Tuesday 15 March 2005

50th Birthday blues

I'm busy sorting out the music for my 50th Birthday concert in July. Rather than my using my usual amateur group, FifteenB, I'm using a small group of professional choral singers. The concert's on 1st July at St. Giles Cripplegate in the Barbican, more details later.

For reasons best known to myself, the main work in the programme is my new setting of extracts from Thomas Cranmer's speech from the scaffold, just before he was executed. (One version of the speech is here). I've set it for unaccompanied choir and the Cranmer text alternates with settings of the Latin De Profundis. The work came about as a result of reading a couple of wonderful books by Diarmaid McCulloch, his biography of Cranmer and his book about the reformation. In one of the two he describes how Cranmer was led on, with a pair of priests singing Psalms. It was this which gave me the image for the piece and I was lucky to find that Cranmer's words are eminently settable.

Granted, it is not a very celebratory work but I have never been very good at writing music of a lighter nature; unless I go the whole way and wrote another musical. Partly, this is a problem with texts, it is the more serious stuff that I find inspiring and settable.

So I am now assembling a programme round the Cranmer. I've included another piece of mine which sets his words (from the Book of Common Prayer) for choir and Cello, which should be fun. And then we're having a group of pieces dating from Cranmer's time, contrasting the English church music under Edward 6th with Latin church music under Mary. So I've had a wonderful time searching out pieces by Mundy, Type, Sheppard etc. Many are not suitable as they are written for larger forces than our small choir, but you never know. I live in hope that some might find their way into another programme.

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