Choral Music for the New Year

Later on this month East of England Singers will be performing some movements from Jonathan Dove’s ‘The Passing of the Year’. In keeping with my post on ‘second chances’, when I hurriedly listened to the first movement before Christmas I just did not get it – 5 pages of an unchanging piano part, the choir chanting a sentence concurrently in 4 different rhythms. However a couple of the faster movements convinced me to persevere, so much so that I requested the CD for Christmas (it was a good value Naxos one).

I listened to the whole work and I found the 6th section ‘Adieu! farewell earth’s bliss!’ to be particularly striking.

I quote 4 lines from the first verse to give you an idea of the sentiments

Fond are life’s lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die.

Whilst one choir sings this or similar words, the other sings a more traditional ‘Lord have mercy on us’.
A powerful and effective movement – sadly we will not be performing it on this occasion.

The cycle closes with a setting of Tennyson’s poem ‘Ring out, wild bells‘.

What an excuse for the composer to portray the clanging of bells in both voice and piano. Again, hugely effective. An apparently monstrous piano part and some tricky polyrhythms in the voice parts. However you don’t need to understand the techniques behind it – just enjoy.