Lawyers court the music in Magna Carta anniversary concert

by Miklos Bolza09 Dec 2015
To celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, the annual Counsel in Concert hosted by Crown Law will feature a range of classical and choral works from throughout the ages.

As well as Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from his 9th Symphony, the concert will also feature what is believed to be the New Zealand premiere of Kurt Weill’s Ballad of Magna Carta.

The centrepiece of the concert, the ballad is a 15-minute long vocal composition featuring an orchestra, choir and soloists. It tells of the story of the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215 when the king was forced into signing the documents by his rebellious barons.

The piece was written by Kurt Weill in 1940 after a renewed interest by Americans in the Magna Carta.

“Our in-house pianist at Crown Law, Saar Cohen-Ronen, is a big Kurt Weill fan,” said Crown Counsel Merran Cooke of Crown Law. “He drew my attention to the Kurt Weill Ballad of Magna Carta earlier this year, and pointed out the Magna Carta 800th anniversary. It seemed like an irresistible opportunity for a celebratory concert.”

Cooke expressed her amazement at the long-term historical implications of this centuries-old document.

“I find it astonishing and humbling that our concepts of democracy and the rule of law have their origin in something that happened 800 years ago,” she said. “The fact that one of the clauses from the 1297 version of the Magna Carta is still part of our statute law in New Zealand today is extraordinary.”

“I'm sure those angry barons at Runnymede in 1215 had no idea how their treaty curbing the tyrannical powers of King John would resonate down the centuries.”

The Counsel in Concert series has been running since 2009 when lawyers from Crown Law first performed the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah at the Crown Law Easter morning tea.

“It was such fun that we went on to prepare for a full lunchtime concert at St Andrew's on the Terrace with choir and orchestra later that year,” said Cooke.

Since its inception, the concert has occurred every year except 2013 when Crown Law restructured and moved offices. The choir also performs regularly at legal events around Wellington.

The musical talent includes legal staff from Crown Law as well as from across Wellington.

“We have lawyers from government departments, private practice, in-house counsel and lecturers from law school,” Cooke said. “We have also recently gained some new choir members from the Ministry of Justice, which shares premises with Crown Law at the Justice Centre.”

Counsel in Concert will be held on 15 December at 12.15pm and 5.30pm at St Andrew’s on the Terrace in Wellington. Entry is by donation with all proceeds going to the Child Cancer Foundation.


  • by Teresa Shreves 10/12/2015 7:07:49 a.m.

    Fabulous choir; worthy cause; great performances