Sea Pictures, Op. 37: No. 3, A Sabbath Morning at Sea
Sea Pictures, Op. 37: No. 3, A Sabbath Morning at Sea
In this masterclass, Professor Mary Brennan works with student Anna-Helena on clarity, precision, and character in “Sabbath Morning at Sea” from Sea Pictures by Edward Elgar.
Produced by the Royal Irish Academy of Music
In this masterclass, Professor Mary Brennan works with student Anna-Helena on clarity, precision, and character in “Sabbath Morning at Sea” from Sea Pictures by Edward Elgar. Professor Brennan reminds Anna-Helena to sing with clear, crisp consonants and to enunciate the important words so that nothing will be lost by the audience. They also discuss the meaning of the text and how that meaning can best be reflected by the performer’s musical choices. Professor Brennan encourages her to match the character of the music to the text and to correlate her pacing and phrasing with what the text is expressing. In addition to capturing the story being told by the lyrics, Professor Brennan emphasizes the importance of incorporating the small details, including singing the rhythms precisely, following the written dynamics closely, and experimenting with colors in the sound. Over the course of the piece, Professor Brennan offers Anna-Helena suggestions for how to reflect numerous moods and images, including darkness, excitement, religion, chant, and more.
Singing with clearly defined consonants and words.
Giving the music the same character as the text.
Pacing the music so that the important moments are given weight.
Precisely following the written details, including rhythms, dynamics, and accents.
Bringing out the different moods and imagery.
The piece Sea Pictures was written during the summer of 1899 by British composer and conductor Edward Elgar after being commissioned by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.
Sea pictures, or Opus 37, is a cycle of five songs: the Sea Slumber Song, In Haven, Sabbath Morning at Sea, Where Corals Lie, and The Swimmer. It was first written for sopranos and later adapted for orchestra. The music is expressive and vast, with touches of romanticism and some Wagnerism. The approximative length of interpretation for the whole cycle is about twenty minutes.
Sea Pictures premiered on October 5th, 1899, at the Norfolk and Norwich festival with Edward Elgar conducting and the contralto Clara Butt singing, dressed in a mermaid costume. Elgar’s piece has been recorded and performed many times and is a popular piece.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this voice masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Mary Brennan’s feedback and comments.
She is a teacher in the Vocal Studies Faculty of the Royal Irish Academy of Music since 2007
Mary Brennan is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music. She was a lecturer at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama 1987-2007. She has been a teacher in the Vocal Studies Faculty of the Royal Irish Academy of Music since 2007, teaching for the most part Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate Students. Mary also delivers French Song Classes with 3rd and 4th Year Undergraduates, and Recital Artist students.
Many of Mary’s past students at the RIAM are now enjoying successful performing careers, including Naomi O'Connell, Rachel Kelly, Claudia Boyle, Dean Power, Gavan Ring, Sarah Brady and Padraic Rowan. Of her emerging professional students, in recent years three of her class have been awarded the prestigious Royal Dublin Society Bursary of €15,000, an award which is also competed for amongst Keyboard, Strings, Wind and Brass players.
Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, England in 1857, and was a composer, musician and conductor. He and his siblings received a musical education through the local church and Elgar started to take piano and violin lessons at the age of 8. He also received a formal education. Because his father was selling musical instruments and tuning pianos at prestigious local houses, he took his son with him, giving him the opportunity to play. Later, Elgar wished to enter the Leipzig Conservatory, but his family could not afford it.
After graduating from school, he worked as a clerk in an office and started to perform in front of an audience. Many said that young Elgar could pursue a career as a solo violinist, but Elgar preferred to work as a conductor, coaching musicians, writing arrangements and so on. Despite his timidness, Elgar did well in Worcester’s social circles and was able, through friends and acquaintances, to attend concerts and festivals. In the early 1880s, he visited Paris and Leipzig, and in 1883, he became engaged to a young woman named Helen. This engagement would unfortunately not last. It is often noted that Elgar had a very romantic, almost naïve, vision of love and each new woman he was in love with took a lot of space in his life. One of them was Alice Stuart Wortley, who married him despite her family disapproving, and became his number one supporter and critic. Elgar’s career was not taking off and many years passed during which he became increasingly desperate to finally “make it.” His reputation as a composer and conductor was well-established, but he was not by any means famous or rich.
In 1899, at age 42, things radically changed for him when he produced his Enigma Variations in London. The concert was such an astonishing success that he became famous overnight, being called the “successor of recently-deceased Sir Arthur Sullivan”. Few British composers enjoyed a celebrity status, as most European composers were French, German, Austrian etc. During the First World War, Elgar was regarded as a patriot, writing war pieces. In the 1920s, he left the city due to his declining health, and faced tragedy after the sudden loss of his wife, Alice. He eventually passed from cancer at the age of 76. His musical legacy consists of various masterpieces for strings, with essential pieces like his Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85; Enigma Variations, Op. 36 and the most famous Pomp and Circumstance Marches.