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The opening work was Birthday Song for a Royal Child, composed in 1959 by Sir Arthur Bliss, with words by Cecil Day Lewis. It was written for Prince Andrew, now the Duke of York, the first child to be born to a reigning monarch for 103 years. This powerful piece without accompaniment provided a bold opening for the concert. The sound was good but I strained to hear the words. I really enjoyed the three songs by Elgar from 1907 -- settings of Tennyson (There is Sweet Music), Byron (Deep in My Soul), and Elgar himself (Owls); all three were sensitively sung and the men in particular sang their words out clearly and with spirit.

Sir Henry Walford Davies's God be in my head (1910), so often heard as a solo piece, was delicately harmonious, producing a particularly pleasing sound. This was followed by Malcolm Williamson's Procession of Psalms (1986-7), for me especially enjoyable as the choir clearly loved singing it and this added to my enjoyment of the piece. It has a more contemporary quality than the other works. Their timing was excellent and I enjoyed the added interest of the organ accompaniment, skillfully played by Timothy Roe.

The imposing sound of Arnold Bax's Mater Ora Filium (written in 1921, just a year or so before This Worlde's Joie which followed after the interval) was a powerful piece although the sopranos did waver about a little and again it was very difficult to hear the words.

The Choir of the 21st Century
The Choir of the 21st Century

Sir Arthur Bliss had the special claim of being Master of the Music for both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. I particularly enjoyed his gentle Cradle Song for a newborn child (1963) sung to words by Eric Crozier, and composed on the birth of Prince Edward, later Duke of Wessex. It was a delicate song contrasting with some of the more powerful pieces.

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Copyright © 5 May 2005 Pippa Hare, Kent UK


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