Francisco Guerrero ( 1528 — 1599): Laudate Dominum de Cælis

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February 11, 2016

Laudate Dominum was first published in Venice in 1597 and takes its text from Psalms 148 and 150. It's a bit unusual amongst Guerrero's works in that it's scored for a double choir and Guerrero wrote fairly little polychoral music. It was very much cutting edge for its time and makes heavy use both of vigorously rhythmic writing and contrasting sonorities between the double and single choir passages to achieve the desired celebratory effect. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Pachelbel Canon in D Major – Original version — Voices of Music

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February 10, 2016

Yes it's been done to death but it's rarely been done as well as this, the freshness and originality just shine through. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat Regale

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February 9, 2016

eton choir book small captioned

Shortly after he was crowned Henry VIII made clear that Fayrfax stood high in his favour by awarding him the sum of £9 2/6 (nine pounds two shillings and six pence) to be paid on top of Fayrfax's salary from the Chapel Royal. We don't know when Fayrfax composed this setting of the Magnificat to which he added the soubriquet "Regale" presumably because it was composed either for some Royal occasion or perhaps a little more likely for a royal foundation such as Eton College in whose collection it survives. It's not known when it was composed although its style which is somewhat old fashioned and backwards looking for the time means it's probably a fairly early work. Early or not it's a magnificent example of early Renaissance English music full of complex musical figures the cumulative effect of  which is to create the famous English 'wall of sound' hanging in the air and radiating beauty. There are several very good performances of it available including performances by Ars Nova, Copenhagen which I wrote about in back in October 20121 and The Sixteen as part of their Eton Choirbook series for this posting however I've chosen to upload the 2009 recording by the Cardinall's Musick under Andrew Carwood firstly because it's a wonderful performance and secondly because it's now very hard to get hold of so many of my readers have never had the chance to hear it. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Paolo Cima (1570- 1630): Ad te desiderat

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February 8, 2016

Cima's Marian motet Ad te desiderat is a duo set for bass and one other voice which can be either a tenor or an alto over basso continuo. It's got some nice ornamentation and a rather pleasing echo effect. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Géry de Ghersem (1573-1630): Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima

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February 7, 2016

Missa Ave Virgo SanctisssimaGéry de Ghersem was born in Tournai in 1573, he spent several years as a choirboy Tournai Cathedral's choir and then was chosen as one of the fourteen boys to sing in the Capilla Flamenca arriving in Madrid on June 28th 1586 he served first as a cantorcillo and then as a cantor under the direction of Philippe Rogier. Rogier died in 1596 requesting in his will that Ghersem publish five of his Masses. De Ghersem asked for and received funding for this project from Philip II (d 1598) and Philip III and Rogier's five Masses were duly published accompanied by Ghersem's own setting of the Mass Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima under the resounding title of "Missae Sex Philippi Rogerii Atrebatensis sacelli regii phonasci musicae peritissimi, & aetatis suae facile principis, ad Philippum Tertium Hispanarium Regem. Matriti ex typographia Regia, MDXCVIII".

Ghersem's Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima is, as you might expect, based upon Francisco Guerrero's wildly popular motet of the same name. We're fortunate to have it as it's the only one of de Ghersem's works to have survived in its complete form the catastrophic earthquake and fires that afflicted the Portugese Royal Archives in the 18th-century.  I wish more of his work had survived because the Mass is a thing of wonder and beauty. It's a seven-part setting, marvellously sonorous, that takes the canon at the unison between the two upper voices found in Guerrero's model as its starting point and brings it further by using canons in every movement with the sole exception of the 'Crucifixus'. If you're not familiar with Guerrero's motet I wrote about it last Friday. You'll find the Mass and a live performance of Guerrero's motet by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral under Martin Baker broadcast live from Westminster during Vespers on October 8th 2014 below.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Stephen Paulus (August 24, 1949 – October 19, 2014): The Road Home – Conspirare

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February 6, 2016

In the Spring of 2001 I received a commission from the Dale Warland Singers to write a short "folk" type choral arrangement.  I had discovered a tune in a folk song book called "The Lone Wild Bird."  I fell in love with it, made a short recording and asked my good friend and colleague, Michael Dennis Browne to write new words for this tune. The tune is taken from The Southern Harmony Songbook" of 1835.  It is pentatonic and that is part of its attraction.  Pentatonic scales have been extant for centuries and are prevalent in almost all musical cultures throughout the world.  They are universal.  Michael crafted three verses and gave it the title "The Road Home."  He writes so eloquently about "returning" and "coming home" after being lost or wandering.  Again, this is another universal theme and it has resonated well with choirs around the world as this simple little a cappella choral piece has become another "best seller" in our Paulus Publications catalogue and now threatens to catch up with "Pilgrims' Hymn."  It is just more evidence that often the most powerful and beautiful message is often a simple one.

Stephen Paulus May 2013

I particularly like this performance by Conspirare with its wonderful solo by Melissa Givens. I've put the lyrics below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Feature: Francisco Guerrero ( 1528 – 1599): Ave Virgo sanctissima

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February 5, 2016

Guerrero's fame and his music's popularity lasted long – at least two hundred years after his death. He was devoted to the Virgin Mary and wrote many motets in her honour of the Virgin Mary their number and beauty are such that his contemporaries called him 'El cantor de Maria'. Of all  of these Marian motets the five-part (SSATB) Ave Virgo sanctissima (Hail, most holy virgin) is the best known and arguably the most beautiful it's also somewhat unusual amongst Guerrero's compositions in it's use of canon – the two sopranos sing in strict canon throughout with the second exactly echoing the first at two bars' distance.1 Guerrero's contemporaries considered it to be the perfect Marian motet and quite a few of them used it as the inspiration for a Mass setting. It's not hard to see why it's a serene, beautiful, and deceptively simple sounding piece of music that incorporates some of the loveliest choral writing of the Renaissance listen to what he does at Margarita preciosa (precious as a pearl) and you'll hear what I mean.

Finally a note about the performance, there are many superb recordings of this motet available not least on YouTube I've picked this performance by the Cambridge Singers conducted by John Rutter because the two soprano voices have been placed left and  making it very easy to hear the canon. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Patrick Hawes (Born 1958): Perfect love

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February 4, 2016

This is Hawes' setting of St. Paul's rhapsody to love the text is Hawes' adaptation and the piece was commissioned by the Chamber Choir of Bradford Grammar School. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Nicolas Gombert (±1495-±1560): Musae Jovis

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February 3, 2016

Nicolas Gombert's  "Deploration on the death of Josquin Desprez" is a motet-chanson set in the Phrygian mode. You may sometimes see it referred to as an Ars combinatoria composition which means quite simply that a secular text is combined with a Latin cantus firmus sung by one of the tenor voices in long drawn out notes. In this case the cantus firmus is supplied by the Good Friday response "Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, dolores inferni circumdederent me" (Laments of death have surrounded me, pains of hell have surrounded me)  Gombert takes this theme and weaves some very elaborate counterpoint around it as the singers lament Josquin's passing and the injustice of death.  This use of the cantus firmus which Gombert transposes down beginning on E rather than F is a very explicit homage to Josquin who used exactly this technique in his own homage to a deceased composer Nymphes des bois the homage is all the more marked because Gombert very rarely employed the cantus firmus technique. The intent is very clear rendering homage to a master mourned by all but the style is definitely Gombert's own the counterpoint woven around the cantus firmus is far less formal than something Josquin might have written and ebbs and flows far more – thereby maintaining both musical interest and a somewhat meditative tone. It concludes with some triple time writing marking Josquin's transposition to the heavens. Enjoy :-).

mfi.

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Down To The River To Pray – Trinity College Chorale (2010)

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February 2, 2016

Trinity College an all boys school in Perth, Western Australia performing an arrangement on Down To The River To Pray by P Lawson (King Singers) at Presentation Night. Conducted by Doctor Robert Braham.

This is a slightly unusual rendition of the Negro Spiritual – not an arrangement I'd heard before but it captured my full attention and admiration immediately. I've added the lyrics below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Ēriks Ešenvalds (b1977): Only in sleep

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February 1, 2016

Only in sleep was written in 2010 for the University of Louisville Collegiate Chorale and Cardinal Singers. Sara Teasdale’s nostalgic vision of childhood re-experienced through dreams is expressed in simple verse in regular metre, and Ešenvalds matches this in music of regular four-bar phrases. But infinitely subtle are the chord voicings; a change from humming to vocalise to spotlight a phrase here, or internal doublings to highlight a particular line in the texture there—all serve to sustain the freshness, and the soaring descants are achingly expressive. The soprano soloist heard at the opening returns at the close, lost in reverie, as her musing, florid arabesques float over one last pair of chordal oscillations, winding down to nothing.
from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2015

Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Feature: Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody Reinterpreted – Royal Academy of Music & Trinity Choir

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January 31, 2016

Queen B&W

When I read this in  Rolling Stone I was intrigued and hied me off to YouTube as fast as I could:

Queen are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their seminal track "Bohemian Rhapsody" with reinterpretations of the song performed by the Trinity Boys Choir and a string quartet comprising students from the Royal Academy of Music.

Unsurprisingly, the operatic rock opus makes fitting fodder for the Trinity choir. The group's deft harmonies shine as they maneuver through the meticulous vocal interplay of the song's famous midsection before nailing the final, lofty, "For me!"

The Behn Quartet's rendition is equally impressive, especially for an instrumental interpretation of a song rooted in Freddie Mercury's astonishing vocals. Arranged by Royal Academy of Music composition alum Charlie Piper, the quartet — which features final year students Kate Oswin, Alicia Berendse, Lydia Abell and Ghislaine McMullin — channels Mercury's playfulness and melodrama into a sweeping performance as grand as the original.

Read in full: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/queen-post-bohemian-rhapsody-covers-by-choir-string-quartet-20151222#ixzz3yG21xfCY

If ever there's a song that deserves its iconic status Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is surely it, it's a superbly written piece of music, that tells a story and uses many musical techniques that greatly enhanced Queen's a capella singing. It's no wonder that there are so many cover versions of it. Both the choral and string quartet versions that you'll find below are superb and borh are superbly performed. Both, perhaps, are quite a bit different to what you're expecting. They're accompanied by videos in which boys of the Trinity School Choir and the young women of the Behn Quartet and Charlie piper discuss the song and their performances of it. Enjoy  :-).

mfi

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