A wicked queen, a great composer and an outstanding singer

Elmhurst School for Boys

21st May 2012

In an example of ‘Six Degrees of Separation’, today we linked an evil queen from 3000 years ago, the greatest ‘English’ composer of 300 years ago, and a boy treble from Wales 30 years ago.

In the Old Testament, 3000 years ago, a little known episode concerns a usurper queen called Athaliah. She has stolen the throne from the rightful heir, a boy called Joas. She orders her priests to murder Joas, but rather than do so, they bring the young boy up in safety, hidden in the temple. Her wicked commands come back to haunt her, when Joas is eventually presented before her and she is removed from power. Just reward for her evil deeds and her attempt to harm a saintly boy!

300 years ago, George Friderick Handel was becoming the great composer he is now recognised to be. He moved from Germany to London and was hailed as a genius. He wrote many works, including an oratorio telling the story of Athaliah. He was inspired by the tale of how the priests of Israel refused to obey Athaliah’s commands and protected the saintly young boy king. As a result, Handel himself became a great benefactor and patron of causes to help young children. Some of his most famous works were composed in aid of the Foundling Hospital, an institution in London to provide for the welfare of children at risk and in need of aid.

And 30 years ago, a young boy treble from Wales was being discovered. This young boy, a chorister of Bangor Cathedral, went on to develop the most beautiful treble career of the 20th century. His name: Aled Jones – and he is now a TV and radio presenter. One of his earliest recordings, when he was the same age as our Year 6 boys at Elmhurst, was of an aria (song) from Handel’s Athaliah. It is an astonishing piece of singing which helped to establish Aled Jones as the international star he later became, until his voice broke at age 15. The aria is Joas’s song of faith when his future seems dire at the hands of the evil queen: God will provide for me because I believe in him – would he ever desert me?

You can hear this sublime singing here. From such an evil character as Athaliah, much good has come.

Have a good week.

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