11th June 2016: Charlotte and her Sisters

Saturday 11 June 2016 7.30 pm

The Queen’s School, City Walls Rd, Chester CH1 2NN

Mezzo-soprano: Joyce Tindsley

Conductor: Martin Bussey

Join Chester Bach Singers to celebrate 200 years since Charlotte Brontë was born in Haworth Parsonage. Together with her sisters, Emily and Anne, Charlotte produced some of the most enduring English stories and poems. Chester Bach Singers will explore the lives of the three sisters and then re-trace the gripping narrative of Charlotte’s most famous work, Jane Eyre.


The Brontë Sisters (Anne Brontë; Emily Brontë; Charlotte Brontë) by Patrick Branwell Brontë oil on canvas, circa 1834 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Brontë sisters, immortalised in the famous, incomplete picture of them painted by their brother, Branwell, lived their lives for the most part in the newly industrialised village of Haworth, to which the natural beauty of the moors formed both a backdrop and means of escape. It’s no surprise that nature plays a significant part in their writing and this is reflected in the imagery in much of the music in the concert, for example in Sterndale Bennett’s (also born in 1816) setting of Christopher Marlowe:

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove.
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

The sisters’ background as daughters of the Parsonage is reflected in Goss’ If we believe that Jesus died. Their home entertainment, singing and playing Scottish ballads and folk songs, is represented in music by Schumann and Bantock. Their trail-blazing achievements in developing their individual voices as published women writers in the mid-nineteenth century, typical of their focus on individual liberty, is reflected in Martin Bussey’s settings of Emily Brontë, No coward soul is mine and Riches I hold in light esteem. These songs, from the cycle A Chainless soul, will be sung by our guest for the evening, distinguished mezzo Joyce Tindsley.

The story of Charlotte’s Jane Eyre encompasses many themes drawn from the sisters’ experiences and from daily life in Victorian England, as well as reflecting key themes in Romantic literature, art and music. Her early experiences at Lowood School, particularly the deaths of her contemporaries, are marked in the beautiful music of Pearsall’s Lay a garland; her passionate yet unequal relationship with the brooding Mr Rochester, by love songs and choral music by Schumann; the disaster of their interrupted wedding by an excerpt from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore; the strong Christian moral element which runs throughout Charlotte’s work is represented by Vaughan Williams’ Valiant for Truth, memorably setting lines from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Many of these themes come together in Brahms’ beautiful Alto Rhapsody, an extended work, written after the Brontës were dead but which sets a text, by Goethe, with which they may well have been familiar.  Here Joyce Tindsley will be accompanied by the men of Chester Bach Singers and regular Chester Bach Singers accompanist Catherine Barnett.

Throughout the evening, excerpts from the Brontë’s writings read by Joyce Tindsley and Alan Tiltman, including poetry by Emily and Anne, will link with the music to form a continuous experience – come and immerse yourself in the unique world of the Brontë sisters!