To Music, Richard Shephard (1949-2021)
Commissioned by the Farrant Singers for their 50th anniversary in 2008, it sets words by Thomas Campion (1567-1620). Shephard started his musical life as a Lay Vicar at Salisbury Cathedral and went on to conduct the Farrants before moving to York in 1985. As well as being a practising physician, Campion was a 17th century poet and composer - while other poets and musicians talked about the union of the two arts, only Campion produced complete songs wholly of his own composition, and only he wrote lyric poetry of enduring literary value whose very construction is deeply etched with the poet’s care for its ultimate fusion with music.
Edi beo thu hevene quene Anonymous 13th century
Edi beo, written in Middle English, expresses familiarity in a relationship with Mary and even romantic attachment. The first-person narrator of the song declares his love for Mary, praising her in standard religious ways, but also as troubadours of the time would have praised the object of their affection: for her complexion, for her fair beauty, for her noble virtue, and the love bond with her is affirmed as for a courtly lady and a knight. The verses are as follows, translated from Middle to modern English with an attempt to retain the metre:
Blessed are you, queen of heaven, people’s comfort and angels’ bliss,
Mother unblemished, maiden pure, such in this world none other is.
It is clear for all to see, of all women, you have the prize.
My sweetest lady, hear my prayer, have pity on me if your will it is.
Blossom sprung from a single root, the Holy Ghost made you heavenly queen.
That was for the good of all people, for our eternal souls to redeem.
Lady, mild, soft and sweet, I cry for mercy, I am your man,
Both hand and foot and all completely, serving you in all ways that I can.
Mother, full of noble virtue, maiden so patient, lady so wise.
I am in your love now bonded, and for you is all my desire.
Shield me from the fiend of hell, as you are noble, and may and will
Help me till my life is ended, reconcile me to your son, his will.
The polyphony of Edi is not typical of medieval music, for one technical reason: this is a gymel, from the Latin cantus gemellus, twin song, two part polyphony in which the usual fixtures of medieval music are largely laid aside in favour of accompanying almost entirely in thirds and sixths, often moving in parallel.
Men and Angels, Alec Roth (b.1948)
This motet by Alec Roth sets Antiphon II by George Herbert (1593-1633) and was first performed by the Farrant Singers for the George Herbert Festival in Wilton House in 2014. Roth entitled his setting Men and Angels with upper voices (soprano, alto) singing the words of the Angels, lower voices (tenor, bass) the Men, and both groups combining for the Chorus.
Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei Giovanni Uffereri (fl.1610-1620)
This is a setting of Psalm 19 (The heavens declare the glory of God), first published in 1613. Nothing is known of the composer!
Summer Dreams Andrew Mackay (b.1952)
Cradle Song (WB Yeats) – The Ecchoing Green (William Blake) –
Yearning (Erica Burgon) – Springtime (Burgon)
Andrew writes: ‘These four songs are only loosely connected to each other and to the title. It would be inaccurate to call them a Song Cycle. The Yeats setting was written for a godson's christening in the summer of 1985, and his aunt, Erica Burgon, a talented poet, wrote two of the other texts, Yearning and Springtime. Her poetry is accessible, and of the right complexity, or lack of it, to make good lyrics. Blake's Ecchoing Green employs a similar artlessness. All four songs are, however, intended to evoke a wistful regret for the brevity of summer, and of the hopes and dreams that it brings; and the title is an obvious nod to Shakespeare's great comedy, as all too soon the magic is over, and the fairies disappear into the wood: "Trip away; make no stay; meet me all by break of day".’
Nonino Howard Moody (b.1964)
Another commission for the Farrant Singers’ 50th birthday ‘song book’, Nonino is intended to reflect the wild forest antics of Shakespeare’s original in a scene from As You Like It.
Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam, Alexander Uttendal (c.1543-1581)
Ut(t)endal was probably a native of Ghent, and served the Hapsburgs initially as a choirboy, and later as an alto in the court of Ferdinand II in Prague. He followed his master to the Innsbruck court chapel to gain the position of vice chapel master in 1572 and remained loyal to him until his death. This is an 8-part setting of Psalm 85 (Incline Thine ear, O Lord).
Abendlied, Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)
Rheinberger wrote the first version of this motet aged 15. It is a setting of Luke 24:29, a biblical narration of the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus:
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneiget.
Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.
Cloths of Heaven, Malcolm Archer (b.1952)
Another W.B. Yeats setting, Archer wrote this for vocal collective Sansara. A renowned music director and composer, he had long wished to set the text.
I hear the soft voice Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Patience (a satire on the aesthetic movement of the 1870s and ‘80s) was the sixth in Gilbert and Sullivan’s canon of ‘Savoy’ operas, and this elegant song comes from Act 1. It occurs as Bunthorne (of the work’s subtitle “Bunthorne’s Bride”), in a typically convoluted G&S story, is about to raffle himself off to village ladies.