An all-too-rare new recording from Polyphony and Stephen Layton presents highlights from the choral repertoire by four twentieth-century American giants: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Framed by Thompson’s understated favourites Alleluia and Fare Well, the programme includes Bernstein’s Missa brevis, Copland’s early set of four motets, and—of course—Barber’s inimitable Agnus Dei.
This anthology brings together representative works from the mainstream of contemporary American choral music. Charles Ives’s Psalm 90 evokes a mood reminiscent of congregational Sunday singing in New England. Copland’s In the Beginning recalls his Fanfare for the Common Man, while Lukas Foss’s Behold, I Build An House shows the stylistic influence of Copland. Vincent Persichetti’s Flower Songs reveal his deep commitment to his favourite poet E.E. Cummings, and favours the women’s voices. In Fern Hill, set for alto, chorus and orchestra, composer John Corigliano sings of the joys of youth.
American Gypsy introduces itself with about 15 seconds of rumbling instrumental noise, the equivalent of an outsider orchestra tuning, before the opening blues figure of "Oh Berta, Berta" falls down from Tony Furtado's guitar. In those early moments, a new direction is named for Furtado, a bluegrass virtuoso and genre-bending master whose 1997 release, Roll My Blues Away, introduced his perfection of the slide guitar and move away from traditional roots-style composition.
Does music add substance to words or is music inspired by them? Songs of departure and farewell are deeply rooted in the great tradition of British choral music, nourished by ancient myths of testing journeys, wayside transformations and homecomings. The transcendent nature of music and the power of poetry to challenge and alter perceptions of reality – harnessed by English composers over many centuries – flow through a programme that invites contemplation of life and death, of love and loss, creation and eternity. In a journey covering six centuries of musical history, The Sixteen performs a cappella anthems with powerful texts by writers as varied as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Fry and W.H. Auden.
Allan Taylor is one of England's most-respected singer/songwriters. His songs have been covered by artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including Don Williams, Frankie Miller, Fairport Convention, Dick Gaughan, the McCalmans, the Fureys, the Clancy Brothers, and De Dannan. Folk Roots praised him for his "ability to crystallize a mood and evoke an era with the ease of a computer memory access, crafting perfect songs with dramatic changes in the spirit of Brecht, Bikel, and Brel."…