Posts Tagged ‘ English choral music ’

The Agincourt Carol: Deo gracias, Anglia, redde pro victoria!

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October 26, 2015

Henry VOn Sunday October 25th 1415 – St Crispin’s Day an English army led by the their king Henry V, fought a French army that included pretty much the entire of the French military establishment and a goodly portion of the political establishment, during the battle which is one of the most famous English victories ever, the English who were considerably outnumber inflicted a defeat upon the French that was so severe, so heavy, that it would be somewhat more accurate to describe the "Battle of Agincourt" as the "Massacre of Agincourt".  There are all sorts of myths and misconceptions about the battle and if you're interested in learning more I can thoroughly recommend this superb article by Bernard Cornwell here The Battle of Agincourt: why should we remember it? in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Cornwell cuts through all myths and triumphalism to tell us how the battle really progressed and what it was about the English army that helped ensure their victory.

The battle immediately seized hold of the English imagination it entered into the canon of English history and helped cement the feeling of Englishness throughout the length and breadth of the land. When Shakespeare wrote that famous speech he was pushing at an open door. His audience already new the story of Agincourt – they wanted to hear the story again. There are plays, poems, songs, and carols, celebrating the English victory over the French. The author of The Agincourt Carol: Deo gracias, Anglia, redde pro victoria! is unknown but whoever he was he knew exactly what his audience wanted and gave it to them it spread like wildfire throughout Henry V's realm. It's a typical medieval carol with a jaunty dance tune that's very singable and with choruses that could be belted out at full volume by the listeners. I've included the text within the player so that you can follow along if you're so minded. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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John Dankworth (1927-2010): Light of the World

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October 6, 2015

John DankworthIf you know the English jazz scene you probably think of the late John Dankworth either as a brilliant jazz composer and saxophonist or as Cleo Laine's husband but his talents were too great and too broad to be confined to any one genre. His setting of Paul Wigmore's "Light of the world" is a case in point it's got a lovely gentle melody with harmonies that ebb and flow with the text. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Haste Thee O God (attr.)

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September 24, 2015

Compared to that other Tudor-era composers Sheppard's music is still relatively little known and infrequently performed which is perhaps why this recording of Haste the, O God, a setting of Psalm 70 generally attributed to Sheppard is the first ever recording of it. It's also been attributed to Tye but it sounds more like Sheppard than Tye to me it's not as academic as much of Tye's music being very energetically written and quite appealing even though its counterpoint is a bit unpolished. Have a listen and make up your own minds. And as always, enjoy :-).

mfi

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Arthur Somervell (1863–1937): O Saviour of the World – The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford – YouTube

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September 22, 2015

Somervell studied at King’s College, Cambridge where he was one of Stanford's early students, he then studied in Berlin for two years before returning to England and studying under Parry at the Royal College of Music, where he later taught. During his lifetime he was best known for his songs and song cycles, choral works written specifically for choral festivals, and several children's operettas recounting fairy tales. It's a pity his music is so rarely heard now but his real importance to British music was not so much as a composer or a teacher but as a Civil Servant specialising in the administration of the teaching of music. More than anyone else it was Somervell who championed music in schools and it is to his lifetime of effort that Britain owes the fact that music was established as a 'proper' school subject to be treated seriously and studied (and examined) in schools throughout the land. He retired from the Board of Education in 1928 and was awarded a knighthood for his efforts. O Saviour of the World is the collect for the visitation of the sick in English 1 it's a four-part setting (SATB) with lovely flowing lines moving to a gentle and gracious conclusion. It's sung below by The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford, conducted by their outgoing director David Crown and accompanied on the organ by Robert Smith at a concert given in St. John's Episcopal Church, Northampton, Massachusetts, on July 5th 2014. I've put the text below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Byrd – Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (St John’s College Cambridge Choir, 1982)

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September 19, 2015

The choristers of St John's College Cambridge conducted by George Guest singing Byrd's settings of the Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Second Service) in a performance dating from March 3rd 1982 and recorded by the BBC. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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