of the founders of the Cork International Choral Festival, and its longest-serving Director – who had died the previous year.  Shortly after this concert, with the permission of the family, the choir was renamed in memory of the man who did so much to further the cause of choral music and choral singing in Ireland during the 20th century.  Since then it has established an international reputation for its performances of large-scale works for choir & orchestra.  Tonight’s performance marks Dr Spratt’s final public performance as conductor of the choir he founded twenty-one years ago.  Fuller details about the choir are to be found in the programme for Opening Gala Concert performance of Tippett’s A Child of Our Time.

Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra

The Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra [CSMSO] comprises senior part-time students of the Cork School of Music [CSM] still completing their second-level education, and some of those pursing full-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the CIT Cork School of Music – Ireland’s largest provider of conservatory education in music and drama.  Apart from performing the standard 19th- and 20th-century literature, the CSMSO fulfils an annual commitment to accompanying the winner of the CSM’s Senior Concerto Competition, performing oratorios with the Fleischmann Choir (the CSM’s adult mixed-voice choir), commissioning and premièring new works by composers, and supporting the undergraduate Orchestration classes. The orchestra has achieved an enviable international reputation for its achievements, and provides its members (many of whom have gone on to become professionals) with a thorough and broad-spectrum training in orchestral playing.  Fuller details about the orchestra are to be found in the programme for Opening Gala Concert performance of Tippett’s A Child of our Time.

Philharmonische Chor Köln

Philharmonische Chor Köln

The Philharmonische Chor Köln (Cologne Philharmonic Choir) was founded as an independent concert choir in 1947 by Philipp Röhl, and gave its first performance in Cologne in 1948. Soon afterwards the number of active singers in the choir grew to over 200. The new choir toured many German cities and performed in other European countries, with many of its concerts recorded live by radio stations. In 1990 Horst Meinardus, who had been the choir’s Assistant Conductor since 1976, succeeded Philipp Röhl as Music Director.

Horst Meinardus presents his work specifically in the tradition of a large concert choir. For him it is important to preserve and develop the independent profile of the Cologne Philharmonic Choir, and during his directorship he has expanded the choir’s musical repertory—including rarely performed works by composers such as Honegger, Szymanowski, Suter, Respighi, Dupré, Martin Petzold and Kodály.

Geoffrey Spratt

Dr Geoffrey Spratt (photo) (web)

Geoffrey Spratt was a professional flautist & viola player as well as a conductor with a wide experience of choral, operatic & orchestral conducting before moving to Ireland in 1976; since then he has combined a career in music education with being one of the most sought-after conductors in the country and making a significant input to various bodies working to further the cause of music in Ireland. Through his work as Chairman (1984-2006) of Cumann Náisiúnta na gCór (which he co-founded in 1980), he has done much to promote the cause of choral singing in Ireland.  In 1982 he established CNC’s Annual Summer School for Choral Conductors and taught the advanced class until 2005.  More recently he has taught conducting for a variety of course providers and given masterclasses for many choirs.  He was Director (1987-93) of the Cork International Choral Festival (succeeding Aloys Fleischmann) and has been Chairman of the Cork Orchestral Society since 1992. As a Lecturer in UCC’s Music Department (1976-92), he founded the UCC Choir & Orchestra (1976), conducted the UCC Choral Society (1978-87), and – with Aiveen Kearney – established the Irish Youth Choir in 1982 (Conductor, 1982-2007).  Following his appointment as Director of the Cork School of Music in 1992, he founded the Fleischmann Choir (1992-) and Canticum Novum (1998-).  All these ensembles have achieved recognition throughout Ireland and abroad for their concerts, broadcasts & competitive festival appearances. Since 1980 he has appeared regularly as a guest conductor with most of the professional orchestras & choirs in Ireland, particularly Dublin’s Orchestra of St Cecilia.  (Apart from performances of J. S. Bach’s cantatas, perhaps the highlight of his OSC work has been Mozart’s complete Piano Concertos (Hugh Tinney, NCH, 1996-98.).  He was conductor of Madrigal ’75 (1985-97), the Galway Baroque Singers & Orchestra (1983-92), and a guest conductor throughout Europe & USA.