Britten's Celebrated 'Hymn to St. Cecilia' Has Inspired Jonathan Overby Since He Attended SF State

Thursday, May 07, 2020

WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO (MADISON, WISCONSIN) -- My first year as a voice student at San Francisco State University was a remarkable one for several reasons, most of which I will set aside for now, though two are worth mentioning. One, being accepted into the chamber choir and the other, my introduction at our first rehearsal to English composer Benjamin Britten’s celebrated choral work, Hymn to St. Cecilia, Op. 27.

With the Vietnam War lingering in the background of daily life coupled with a constant fear of being drafted into it, music became both a respite from my worries and a welcomed distraction. Learning that Britten’s piece may have been influenced by his contrasting pacifist ideals set amid World War II caught my attention. I remember even today how affirming, new, optimistic and grounded the lyrics sounded back then.