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Durham University




(3 March 2014)

On 13 March at St Johns’s, Smith Square, London, Durham University Music Society Chorus and the London Chorus, with the New London Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp will give a remarkable programme of British music including the world premiere of Dyson’s Choral Symphony. 

The Concert will also include baritone SIR THOMAS ALLEN (Chancellor, Durham University) singing Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs and the organist Simon Williams will give a rare performance of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s substantial Concert Piece for organ and orchestra.  

The four soloists in the Dyson Symphony will be: Katy Thomson (soprano), Nicola Semple (alto), Pierre-Philippe Dechant (tenor) and Daniel Tate (bass).

Sir George Dyson’s four movement setting of Psalm 107, “O Give Thanks Unto the Lord”, a four-movement Choral Symphony, set for SATB soli, double chorus and orchestra, is a notable event for all lovers of British music. This forgotten major score was Dyson’s Oxford DMus submission, composed in 1910, and it has remained unheard for a century. 

Dyson is of particular note for the way, coming from an industrial working-class background, he successfully reinvented himself and went on to be the voice of public school music and, in 1937, Director of the Royal College of Music, the first alumnus of the College to do so. Dyson was a pupil of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and in 1904 Dyson won the Mendelssohn Scholarship, and went to Italy, later journeying on to Vienna, Dresden and Berlin, where he met many of the leading musicians of the day. He is best remembered for his vibrant and tuneful choral work The Canterbury Pilgrims (1931) after Chaucer, and for a variety of orchestral works including a memorable symphony, a lyrical violin concerto and music for the Coronations in 1937 and 1953. 

In this pioneering four-movement choral symphony (it just precedes the premiere of Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony) Dyson sets words taken from Psalm 107 with an extended orchestral introduction.

The celebratory Allegro molto finale sets the familiar words “They that go down to the sea in ships”. Dyson, writing in a world where Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony was still unheard and Debussy’s La Mer had been first heard as recently as February 1908, is a strikingly fresh voice in depicting the sea in a familiar harmonic idiom. Dyson is in his element in his orchestral depiction of the storm. 

The Concert has been organised by the London Chorus, in association with Durham University, Durham University Music Society (DUMS) and the Sir George Dyson Trust. 

Dyson Biographer and Honorary Fellow of Durham University, Paul Spicer commented: 

'When I found this work in the Bodleian Library in my researches for the biography I was amazed at its scale and the confidence of the writing displayed by Dyson whose virtuoso use of the orchestra became one of his most notable traits. Sometimes hailed as an unoriginal composer, many commentators failed to realise that most of the works they regard as the benchmarks of originality in British music were predated by Dyson. A lyrical, passionate and engaging composer whose works should be far better known. This is an exciting moment for lovers of British music.'

Professor Jeremy Dibble of the Durham University Music Department commented:

“Although those who know Dyson’s setting of the Evening Canticles in D major (composed in Dresden in 1907) will recognise the voice of the composer in this choral symphony, they will be surprised at its opulence, imagination and enthusiastic Schwung, typical of Dyson in the first flush of creative maturity.

For lovers of choral music this is an occasion not to be missed.”

Tickets are available from the St John’s, Smith Square Box Office: 0207 222 1061 or online at

For further information please contact Jonathan Clinch on 0191 334 4600 or email

Further information on Sir George Dyson is available via the Sir George Dyson Trust: enquiries to Lewis Foreman: 01923 775496 (email: