Shaldon Festival Choir Informal Concert
St Peter's Church, Shaldon
Bridge Road
TQ14 0DB
United Kingdom
Type: Concert
Date: Saturday 23 June 2018
Start Time: 7.30pm
End Time: Approximately 9.30pm
Performer(s): Shaldon Festival Choir
Host Organisation: Shaldon Festival
Box Office Contact: Malcolm Watson
Box Office Email:

Ticket Information: All tickets £7 Full details can be found on the 'Book Tickets' page of this website.

Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

Stephen Threlfall Musical Director
Peter Adcock Piano
Paul Morgan Organ
Héloïse West Soprano
Rebecca Smith Contralto
Matthew Wilding Tenor
James Quilligan Bass


Gioachino Antonio Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle
Rossini was born at Pesaro and moved with his parents to Bologna at the time when Napoleon's troops entered Northern Italy. There Rossini had a musical upbringing and started composing at about the age of 12. By his late teens he was writing seriously for the theatre. He studied at the University of Bologna, becoming an enthusiast for the music of Mozart, who had died little more than two months before Rossini was born. Rossini later referred to Mozart as 'the admiration of my youth, the desperation of my mature years and the consolation of my old age'.

Rossini achieved both fame and fortune early in his career, continuing opera-writing until he was 37 years old. In this period, he held positions as Musical Director of theatres in Naples and later in Paris. However, in 1829, his Last opera William Tell was produced and he retired, having written nearly 40 operas. For the next 25 years, he wrote virtually nothing. Then, after settling in Paris in 1855, he started to compose again, mainly songs and piano pieces, and often parodying contemporary styles. A collection of about 150 pieces date from the last 13 years of his life, many of them humorous or quirky in nature – he called them the "sins of old age".

During this last period, he was in 1863 asked by a friend, Countess Louise Pillet-Will, to write a solemn mass for the consecration of a private chapel. He scored the work for intimate forces – two pianos, harmonium, four soloists and small chorus. The resulting work was first performed in Passy near Paris in March 1864. At the end of the score he rather touchingly wrote:
Good Lord, there it is, finished, this poor little mass. I do not know if this music is sacred or sacrilegious (musique sacrée or sacrée musique). I was born for comic opera as You well know. Little skill, some feeling and that's all. Therefore let me sing Your praises and grant me your paradise. G. Rossini – Passy 1863.
His description "little" has stuck to the work so that it is customarily referred to as the "Petite" Messe Solennelle, in spite of taking over 80 minutes to perform! It contains the full text of the High Mass – hence solennelle in the title – but in addition, Rossini has set O Salutaris Hostia, a text suitable for the feast of Corpus Christi. However, it is not really solemn in any emotional sense. For this was as quirky in its way as any of his other pieces written at this time. Indeed, among his annotations to the autograph, he self-depricatingly described the work as 'the last mortal sin of my old age'.

This was the last of Rossini's major compositions and was immediately received enthusiastically by Meyerbeer and other musical eminences in Paris at that time. Although it was commissioned for small forces, Rossini clearly envisaged performances on a larger scale and he orchestrated it a year or two later. The hand of the opera composer undoubtedly shows in the writing, but does not dominate. Indeed some sections could be taken as Rossini showing his mastery of form with affinities to older styles, for example the strict canon of the unaccompanied Christe eleison, early in the work. This is framed by two Kyrie sections, where the smooth vocal parts are underlain by rhythmic piano writing in quite different style. Occasionally, in such solos as Domine Deus and Quoniam, the theatre takes over, and there are times when the Rossini of 1863 comes stylistically close to Verdi. This perhaps is less to be wondered at than the contrapuntal skill and vitality of the fugal sections (Cum Sancto Spiritu and In Vitam Venturi). The instrumental Preludio Religioso certainly offers a rare glimpse of a more serious and academic Rossini than might be expected by listeners who know only the operas.
Programme notes provided by Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, May 2011 courtesy of Making Music

Parking Map for St Peter's Church, Shaldon


St Peter’s Church, Bridge Road, Shaldon, TQ14 0DB


1. Long Stay Public Carpark ½ mile from the church, reached through the village or off the A379 coast road to Torquay, postcode TQ14 0HP – 381 spaces, “pay & display” during the day but free after 6.00pm. Allow 15 minutes for the blue walking route shown.
2. Short Stay Public Carpark, opposite the church, postcode TQ14 0BP – 48 spaces, “pay & display” subject to a short stay 4 hour limit during the day but free after 6.00pm.
3. Extra parking – limited space adjoining the recreation ground reached from Ringmore Road but with easy pedestrian access to the Church along the estuary embankment. If using this area, please park “tidily” to maximise the usable space; this area is only available for parking as a special arrangement for the Festival.


Please telephone Malcolm Watson on 01626 873492 if you need help with letting someone alight at the church and/or need seating space for a wheelchair. In addition, there are a very few parking spaces close to the church which we can reserve for those with mobility difficulties on a first come, first served, basis.