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ClassicsOnline Home » Choral Concert: Blossom Street - MACMILLAN, J. / DUGGAN, J. / GRAINGER, P. / CAMPBELL, H. / TURNBULL, S.M. / BURKE, P. / ANDREW, K. (Down By the Sea)
Following its award-winning Christmas album, Sleep, Holy Babe (Naxos 8.572868), Blossom Street explores a wide-ranging sequence of British folk song settings for choir, with a particular focus on the nautical. The repertoire embraces pioneers in the rediscovery and arrangement of folk songs such as Vaughan Williams, Grainger and Warlock, adds little-known gems by Holst and Bairstow, and also introduces vibrant new additions to the repertoire from contemporary composers, including James MacMillan and Judith Bingham and the conductor herself.
By John J. Puccio
DOWN BY THE SEA
A collection of British Folk Songs
Despite a continued interest in British folk song on the concert platform, British choirs do not appear to have embraced the tradition to the same extent. Born of a late nineteenth-century movement perpetuated by Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries, folk song remains popular for solo recitals, yet choral folk song settings are seldom programmed beyond the modicum of stalwart favourites. With a particular focus on the nautical, this collection explores and celebrates the somewhat neglected choral folk tradition; alongside beloved works by Vaughan Williams and Grainger, proud proponents of folk repertory, feature little known gems by Holst and Bairstow, as well as a number of brand new works by both established and emerging composers, divulging enormously varied responses to age-old melodies.
 James MacMillan: Lassie, Wad Ye Loe Me?
James MacMillan is one of the most successful living composers of recent times, and is also internationally active as a conductor. His musical language discloses influences from his Scottish heritage and Catholic faith, and a close connection with Celtic folk music. In Lassie Wad Ye Loe Me?, MacMillan sets an anonymous Scottish love-poem, written for the wedding of some of his close friends.
 Alexander Campkin: A Lover and His Lass
Alexander Campkin is a young British composer and conductor. He has received thirty-five professional commissions and his work has been performed and broadcast in over thirty countries. He is Artistic Director of The Oxbridge Singers, minimaLIST ENsemble and Future Opera. Campkin set Shakespeare’s playful text, A Lover and his Lass, for Blossom Street.
 Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Dark-Eyed Sailor
Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the foremost English composers of the twentieth century; he was also an avid collector of British folk song, which both influenced several of his original compositions and spurred him on to immortalise and arrange numerous melodies. The Dark-Eyed Sailor, from Five English Folk Songs, is one of his best-loved choral folk song settings.
 Judith Bingham: The Orphan Girl
Born in Nottingham and recent BBC Singers Composer in Association, Judith Bingham studied composing and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Composition prizes include the Barlow Prize for a cappella music (2004), two British Composer Awards in 2004 (choral and liturgical), one in 2006 (choral) and the instrumental award in 2008. Her setting of an old Appalachian song, The Orphan Girl, is recorded here for the first time.
 Peter Warlock: Yarmouth Fair
Philip Arnold Heseltine (1894–1930), better known by his pseudonym Peter Warlock, was a composer and critic, known principally for his songs and vocal music. Though generally more comfortable in the art song medium, he did turn his hand to occasional folk song settings, including Yarmouth Fair, a melody which had been collected by EJ Moeran.
 John Duggan: Over the Moon
John Duggan was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral and studied music at Keble College. He is currently Creative Arts Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. His music is published by Shorter House and Novello & Co. Over the Moon is a setting of the composer’s own text.
 George Percy Aldridge Grainger: Mo Nighean Dubh (My Dark-Haired Maiden)
Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist, Percy Grainger played a prominent rôle in the revival of interest in British folk music at the turn of the twentieth century, even going so far as to record traditional songs in pastoral British countryside using an early version of the phonograph. Written when Grainger was just eighteen and visiting London for first time, Mo Nighean Dubh is a tender setting of a traditional Scottish melody, found in the Songs of the North volume.
 Hilary Campbell: Blow the Wind Southerly
In addition to her work as a conductor, Hilary Campbell is also a prizewinning composer. Her music has been performed around Europe and in the United States, by professional and amateur ensembles alike, and she receives regular commissions for both original works and choral arrangements. Selected works are published by Shorter House and LMC Publications. Blow the Wind Southerly, a setting of a Northumbrian folk tune, was composed for Blossom Street specifically for this disc.
 Gustav Holst: Awake, Awake
A fellow student of Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst was an English composer whose music is often characterised by its evocative melodies and asymmetrical shapes. A passionate educator, Holst was appointed Music Master at St Paul’s Girls’ School in 1905 and Director of Music at Morley College in 1907, posts he held until retirement. Awake, Awake, or Trymder, is a setting of a Welsh folk song, recorded here in its English translation by Steuart Wilson.
 John Byrt: Among the Leaves So Green, O
John Byrt is a conductor, scholar and composer. Early in his career he directed the Schola Cantorum of Oxford and was conductor of Musica Reservata. He made the first recording of Taverner’s Missa Corona Spinea and has broadcast Gesualdo madrigals, Byrd propers and West Gallery Carols for the BBC. He writes and lectures on baroque music, and as a composer is best known for his choral output, in particular his folk song settings, such as Among the Leaves So Green, O, a melody collected by Cecil Sharp.
 Stuart Murray Turnbull: Skye
Stuart Murray Turnbull is an English-born choral composer. He studied composition with the Indian composer John Mayer at Birmingham Conservatoire and later with English composers Jeremy Dale Roberts and Edwin Roxburgh at the Royal College of Music. Turnbull’s Christian faith shapes much of his work as a composer. Skye, a setting of the Scottish folk song, was composed expressly for this recording.
 Paul Burke: Fare Thee Well
The music of Paul Burke has been performed in the United States, the United Arab Emirates and across the United Kingdom, including performances in Salisbury Cathedral and the South Bank Centre. Burke studied at Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music, and was selected to participate in the JAM Writing for Voices scheme in 2013. Fare Thee Well, a melody Vaughan Williams collected, was written especially for this collection.
 Kerry Andrew: All Things Are Quite Silent
Kerry Andrew is a London-based composer and performer specialising in choral and experimental vocal music and music-theatre. She sings with the award-winning vocal trio Juice, jazz groups Metamorphic and DOLLYman and, as alt-folk soloist, You Are Wolf. All Things Are Quite Silent, originally written for her own ensemble and here arranged for choir for the first time, was recently announced as a prizewinning work in the ISM’s inaugural competition for young composers.
 Sir Edward Bairstow: The Oak and the Ash
Sir Edward Bairstow was an English composer and organist. He was appointed organist of York Minster in 1913, a post he held for the rest of his life, and is best known for his anthems. Bairstow was knighted in 1932, and received the Degree of Hon D Litt from Leeds University four years later. His arrangement of The Oak and the Ash is a simple four-part setting of what Bairstow terms an ‘Old English air’, perhaps chosen because of both his and the song’s northern roots.
 Ernest John Moeran: The Sailor and Young Nancy
EJ Moeran’s early contact with music was predominantly through East Anglian folk songs and hymns; he taught himself to read music through hymnals. Having studied with Stanford at the Royal College of Music, he went on to become a commissioned officer, until he was wounded during the Great War. Forced to retire to the Cotswalds in his thirties, his original music retained its folk influence, and he also set a number of folk melodies, such as the Norfolk tune, The Sailor and Young Nancy.
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