Highgate Choral Society to perform old ode of Portuguese king

Ronald Corp conducting the Highgate Choral Society.

Ronald Corp conducting the Highgate Choral Society. - Credit: Archant

A forthcoming concert in Gospel Oak will see the group hark back to 17th century styles. Or perhaps more 19th century, wonders Michael White.

Monarchs don’t engage with music on the whole, and it’s hard to imagine our current one getting to grips with it – although I happen to know that when Peter Maxwell Davies was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music, the sovereign told him that although she knew nothing much about his work she was “keen to learn”. Which does her credit, and I hope she’s since had much pleasure tapping her feet to his ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ and other favourites.

But that said, history has occasionally produced the odd royal composer. Henry VIII composed lute-songs when he wasn’t chopping off heads. And the 17th Century John IV of Portugal wrote choral music – including, supposedly, a setting of the Christian poem Crux Fidelis which features in Highgate Choral Society’s concert at All Hallows, Gospel Oak.

Its inclusion, alongside other Portuguese music, signals the fact that HCS have just come back from a trip to Portugal where they were singing in Lisbon Cathedral and other venues. In the interests of diplomacy they took the John IV Crux Fidelis with them, plus another, brand new setting of the same words by their own conductor Ronald Corp (pictured). And you can also hear that Corp piece at All Hallows – its UK premiere – alongside works by Faure and John Rutter.

One small word of warning though: the John IV piece is very likely not by him at all, unless his gift for music was bizarrely prescient. Stylistically it sounds more 19th Century than 17th. But you can make your own mind up on that.

Highgate Choral Society, All Hallows Gospel Oak, 7.30pm, May 16. Details: hcschoir.com