St Cecilia is the patron saint of music and her feast day, 22nd November, was the birthday of England's greatest composer of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten. A celebratory concert on this day in the year of Britten's centenary is doubly special. Wilton's spectacular Italianate church is the venue for the concert by the Netheravon Singers, joined by the Bristol Ensemble, Godolphin School's prize-winning Vocal Ensemble (director, Olivia Sparkhall) and tenor soloist Ian Wicks, under the baton of Colin Howard.
St Nicolas uses the original story of the Saint who became Father Christmas. He saved three girls from prostitution by dropping money to the family down a chimney, three boys from being pickled and turned into a pie, stilled a great storm and even boxed the ears of one of his fellow bishops at a conference. Britten sets eight scenes with wonderful clarity and energy using choir, orchestra, soloist, off-stage girls and even the audience to tell the tale. His friend, the poet W.H Auden provided the text for A Hymn to St Cecilia and the words for Rejoice in the Lamb were taken from the inspired lunacy of the poetry of Christopher Smart. The Bristol Ensemble is providing six of their principal players as instrumental accompaniment for St Nicolas. Mark Wood, vicar of the Church of Wilton's parish church, is also a fine organist and it is he who will be playing the virtuosic organ part in Rejoice in the Lamb and supporting the audience in the hymns written into the fabric of the cantata St Nicolas.
The concert is in aid of the Salisbury Hospice and the Church. Tickets, price £10 in advance are available from Cross Keys Bookshop, Salisbury 01722 326131 or Wilton Hardware 01722 743379, or on the door.