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ClassicsOnline Home » CHILCOTT, B.: Everyone Sang / A Little Jazz Mass / I Share Creation / Aesop's Fables (Wellensian Consort, Beeson, Finch)
Described by The Observer as “a contemporary hero of British Choral Music”, Bob Chilcott is one of today’s most widely performed composers of choral music. This programme includes première recordings of favourites such as A Little Jazz Mass, songs and carols on a variety of texts, and the wit, wisdom and drama of Aesop’s Fables in which Chilcott makes musical references to Brahms and Schubert. Winner of the coveted BBC Choir of the Year award in 2010, the Wellensian Consort is one of the United Kingdom’s leading chamber choirs.
Bob Chilcott (b. 1955)
Everyone Sang: Choral Music
The greater part of the music I have composed in my working life has been for amateur choirs of all different types—children’s and women’s choirs, youth choirs, chamber and church choirs, and choral societies. This has given me the chance to enjoy a good deal of stylistic freedom in my writing and to embrace a wide source of texts and poems. It has also presented me with the challenge of writing music that encourages people to sing, and this has always been one of the most important and motivating aspects of why I write choral music. It is a particular pleasure for me that the Wellensian Consort, a choir of young singers that has come to the fore in Britain over the past couple of years, has chosen to record this selection of pieces which span the past eighteen years or so.
The setting of a short extract from The Tempest by William Shakespeare, The Isle is Full of Noises, was commissioned in 2004 by Brian Kay and the Leith Hill Music Festival to celebrate the festival’s 100th anniversary. The Lily and the Rose sets an anonymous sixteenth-century text which remains elusive—it could be the song of a young girl on the morning of her wedding-day, or perhaps more compellingly the imagery of the Virgin Mary, here mourning the death of her son. This piece, here performed in its mixed-voice version, was originally written for children’s choir, commissioned in 2002 by the Oklahoma Music Educators Association. Everyone sang, a setting of an uplifting poem written by Siegfried Sassoon in the last days of the First World War is taken from Singing by Numbers, a larger piece commissioned in 1995 by the Association of British Choral Directors, an organisation that has supported my work so whole-heartedly over many years. You and Me was written for Choros Amici, the BBC Choir of the Year in 2000. They requested a piece that embraced friendship, and I ended up setting these two very intimate expressions of love, the first by the New Zealand poet Denis Glover, and the second by Elizabeth Jennings.
Since 2001 I have been writing pieces every two years for the Crescent City Choral Festival, a children’s choir festival hosted by the New Orleans Children’s Chorus. I wrote A Little Jazz Mass for them in 2004, and I reworked the piece for mixed choir a year later. Another piece originally written for children’s choir was Mid-winter, a setting of the famous Christina Rossetti poem which I made in 1994 for the Toronto Children’s Chorus. The preceding piece, Our Father, was the culminating movement of the larger work, The Bread of Life, which I wrote for three prize-winning German choirs who first performed it in the Mosel Musik Festival in 2010. For him all stars have shone, a setting of a Christmas poem by Elizabeth Jennings, was composed in 2002 for the combination of children’s chorus and mixed choir, the Cheyenne Chamber Singers and the All-City Children’s Chorus in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Rose in the Middle of Winter is a more recent carol, composed for the Bach Choir in 2010 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Sir David Willcocks. The text was specially written by Charles Bennett, a poet with whom I have collaborated on a number of pieces and projects over recent years.
I Share Creation was written in 2005 for Norman Morris and the Reading Phoenix Choir. The texts for this piece have an environmental focus (the piece was co-commissioned by the National Environmental Research Council), and are various—a Chinese working-song, a Native American text on the nature of the world, an Aztec meditation on eternity, and finally an Inuit poem which urges us to appreciate the changing shape of nature.
I love the wit, wisdom and the drama of Aesop’s Fables. Aesop wrote over six hundred of them, and I decided to set five in translations by the nineteenth-century American priest and writer George Fyler Townsend. These I wrote in 2008 for the 100th anniversary of the Eltham Choral Society, a choir from the outskirts of London. In this set I make passing reference to several composers, and in the last two songs I chose to reference two of my favourites, Brahms and Schubert. The last song, in which the life of a swan is saved by the beauty of its singing voice, is loosely based on a sequence from Du bist die Ruh, by perhaps the greatest of all song-writers, Franz Schubert.
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CHILCOTT, B.: Everyone Sang / A Little Jazz Mass /...