Benjamin Britten's "Saint Nicolas": A conductor's analysis for performance

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Conducting

First Committee Member

Donald T. Oglesby - Committee Chair


Benjamin Britten's Saint Nicolas was composed in 1948 for the centennial of Lancing College, a boys' school in Sussex. It was first performed June 5, 1948, at the opening of the Aldeburgh Festival in the Aldeburgh Parish Church. The premiere was conducted by Britten, with Peter Pears singing the role of Nicolas. The work is scored for tenor soloist, boy soprano, treble voices, four-part chorus, piano duet, organ, strings, and a large contingent of percussion instruments.The libretto of the cantata was written by Eric Crozier. It is a continuous narrative of the life and legends of the fourth-century Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicolas. The cantata is constructed in nine movements depicting the life-story of Nicolas. Text divisions determine the movements of the cantata: (I) Introduction, (II) The birth of Nicolas, (III) Nicolas devotes himself to God, (IV) He journeys to Palestine, (V) Nicolas comes to Myra and is chosen Bishop, (VI) Nicolas from Prison, (VII) Nicolas and the pickled boys, (VIII) His piety and marvellous works, and (IX) The death of Nicolas.Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, on November 22, 1913, and died in Aldeburgh on December 4, 1976. He was one of England's most distinguished composers and is recognized as one of the most important composers of the twentieth century. This conductor's analysis examines Britten's use of text and compositional style in Saint Nicolas. The study provides the reader with (a) biographical information on the composer, (b) background information on the Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicolas, (c) an extensive musical analysis of each movement of the cantata, and (d) a survey of the compositional styles of Benjamin Britten.



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