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Saturday, 26 April 2008

English Song in St George's week

Helen Lunt is going to be performing a lovely programme of English songs this evening in Bruton Parish Church, and I'm lucky enough to be the accompanist.

Entry is free, and there's a collection for Soundwell Music Therapy Trust

There's to be a bar in the interval.

The programme is this:

Art thou troubled? Music shall calm thee. (from Rodelinda) Handel
The perfect opening to an evening of music. Leave your troubles!

Down by the Sally gardens. (Words WB Yeats, melody trad.) arr. Britten
Actually an Irish song, arranged by one of the greatest English composers. A coming of age song.

Where'er you walk (from the opera Semele) Handel
Jupiter, god of the skies, promises Semele ideal weather

In summertime on Bredon (A Shropshire Lad, AE Housman) Graham Peel
Housman's 1898 verses immedately attacted composers. A man hopes for wedding bells, but 'they tolled the one bell only' for his love.

Linden Lea (Words: William Barnes) R V Williams
Vaughan Williams died 50 years ago and is featured in many concerts this year. Written in 1912, this song's popularity kept RVW solvent while he worked on bigger projects. Barnes was a Dorset dialect poet.

Silent Noon (Words: Christina Rossetti) R V Williams
Exquisite words, sensitively set. Two lovers on a hot summer day enjoy the bliss of a 'close-companioned inarticulate hour.'

A bay in Anglesea (Words John Betjeman) Madeleine Dring
The poem shows a deeper side of the well-loved poet. Another hot summer day, but the poet's attention is less on his companion than on the sights and sounds of the seaside - 'pearl-grey air, multiple lark-song.' Dring's setting perfectly captures the ceaseless tiny movement of the sea.

Sleep (Words John Fletcher 1579-1625) Peter Warlock
The troubled poet hopes for relief in sleep. Warlock's voice part treats the words almost like Purcell, that master in setting English to music, while the piano's unquiet harmonies conjure up a mind unable to sleep, prey to worrying fantasies, until the final chord brings peace.


The Owl (Words: Tennyson) Richard Rodney Bennett
The grand old man of Victorian poetry is brought refreshingly into the present in Bennett's quirky, rhythmically ambiguous setting.

O waly, waly (Somerset folk song) arr. Britten
A masterly arrangement by Britten, who uses the simplest tools subtly, avoiding the obvious and lending extra depth to the poignant words. This and the next two songs share the theme of sailing.

Tom Bowling Charles Dibdin
Dibdin (1745-1815), youngest of 18 children, was musician, dramatist, novelist, actor and songwriter,. He wrote this song, whose tune is a moving part of the last night at the Proms, on the death of his eldest brother, Captain Thomas Dibdin.

Sea Fever (Words: John Masefield) John Ireland
Masefield began his working life as an officer in the merchant marine. His first book of poetry, Salt-Water Ballads, included Sea Fever.

Cradle Song (part of a longer 16th cent. carol) Herbert Howells
Howells' church music is a staple of cathedral choirs. This gently rocking song was writen in 1920 when Howells was 37 and was helping to edit English church music in Latin from the Tudor period.

Angels ever bright and fair (from Theodora) Handel
In Handel's oratorio, written when he was 64, Theodora the Christian virgin faces death at the hands of her Roman persecutors. This is her prayer.

Tell me the truth about love (Words: WH Auden) Britten
Something completely different. A witty cabaret song from Britten's youth, mixing much nonsense (e.g. Does its odour remind one of llamas?) with a final urgent cry: Will it alter my life altogether?.

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