In the Beginning was the Word – singing the poet's song in a foreign land

Dr Derek McCulloch & Café Mozart
1st March 2018, 7:00pm



In 1781, a date of some significance for the Lit & Phil, Joseph Haydn published his first set of songs in Vienna. These were published in London soon after, in 1786, by the respected composer William Shield, set to English words. Haydn's second set, published in 1784 in Vienna, likewise soon appeared in London with English texts, published anonymously. 


In his lecture Derek McCulloch, translator, professional singer and music historian, investigates what is actually meant by a ‘song’ and its complex relationship with words, and the issues of poetic translation in the crossing of linguistic and cultural borders. In so doing he attempts to answer the question posed in Psalm 137,4: “Quomodo cantabimus canticum … in terra aliena?” [How do we sing a song … in a strange land?] Members of his Café Mozart will illustrate the choices made by William Shield and also in his own translations of poems by Goethe and other eminent German poets in settings of the late 18th century.


About the Speaker

Derek McCulloch sang in a church choir as a boy and was still singing treble at Durham University. Overheard in the showers, he was persuaded to take singing seriously. He became Lektor at Tübingen University, combining this with study of the history of music and singing lessons at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart. As Germany’s only countertenor at the time, he was in much demand.

In 1965 he joined the University of Surrey as lecturer in German, whilst also singing daily as a lay clerk in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was a soloist in numerous recordings and broadcasts. When his singing career ended, a new role as researcher and writer began and he completed a PhD. On retiring from university teaching he has continued researching and performing his favourite repertoire: Haydn and his English associates in the 1790s, including his pupil, the now forgotten Thomas Haigh of Manchester and late Eighteenth Century German domestic music.

Café Mozart was established by Derek McCulloch in 1985 to perform relatively unknown late Eighteenth Century music on period instruments. The ensemble has made various recordings and broadcasts in the UK and Europe, and provided the official entertainment on the occasion of the unveiling of a plaque to Haydn at his first temporary residence in Pulteney Street, Soho.

The performers for the evening will be:

Emily Atkinson – soprano

Rogers Covey-Crump – tenor

Jenny Thomas – flute

Ian Gammie – guitar



Menu for Supper

Chicken supreme hunter style or MCC Fish Pie with garden peas, dill & potato crust or mixed mushroom casserole (v) with a choice of sides from the following: roasted new potatoes with rosemary & garlic, steamed market vegetables and pilaf rice

Lemon meringue pie or Bakewell tart

N.B. the Lit & Phil office have to inform venues of catering numbers approximately 7 days before an event so please make sure you book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.



CANCELLED DUE TO SEVERE WEATHER – We are planning to reschedule the lecture, please keep an eye on your email in the near future for further details.