You are warmly invited to a performance of Carissimi’s Jephte by the Kenderdine Consort this Saturday (20 Feb) at 9pm in Pembroke College Chapel. This is a rare chance to hear an oratorio that has become famous for its moving final chorus, but contains many other hidden gems in its c. 25 minutes of unfolding drama. Pembroke Chapel, completed by Christopher Wren in 1665, provides a wonderfully apt setting for one of the earliest oratorios, composed in Rome only some 15 years earlier.
The singers, ex-choral scholars of Trinity and Clare who have performed together in various combinations for several years, are directed by Pembroke’s Fellow in Music, Sam Barrett, and accompanied by the Director of Music, Gregory Drott.
The oratorio tells the fateful story of Jepthah, who rashly promises to sacrifice the first thing that he sees on returning home from battle against the Ammonites should he be granted victory. On approaching his house, he sees coming over the threshold his only child, his daughter (filia). Bound by his vow he is compelled to sacrifice his daughter, but she asks for two months’ grace to bewail her virginity on the mountains. The daughters of Israel mark the sacrifice by lamenting filia’s demise. Giacomo Carissimi’s music is highly expressive throughout. The main solo role falls to filia, sung for us by Libby Percival, who runs the gamut of emotions from rejoicing at her father’s safe return from battle to horror and subsequent lamentation of her fate. The story is told by narrators drawn variously from the group as a whole, interspersed by choruses featuring differing combinations of voices.
The concert is supported by the Kenderdine Fund, a substantial bequest to Pembroke College for the purposes of music from the estate of Dr Sidney Kenderdine (1935-2002). Dr Kenderdine came up to Pembroke in 1955 to read Natural Sciences. He took a PhD in Physics in 1963 and was appointed a Teaching Fellow at Pembroke in 1965. He taught Physics for three decades, as well as acting as Praelector of the College between 1969-1999. Dr Kenderdine was a tireless supporter of music in College, acting as President of the Music Society from 1971 until his death. He was deeply involved in Chapel music and gave recitals on the organ, which he had restored in 1980. He produced three CDs of his performances on the organ, and endowed the Senior Organ Scholarship.
Admission is free. A retiring collection will be taken in aid of Pembroke House, the College’s social action centre in Walworth, South London.