Saint Cecilia Day...with a Guest Appearance by Ed Sheeran
St Cecilia Playing The Organ painted by Jacques Stella, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Picture: Getty
Today is Saint Cecilia Day, even though there is no hard evidence that she was a real person. The legend goes that she was the daughter of a second century Roman noblewoman who was forced to marry against her will, after she had taken a vow of virginity. She was able to convince her new husband to convert to Christianity after he saw a vision of the angel that she claimed protected her.
Both her husband and his brother, who had also converted, were put to death for burying Christian martyrs, which was illegal in Rome at this period. Cecilia herself was sentenced to be burned at the stake, but when she emerged unharmed from the flames, she was beheaded.
So where does music come in to the story. I had to do a little extra searching to find that connection. Even though she is always identified as the patron saint of music, she wasn't musical and most mentions of her don't say why she received that designation. However, in his article on Saint Cecilia on the Classical Music website, Jeremy Pound provides the answer. Turns out that she heard heavenly music in her heart during her unwanted marriage ceremony. Not a deep connection, and one that didn't fully emerge until the sixteenth century, when painters began depicting her with musical instruments.
Cress was a little busy in At First Sight, but normally she would have celebrated the day, perhaps by playing music by a few of the composers that celebrated their birthdays on Nov. 22, particularly fifteenth-century composer Jacob Obrecht, given her love of Renaissance music and her award-nominated book on Caterina Cornaro, who lived at the same time as the composer.
Fittingly, is also the birthday of Benjamin Britten, who played a role in the life of our guest musician, Ed Sheeran.
If you only know Ed Sheeran as a pop-music icon, you might be surprised that he started out playing cello and piano, that his grandmother was a classical singer, and that his grandparents were friends with Benjamin Britten. His classical roots run deep. In fact, he said, ‘"Yo-Yo Ma emailed me to tell me he loved my song Shape of You." How cool is that?
You can read this article to find out more about the Yo-Yo Ma connection. You should be able to listen to the interview on Moira Stuart Meets, including Ed's music selections, by downloading the Global Player app, choosing Classic FM, and then click on catch up. It will be available for the next six days.