Britten’s ‘St.Nicolas’ & Monteverdi’s ‘Beatus Vir’


A Saturday evening concert in Sunderland Minster, conducted by David Murray.

Tickets £12.00 (£10 concessions) or £6.00 in Gallery with limited view.

Soloist – James Geer – tenor

 Britten’s cantata, St.Nicolas,was commissioned to celebrate the centenary of Lancing College, Sussex, where its first official performance took place in July 1948. However it had already received an unofficial premiere six weeks earlier at the first Aldenburgh Festival with Britten himself conducting both performances. It tells the story, some of it real but mostly legendary, of Nicolas the 4th century bishop of Myra.

Nicholas is immortalised in legends that tell of his care of  the poor and oppressed. The miracle which confirmed his position was his restoration to life of three small boys who at the time of a famine had been pickled in brine by a wicked butcher. From this macabre tale emerged the practice of giving presents to deserving children. This and the fact that the Feast of St.Nicolas falls on the 6th of December, meant that his popular image evolved into the figure of Santa Claus.

Monteverdi was perhaps one of the greatest Italian Renaissance composers and he revolutionised the music of the theatre and the church with his dramatic use of instruments and voices. Beatus Vir, which was probably composed in 1630, was published as part of a collection Selva Morale e Spirituali in 1641. A setting of Psalm 112 it is a fine example of his dramatic style, contrasting pairs or small groups of voices with the weight of the full chorus.

James Geer

Hailing from Sussex, James studied at Magdalen College, Oxford University, where he sang as an Academical Clerk in the College Choir, Trinity College of Music and on the Opera Course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, graduating in 2008. While at College James won numerous scholarships and competitions including the Morag Noble Award, the Catto Scholarship and the Principal’s Award for the outstanding student performance of the year.

After graduating James was invited to become a Britten/Pears Scholar and has appeared in numerous performances at the Snape Maltings, notably as Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia, conducted by David Parry and Mathan in Athalia, conducted by Richard Egarr. He has also appeared at the Snape Easter Festival in Mozart’s Requiem conducted by Bernard Labadie and at the Aldeburgh Festival where he performed Britten’s Sech Holderlin Fragmente with Malcolm Martineau. This concert was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

James’ operatic roles performed while at college include Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Monsieur Triquet (Eugene Onegin), Gonzalves (L’Heure Espagnol), L’Aumonier (Les Dialogues des Carmelites), Duncan (The Albatross), The Singer (Beatrice Cenci) and Le Berger (Oedipus Rex). Roles elsewhere include Male Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia) at the Snape Maltings, Acis (Acis and Galatea) with Edinburgh Studio Opera and Frederic (The Pirates of Penzance) for Haddo House Opera.

Concert appearances have included L’Aumonier in Les Dialogues des Carmelites with Stephane Deneve and the RSNO, The Sailor in Dido and Aeneas with Nicholas McGeegan and the ECO, both at the Edinburgh International Festival as well as a wide range of performances with choral societies throughout the UK.

James is currently a member of the Glyndebourne Chorus, the Dunedin Consort, the Academy of Ancient Music, London Voices and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, and will be a Samling Scholar in 2010.