New CD/Download Information from composer Martin Emslie/MMC (Music & Media) Recordings – “Omega and Alpha – The End and The Beginning”
Composer: Martin Emslie
Title: Omega and Alpha – The End and The Beginning
Artists: Jonathan Ansell (tenor); Marta Fontanals-Simmons (mezzo-soprano); Gerard Delrez (bass-baritone); The Omega and Alpha Chorus (Castle Cary Choir, Oakfield Choir Frome, All Saints Church Castle Cary Choir) ; The Omega and Alpha Orchestra (led by Steven Smith); Conducted by Martin Emslie FLCM
Catalogue No.: MMC106
Bar Code: 5065001668067
Release Date: 4th November 2013
Format: CD2/Slimline Double Jewel Case
UK PPD: £8.40 (2CD at Single CD Price)
UK Distribution: Discovery
OMEGA & ALPHA, the new oratorio written by Martin Emslie, FLCM, is a powerful re-telling of the Easter Passion story. It takes us from the prophecy of the arrival of the Messiah into Jerusalem, to the traumatic events of the crucifixion and the subsequent resurrection. It examines the confusions that must have been in the minds of the people around Jesus as he embarks on his journey to death and his unwillingness to save himself. It charts the Omega (the end) of Jesus’ life and the Alpha (the beginning) of Christianity.
The music has been written for Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor and Bass-Baritone soloists, choir and organ or orchestra in a fusion of traditional sacred style music and theatrical music to a level that is easily accessible for choral societies and choirs to perform.
It is highly melodic whilst still offering a challenge to performers. For more information about how amateur choirs can perform this piece, please visit www.omegaandalpha.co.uk
The oratorio starts (CD1/1 Prologue) by asking the questions, “Do we recognise significant events when they happen?” and “Is the present the point when the past and the future meet?” The recognition of the Messiah was prophesised in the Old Testament (2 The Prophecy), but begs the question, “If the Messiah did arrive, would we accept him, and what would he need to do to convince us?” Jesus deliberately plans to arrive at Jerusalem (3 Preparation) in the manner described in the prophecy. This arrival was bound to come to the attention of the High Priest, Caiaphas. It would have been seen as a deliberate provocation and a threat to the religious establishment. Caiaphas reacts to Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem (4 The Pharisees Object) as expected, and the unstoppable events start to unfold. Jesus still has doubts about the best way to proceed (5 The Predicament of Jesus) and the course of action which will help his followers to understand what will happen and why he is embarking on an apparent path of self-destruction.
Jesus and his followers gather for the Feast of the Passover, (6 The Passover) and during the meal Jesus shocks the disciples by telling them that Peter will deny him three times and one of them will betray him to the authorities. The disciples react in horror, especially Judas who at that point realises that Jesus is fully aware that he will be the betrayer and is doing nothing to stop him (7 The Dilemma of Judas). The meal finishes with the consumption of the bread and wine (8 The Last Supper) where Jesus is telling the disciples that he knows that he will shortly die. Finally, Jesus teaches Peter about the true relationship between the Lord, master and the servant (9 The Purification) by washing his feet.
After the feast is over, Jesus and the disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane to rest (CD2/1 The Garden of Gethsemane) and Judas leads the soldiers into the garden to arrest Jesus. The disciples want to defend Jesus but he is arrested.
Jesus is taken to Herod for trial (2 The Trial). During the hearing, Jesus will not give a straight answer to Herod’s questioning and the crowd, encouraged by Caiaphas, start to get angry and see Jesus as being blasphemous. Herod is not empowered to give a verdict that will quell the angry mob so he sends Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. Peter has seen the mood of the city turn ugly, and when some ladies recognise him, he denies three times that he knows Jesus (3 The Denial). Judas meanwhile starts to recognise the enormity of his betrayal actions and tries unsuccessfully to return the 30 pieces of silver that the Pharisees had paid him for betraying Jesus. He finally realises that he cannot live with the consequences of his actions. (4 The Death of Judas) The next day Jesus is taken to Pilate, (5 Pilate) and the Pharisees ensure that the mood of the mob is still angry. Pilate questions Jesus but can find no justification for punishment. However, he recognises that there is potential for major rioting if he does not satisfy the mob. Eventually he panders to the angry shouting and sentences Jesus to scourging followed by crucifixion. Mary tries to understand (6 Reflection) what is happening to Jesus and why he has embarked on a course of apparent self-destruction.
Jesus is taken for scourging and then climbs the hill to Golgotha (7 The Scourging and 8 The Climb to Golgotha). Throughout these ordeals the crowd is mocking Jesus. Even when Jesus is nailed to the cross for crucifixion (9 The Crucifixion) one of the malefactors who is being crucified at the same time tries to get Jesus to admit that he is the Son of God and save himself. Jesus is crucified and his body is taken to a prepared tomb. After the Sabbath Mary returns to the tomb, (10 The Resurrection) to find that the body is not there and she is told that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead.
We finally return to the original question, “Was the end of Jesus’ life the beginning of Christianity?”
Recording & CD Information
Presented here is the live performance of the World Premiere performance, in Wells Cathedral on 13th April 2013. The recording engineers were John Dunkerley and Alex Scannell.
Spanning two discs, but priced as a single CD, the work lasts 83:29. The booklet contains the full libretto.
Martin Emslie turned to full time music in 2002 and since then has gone from strength to strength. He is much in demand as a freelance musical director, have conducted and played for over 50 musical theatre shows in Somerset. He has taught all levels of music and music technology from primary schools to “A” level and Diploma level.
He is currently Director of Music for two parish churches and Musical Director for two local choirs. He has been composing minor pieces for many years, many for the shows that he has been musically directing.
In 2011 he composed his first major piece, the award-winning musical “Strike it Lucky” with lyrics by Lynn Lee-Brown which is due to be published in 2013. His Parish Communion setting “The Caryford setting” has been in regular use in Somerset for a number of years.
He has drawn on his experience in both the sacred and musical theatre genres to create “Omega and Alpha”. The work received the support of the Bishop Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath and Wells for a challenging and accessible” telling of the events. The London College of Music added their support to the project by awarding Martin their Fellowship in composition.
Jonathan Ansell, the charismatic young singer with the sensational tenor voice who, shot to fame with pop-opera group G4 on the first series of The X Factor, has now established himself as a bona fide solo star in the classical world as well as in musical theatre.
Jonathan achieved amazing success with the classically-trained group G4. The group split in early
2007 having enjoyed three hit albums, and Jonathan’s debut solo album topped the classical charts and also hit the top ten of the pop charts. He has since produced another solo album (Live Forever) and is working on a third. He has been nominated for a Classical Brit Award, and his debut role as ‘The Man’ in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ .was a huge critical success. He has also played the role of Charles Darnay in the musical version of A Tale of Two Cities in London. For more information visit www.jonathanansell.com
Somerset born Marta Fontanals-Simmons is one of our leading new mezzo-sopranos. She is currently completing an Advanced Certiﬁcate in Opera Studies at Guildhall School of Music & Drama and has already won numerous competitions and sponsorships including (last year) the Maureen Lehane Vocal Award, being runner-up in the Thelma King Award and a finalist in the Hampshire Singing Competition.
Marta has performed as a soloist at Barbican Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St John’s Smith Square, the Courtauld Gallery and Sherborne Abbey to name a few. Marta has had the privilege of singing to Anne Sofie von Otter, Gerald Finley and Emma Kirkby in recent masterclasses.
Recordings include Harvey’s Songs of Li Po for BBC Radio 3, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Holst’s The Coming of Christ with the Holst Orchestra.
Recent opera experience includes Kate Pinkerton Madama Butterfly (Grange Park Opera 2012) Eva Comedy on the Bridge (Minotaur Music Theatre 2011) and cover Lucretia The Rape of Lucretia (British Youth Opera 2011) Recently Marta has performed Jenkins’ Stabat Mater at Sherborne Abbey.
Marta is proud to be a Susan Chilcott Scholar and Concordia Foundation Artist. More detail can be viewed via www.martafontanals.com
London-born Bass-Baritone Gerard Delrez won an Exhibition to study singing and composition at the Royal College of Music under Gordon Clinton and Herbert Howells respectively before pursuing further vocal training with Ellis Keeler at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and, privately, with Norman Bailey and Raimund Herincx. His career embraces both opera and the concert platform. In the latter he has appeared at many of London’s leading venues, including the South Bank Concert Halls, St John’s, Smith Square and the Wigmore Hall, as well as throughout Britain and Europe. Recent concert engagements include Mendelssohn’s Elijah and the Verdi Requiem in Winchester and Canterbury Cathedrals and Birmingham Symphony Hall, Handel’s Messiah in Rouen and Mozart’s Requiem in Santiago da Compostela.
Gerard’s repertoire of more than fifty major choral works from the Baroque to the Contemporary includes much of the dramatic repertoire such as Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. In 2000 he was invited to be the bass soloist at the Millennium International Festival in the Seychelles.
His operatic repertoire includes over 100 roles in operas by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and Strauss. In 2000/1 he sang Leporello (Don Giovanni) on a national tour with Opera Box, and in May 2002 he sang Wotan (Die Walküre) in a critically acclaimed production by The Ring Project in Tunbridge Wells. In September 2006, he again sang this role with The Northern Wagner Orchestra, in Leeds. In February 2005 he sang Commendatore (Don Giovanni) at the Bermuda Festival and returned in 2007 in Puccini’s La Boheme.
He has broadcast for both the BBC and the EBU. He appears on ENO’s video of Billy Budd, and has recorded four CDs of early music for the Herald label.
The next performance is scheduled for March 2014, in Hull, but many other opportunities are being currently investigated and finalised.
The CD will receive a full service to press and initial marketing will probably include Gramophone and BBC Music.
For review copies and any further information, please contact John Cronin at Music & Media/MMC Recordings, which is a division of Music and Media Consulting Limited.