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Saturday Chorale: Music on the massacre of innocents

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by

Massacre of the innocents Cogniet 600x581

This year for the first time in many years instead of celebrating Christmas with some of the children in one of our orphanages in Irak I’ll be in Denmark celebrating it in the company of my grandchildren. I’m in Denmark at present and heard the news of the mass murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on the radio. One of the reports spoke of a child relating how she and one of her teachers hid from the gunman and of how her teacher comforted her and held her.

We bandy about words like “terror” and “anguish” but rarely are we confronted with what they truly mean. If you want to know the meaning of “terror” then the emotion felt by the parents with children at Sandy Hook elementary school as they made their way to the school to learn of their children’s fate is terror. If you want to know the meaning of “anguish” then the emotions being felt today by the parents and families of the murdered children and adults is anguish. Burying your child as I and most my colleagues in “The Guides” can testify is a miserable experience and neither the memory nor the hole in your heart ever quite goes away.

I’m sure that everyone reading this was shocked, grieved, and yes angered, by the news and each of us in our own way seeks consolation. For me part of what made my life bearable are my love of paintings and of choral music. Paintings and music help us to endure the unendurable and express the inexpressible. I first saw Cogniet’s “Massacre of the innocents” more than 40 years ago, I’ve never forgotten that day and even now it’s one of my referents for the words “terror” and “atrocity”.  Can anyone doubt looking at that poor woman’s face that she is experiencing terror? Can anyone look at her face and not feel compassion?

As it happens when the news of the multiple murders and mass infanticide at Sandy Hook elementary school came through I was busily engaged writing about a piece of music that deals directly with the slaughter of children and that consoled me greatly during that dark and dreadful time in my life. I’m sure many of you have heard the “Coventry Carol” and I’m equally sure that quite a few of you who know the carol don’t know its story.

The Coventry Carol is nearly 500 years old and was sung during the Nativity plays put on over Christmastide as part of the celebrations by the Guild of Shearmen and Tailors in Coventry, England. The first written record for these plays the “Coventry Plays” dates from 1392 and it’s known they were performed for at least forty years before that. The Coventry Plays continued for nearly two centuries after 1392 and were so famous and prestigious that English royalty were among the numerous pilgrims who undertook the difficult and unpleasant winter journey to watch them being performed. They were seen by Henry VI’s queen Margaret in 1456, by Richard III in 1484 and by Henry VII in 1492 the plays were finally suppressed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1579. The lyrics to the Coventry Carol deal with the anguish and despair of a mother as she tries to hide her child from the marauding soldiers during the Massacre of the Innocents. They’re believed to be by Robert Croo  and date from 1534. The melody dates from at least the early 1580s and may have been sung during some of the last performances of the Coventry Plays. It’s a beautiful piece of music with a haunting child-like melody and a simple refrain it’s sung below by the English boys’ choir Libera the soloists are Josh Madine, Ralph Skan, and Stefan Leadbeater. I post it here in the hope somebody in need of comforting will hear it and be consoled.

markfromireland

 Lyrics: Coventry Carol

Original Lyrics: Modern English
Lully lulla, thow littell tine child,By, by, lully lullay, thow littell tyne child,By, by, lully lullay!O sisters too, How may we doFor to preserve this day

This pore yongling, For whom we do singe

By, by, lully, lullay?

Herod, the king, In his raging,

Chargid he hath this day

His men of might In his owne sight

All yonge children to slay

That wo is me, Pore child, for thee,

And ever morne and [may]

For thi parting Neither say nor singe,

By, by, lully, lullay.

Robert Croo (fl 1534)

Lully lullay, thou little tiny child,By by lully lullay.Oh sisters too, how may we doFor to preserve this dayThis poor youngling for whom we sing

By by lully lullay.

Herod the king, in his raging,

Charged he hath this day

His men of might in his own sight

All children young to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee,

And ever mourn and pray.

For thy parting, neither say nor sing,

By by lully lullay.

Picture Source:All sizes | Massacre of the innocents Cogniet 600×581 | Flickr

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Saturday Chorale: Conclusion

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by

For my final posting I’ve picked five pieces of music that I particularly enjoy, each of them has had a considerable impact on my life. The first is Thomas Tallis’ 40 Part motet ‘Spem in Alium’ the text is from the Book of Judith. I particularly admire the Chapelle Du Roi’s performance of this piece of music and greatly prefer it to others. My first encounter with Tallis’ motet came nearly fifty years ago. To this day when I close my eyes I can still feel the thrill and the awe that I felt, I can still see and hear every moment of my first encounter with transcendent beauty.

Tallis: Spem in alium

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Herning Kirkes Drengekor: Salvator Mundi – Thomas Tallis

12:30 pm in Art, Culture by

For this week’s "Saturday Chorale" I’ve picked Thomas Tallis’ "Salvator Mundi" sung by «Herning Kirkes Drengekor» (‘Herning Church Boys’ Choir’) in Berlin Cathedral . They performed the piece in connection with the filming of a documentary about the choir «En Stemme For Livet» ("The Voice of Life") .

I enjoy this performance whenever I listen to it. I also enjoy contemplating the phenomenon of a choir of Danish boys from a Lutheran church, singing in Latin for a German audience in a German cathedral the music of a centuries dead English composer. A composer moreover who was — rightly, suspected by Elizabeth I’s government of being a crypto-Catholic. Such an unlikely combination of circumstances but oh how marvellous the result. They sing Tallis’ music with passion and conviction, the resulting sound is very beautiful.

Play it twice, the first time close your eyes, play it just for the music. The second time you play it listen to the music and watch the audiences’ faces as they listen.  The video, the lyrics and a translation to English are all below the fold. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

Video Source: Salvator Mundi – Thomas Tallis – HKD – YouTube 

Lyrics

Latin

English

Salvator mundi, salva nos,

qui per crucem et sanguinem redemisti nos,

auxiliare nobis, te

deprecamur, Deus noster.

O Saviour of the world, save us

who by thy Cross and precious blood hast

redeemed us; help us,

we humbly beseech thee, our God.

Notes: This is a slightly altered version of a posting Herning Kirkes Drengekor: Salvator Mundi – Thomas Tallis | Saturday Chorale published on September 3, 2011 over at my place.

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Byrd: Nunc Dimittis: Choir of Magdalen College Oxford

12:30 pm in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

It’s not certain when Byrd wrote his Great Service employing ten voices in seven sections. But it can’t have been before the late 1580s. Kerman suspects that Byrd used it as he used much of his Anglican music as a way of establishing his mastery of its genres and having done that “cultivated them no further”. . That may very well be true the Great Service is certainly a distinctly Anglican work that follows Merbecke’s rules rather than a Catholic one.

An unusual feature of this performance is the use of viols to to accompany the singing rather than an organ. I was a bit dubious about this notwithstanding the fact that it’s Fretwork doing the accompaniment. But I have to say that my doubts were quickly dispelled as I listened. There’s a sound historical basis for using viols and Fretwork’s accompaniment provides a depth and warmth of sonority that I have rarely experienced listening to recordings of Byrd’s music. Lyrics and notes are below the video. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

Lyrics Read the rest of this entry →

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Libera: The fountain – Soloist – Ralph Skan

8:30 am in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

Thirteen year-old Ralph Skan is the soloist in this enchanting recording of “The Fountain”. This solo recorded in 2010 for Libera’s album Peace (UK) (USA) was Skan’s first recorded solo, he has gone on to become one of Libera’s lead soloists and has carried several solos during their most recent tours. The song itself was co-written by Robert Prizeman and Libera alumnus Ben Crawley and speaks to the human need for comfort and strength in adversity. It’s quite a feat for a twelve year-old (he had his thirteenth birthday a few days ago) to sing with the musical maturity that Skan achieves in this recording. His singing matches the lyrics very well, it’s mature, strong, and concise with admirably clear diction and emotional depth.

This is just as true of the choir as a whole who sing  each note of each harmony with the same confidence, strength and concision achieved by the soloist. Nor is their singing let down by the recording you can hear the choir, you can hear the lyrics, and you hear the individual voices making their contribution to the musical whole. The album as a whole is a pleasure to listen and I’ll be writing about several of the pieces sung on it. But I think it needs to be said from the outset that it’s not just the choir who’ve grown. The album as a whole demonstrates greater musical maturity on both Prizeman’s and Crawley’s parts. Prizeman’s settings (in this case Frédéric Chopin Prelude op.28 no.20 in C minor) are now far defter than some of his earlier work and provide settings that are not only more confident in and of themselves but which provide a perfect vehicle for these talented and well-trained boys to express themselves.

lyrics below the video. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

Video Source: Libera: The fountain – Soloist – Ralph Skan – YouTube

Lyrics Read the rest of this entry →

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Tomás Luis de Victoria – Ne timeas Maria

8:30 am in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

Tomás Luis de Victoria  was “not only the greatest Spanish Renaissance composer but also one of the greatest composers of church music of his day in Europe”.1 Born in Ávila in 1548 his music is marked by an intensely Catholic spirituality, try as I might I can think of no other composer whose music and life so epitomise the Counter-Reformation. He was noted for his devotion to the Virgin Mary and “Ne timeas Maria” which was written for the feast of the annunciation takes its place amongst a host of other compositions bearing such names as “Alma Redemptoris mater” , “Ave maris stella”, “Gaude Maria”, “Litaniae Beatae Mariae”, and “Salve regina” to name but a few.

This recording is by Carles Magraner’s ensemble the Capella de Ministrers it’s beautifully sung and achieves the ensemble’s goal of combining historical rigor with musical sensibility. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

Lyrics Read the rest of this entry →

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Flashmob!

8:30 am in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

All too short alas. Enjoy – they did! :-)

markfromireland

Notes: Cross posted from a posting published August 17, 2011 over at my place.

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Stopford: Nunc Dimitis

8:30 am in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

Philip Stopford’s beautiful setting of the Song of Simeon, recorded by Ecclesium in Belfast Cathedral 2009.

Lyrics below the fold. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

Notes: Cross posted from a posting published on July 14, 2011 over at my place.

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Saturday Chorale: Caresse sur l’Ocean : Les Petits Chanteurs De Saint Marc

8:30 am in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

You probably know this song from the film “Les Choristes” the Petits Chanteurs De Saint Marc were the choir who sang in that film. The soloist Jean Baptiste Maunier played Morhange. Lyrics are in the video. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

Notes: The text and tags for this posting are  a crossposting from a posting published on August 2nd over at my place

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Saturday Chorale: Kearsney College Choir South Africa : My God Is A Rock In A Weary Land

8:30 am in Art, Culture, Uncategorized by

The Choir of Kearsney College, South Africa, singing one of Alice Parker and Robert Shaw’s arrangements of  the negro spiritual "My God Is A Rock In A Weary Land" . One of my favourite spirituals sung by one of my all time favourite choirs. I could write reams and reams of rhapsodising here but I reckon the music does it for me. Have a listen, I think you’ll see what I mean. If you’re like me and like you like negro spirituals then you’ve definitely heard lots of performances of this song —  but perhaps none quite like this. Lyrics below the video. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

(Text and tags have been cross-posted from my place)

Lyrics:

My God is a rock in a weary land,

Weary land in a weary land,

My God is a rock in a weary land

Shelter in the time of storm

Oh Yes!

I know he is a rock in a weary land

Weary land, in a weary land

I know he is a rock in a weary land

Shelter in the time of storm

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter one

When the Lord God’s work had just begun

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter two

When the Lord God written his Bible true

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter three

When the Lord God he died upon Calvary

Chorus

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter four

When the Lord God visited among the poor

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter five

When the Lord God he raised all the dead alive

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter six

He went to Jerusalem and healed the sick

Chorus

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter seven

When he died and he risen and he went up to heaven

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter eight

When the Lord God he standing at that golden gate

Stop and let me tell you bout chapter nine

When the Lord God he turned all the water to wine

Choral variations

(Transcription mine).