Today, Sunday 29 March, I would normally be at St Michael’s in Lewes by now, preparing to play for the 10.30 Mass. Also today, the Brighton Singers (I’m the MD) were going to perform at St Nicholas Brighton (just up from the clock tower on North Street). The programme was the Duruflé: Requiem with Andrew Robinson (baritone) and Briony Lambert (mezzo-sop) and my London-based friend, Iestyn Evans playing the very challenging organ accompaniment. That’s a wonderful piece based on the Gregorian chants for the Missa pro defunctis or Mass of the dead. A lot of the vocal lines in Duruflé’s setting are lifted directly from these plainsong melodies. Have a look at the Wiki page Music for the Requiem mass and you will see the opening 2 bars of the Requiem aeternam written in old script. The notes are square because they would have been written with a square-nibbed quill pen. And don’t be put off by the 4 line stave! Middle C is indicated at the start on the top line, so the plainsong melody starts on F, a 5th below. You might have a go at working out how this melody sounds from this old script – good luck. Then have a listen (and look) at this Youtube performance of Duruflé’s setting. On this version, you can follow that same melody sung by the tenors and basses, while the sopranos and altos do an angelic ‘Ah’.
Actually, if you want to listen to the whole Requiem (after all – admit it, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands), I recommend listening to this version sung by Kings College Cambridge choir. It’s an old-ish recording conducted by the great Sir David Willcocks. You might notice that Janet Baker sings the Pie jesu (at 18mins 10sec). Also on the CD cover, one Robert Chilcott – presumably Bob Chilcott as a boy treble – although he must be singing the Pie jesu in the Fauré: Requiem which is also on that CD, but not on this Youtube page.
The other set of pieces we were due to perform tonight were Parry: Songs of Farewell. I’ve never conducted these pieces before, but I remember years ago, a bass friend of mine Trevor Craddock being very excited when his choir (St George’s Chapel, Windsor) learned and performed these as a set. Finally I’ve got round to studying them and was really looking forward to conducting them tonight. The Brighton Singers have, I think, loved them and will almost certainly get round to performing them post-coronavirus. If you don’t know them, you’re in for a real surprise. Go on, have a listen to them, sung here by the astounding Tenebrae conducted by ex King’s Singer, Nigel Short – I’m listening to them as I write this. I like watching Nigel Short – his face looks very relaxed but expressive. He does of course have 14 professional singers in front of him, but still, you have to admire the purity of sound, complete sense of control, and musicality. You’ll note also, the wonderful acoustic (and impressive Baroque architecture visible at the very start). Oh – and the clarity of words – I know I go on about the need for us to hear the words.
Well, I hope you enjoy listening to these pieces. I’d like to hear what you think of them.
I think the weather is going to be a bit colder this coming week, but Robin and I have enjoyed having breakfast every morning this week out on the patio. We are very lucky having a garden to enjoy and the seafront a short walk away. I hope you are all well. With best wishes to all my blog friends. Nick
Here’s a picture of the frogspawn in our very little pond. We have two goldfish as well, who are now two years old, and we’ve not once fed them. So I’m expecting they might feed happily on a few of these, but I hope we will have a few frogs as well (or are they toad spawn?)