Twelve Of The Best: If You’re Good Enough

Some say that some of my music is too tricky for their choirs, but others just go for it and find that the extra effort they might need to put in is well and truly worth it when they perform and hear the final results. All these twelve pieces have been described as “tricky” but all have been performed very successfully and enthusiastically, some on more than one occasion. Here is the video catalogue and below are more details about each piece and links to full performances and scores.

Twelve trickier choral pieces – worth the extra effort!

1. Cantate Domino for SSAATTBB choir. It was composed as part of a set of five Christmas Fanfares all of which are characterised by antiphonal textures and dancing rhythms. This one uses interlocking Balinese rhythms and some ethereal monophonic textures as well, and was given its world premiere in Brisbane by Concentus, but has also been performed widely. It is included on the Christmas CD of Kantos, Manchester-based chamber choir, “Silver Stars At Play”.

2. January 1841 for SATB choir. It is one of several songs composed about the River Wear in North East England and is in the style of a folk ballad telling the tale of a flooding disaster caused by a sudden winter thaw in Sunderland. It was first performed as a single line song by primary school children who acted out the story in mime and dance, as they sang. This arrangement for mixed choir followed soon after and features flowing, melismatic accompanying patterns, along with the original folky melodies.

3. Pierced Hemisphere for SSAA choir, melody instrument and percussion. The song was commissioned by The Hepworth Wakefield to be part of their “Handling Collection” of art works inspired by works in their collection to be used by visitors to the gallery. It describes not only Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture of the same name but also the gallery itself.

4. Exulta Filia Sion for SSAATTBB choir. One of the Five Christmas Fanfares. The tenors and basses exhort the sopranos and altos to come and rejoice. They do as they are encouraged, but the lower voices are also influenced as the two types of music converge.

5. Bede, Moon, Ocean, Tide – a Meditation for SATB choir, mezzo soprano soloist and melody instrument. This song uses the words of Bede himself explaining how the moon influences the tides. The mood is contemplative and the textures are floaty.

6. Ave Maria for SATB choir with tambourine. A lively, dancing setting with energetic, pulsating rhythms throughout. The tambourine adds extra zest to both timbre and rhythms.

7. The Moon for SSAA choir. This one is one of the first choral pieces I ever wrote and has been performed on several occasions, particularly in New Zealand. It is a setting of Robert Louis Stevens’s poem and uses dramatic vocal textures and words setting to create an eerie ambiance.

8. Who Killed Cock Robin for SSAA choir. This song, which tells much of the tale in the traditional nursery rhyme, makes much use of melisma on the word “who” at the beginning of each verse, as well as melismatic repeating patterns in the accompanying patterns. This music contrasts with the more homophonic “opening out” textures of the three choruses.

9. The Felton Sycamores for SATB choir. A longer piece setting a poem especially written by Tony Williams. It tells of the journey of Scottish prisoners of war in 1650 from the Battle Of Dunbar to Durham and the rumour that they passed through the villages of Felton and Thirston en route. The song was composed for The Bridge Singers from those villages.

10. Mustering in Siberia for SATB choir with organ. Composed for a Commemoration concert for the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 and using words and ideas from Lord William Percy, a son of the Duke of Northumberland who was a lawyer, ornithologist, and a soldier in the war. He heard of the outbreak of war while he was birdwatching in Siberia, and the song imagines him reminiscing on that magical time as he struggled in the muddy trenches.

11. Quiet Window for SATB choir, soprano soloist and glass orchestra. Composed to celebrate a window in St. Michael’s Church in Felton, which was in need of repair. The first performance was in the church and was part of a concert inspired by many of the other windows in there, as well as “Magical Glass” in general.

12. Dies Sanctificatus for SSAATTBB choir. A very energetic choral antiphon, and another of the Five Christmas Fanfares.


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