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'Reflections across the Pond'

Charlemagne Music

‘Reflections across the Pond'

A sequence of music from the United States and the British Isles

Nick Pepin, Chris Dudley (counter-tenors) and June Clark (piano)

Reflections across the pond' creates a bridge in time and space between two countries and their musical heritage. Here seventeenth century Britain meets American history.

There is a wealth of song down the centuries, from both sides of the Atlantic suitable for the countertenor voice. Woks range from solos and duets from the Golden Age of Dowland and Purcell to the twentieth century of Quilter, Warlock and Britten, along with contemporary arrangements of well loved traditional folksongs and spirituals. Many of the latter have been redressed in a more romantic style by June Clark. June also plays two piano solos on the disk, both by Percy Grainger. The Dowland transcription of the song ‘Now, O now' bridges the gap of four centuries with an amazing metamorphosis of the simple song, into the ever more complex and daring harmonies of Grainger's piece.


CM 22103


  Track Details : Songs  

1. Sound the trumpet : Henry Purcell (1659-95)

The original lines of the birthday ode were “sound the trumpet till around, the listening shores resound” and a private joke Purcell shared with the audience was that the trumpeter in the orchestra for which the piece was written was John Shore, a famous court trumpeter at the time. Purcell wrote nothing for the trumpet in that section, so Shore would have heard the choir sing ‘listening shores".

2. O dive custos: Purcell (1659-95)

Queen Mary was one of England's most beloved monarchs, and her death, in her early thirties, from smallpox just after Christmas 1694 plunged the nation into genuine grief. Purcell composed this music, Elegy upon the death of Queen Mary, for the funeral.

3. Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! : John Dowland (1563 – 1626)

Words anonymous

Dowland was a prolific song writer, with more than eighty from his pen. This sad little song expressing great grief has been arranged by Dowland from an original instrumental pavane.

4. Down by the Sally Gardens: Benjamin Britten (1913 -1976)

Words by W.B.Yeats

This traditional Irish love song tells again of unrequited love and the foolishness of youth. Britten's setting gently jogs along with the pianist's left hand providing a discreet commentary to the singer's melody. Britten's harmony on the word ‘foolish' at the end of each verse is so telling.

5. O Waly Waly: Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976)

Words traditional

Sometimes titled ‘The water is wide 'this English folksong is thought to be of Scottish origin, telling the sad story of the failed marriage in 1670 of Lady Barbara Erskine to the 2nd Marquis of Douglas. At the thought of love ‘but when it is old, it groweth cold' Britten's accompanying chord on the word ‘cold' brings shivers to the spine.

6. Near Woodstock Town: Percy Grainger (1882-1961)

A wordless folksong with voice and piano

An imaginative realisation of the folksong. In the middle Grainger adds a counter melody to be sung over the piano, with the harmonies becoming ever more adventurous.

7. In vain the am'rous flute: Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695)

This piece was written as an Ode for St.Cecilia's Day in 1692, and originally scored for two voices, two flutes, a bass instrument and continuo. Subtitled ‘Hail Bright Cecilia', this is a lengthy piece with two outer instrumental sections, the writing is a complex dialogue between the voices with, in this arrangement, countermelodies from the piano.

8. Music for a while shall all thy cares beguile: Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695)

Words by John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee arr. Michael Tippet and Walter Bergmann.

The song is from Act III Scene I of the musical drama ‘Oedipus', and is designed to calm the three furies. The song implores Alecto to ‘free the dead from their eternal bands'.

9. Now, O now I needs must part: John Dowland (1563 – 1626)

Words anonymous

This sad little song is a poignant farewell to Queen Elizabeth I from a departing suitor. The slow moving melody and the words are a hopeless expression, as the song says ‘Now at last despair doth prove love divided loveth none'.

Piano transcription: Percy Grainger (1882-1961)

Grainger's own note:
My piano piece is based on a transcription by Mr Sidney Beck as it appears in a copy of the 1597 edition of John Dowland's ‘The First Book of Songs or Ayres of foure parts with Tableture for the lute'. In my setting the melody is heard twice, the first time with harmonies almost identical with those of Dowland's lute accompaniment (but adapted to pianistic technique), and the second time with free harmonies and a tailpiece of my own.

The piece was composed in 1935 and dedicated ‘for my darling Aunty Clara, with fond love'. As the piece progresses we are transported from the 16th century into the world of Delius and his chromaticism, thereby bridging the gap of four centuries with an amazing metamorphosis of the simple slow melody into ever more complex and daring harmonies. So complex does the score become that Grainger thoughtfully indicates the Dowland melody in larger type notes, in case the performer were to lose sight of it amongst the web of surrounding notes.

10. Deep River arr. June Clark (1933-)

Traditional American

This popular Negro Spiritual prayer must have been through countless arrangements, but in this duet version for two voices it takes a decidedly lyrical approach. The voices intertwine with an accompaniment which slowly grows in emotion.

11. There is a balm in Gilead: arr. June Clark (1933-)

Traditional American

The words of this healing invocation are given a soothing approach with the two voices mixing their countermelodies. The middle section is given a more ethereal ambience which then evolves into a richness of texture with intertwining melodies, coming finally to a calm and peaceful resolution.

12. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?: arr. June Clark (1933-)

Traditional American

One of the best known Easter hymns this begins in subdued manner, which through the first three verses becomes more and more reverential. The sorrow of verse three is then uplifted with the piano transition to verse 4, where now the triumph of the Resurrection is finally realised and the true message of Easter is heard.

13. Shenandoah:arr. June Clark (1933-)

Traditional American

This arrangement of the popular American folksong begins in simple style. There is a key transition in verse two and the accompaniment becomes more florid, like the flowing waters of the Mississippi. The final verse again takes on the great surging of the river and the romanticism of the words, with the melody soaring above. The piano ends the song by unwinding the tension and slowly fading into remembrance of this wonderful expression of love.

14. Of these four letters: arr. by June Clark (1933-)

Words by G.R.Woodward,

The traditional English melody of this little known carol is known also as Johnny Faa, or Gypsy Laddie. The song begins by quoting each letter M.A.R.Y. and then tells the story of Mary, the Annunciation and the birth of her Son. Each English phrase is interspersed with Latin text.

15. I wonder as I wander: arr. by June Clark (1933-)

Traditional Appalachian Carol: words arranged Niles

The carol begins as if the singer were ‘out under the sky' and all alone on the quiet Appalachian Mountains. The accompaniment steals in softly at verse 2, blossoming into verse 3, with a big climax at ‘cause he was the King'. The carol ends as it began, the singer alone with his thoughts drifting away to the far horizon.

16. How far is it to Bethlehem?: arr. by June Clark (1933-)

English traditional melody. Words by Frances Chesterton

The simple melody begins with unaccompanied voice. It seems that we are asking many questions to guide us from our own far country. The piano adds a rocking accompaniment, first anchored to a pedal bass note, which then expands to richer harmonies as we approach the stable. The pedal note reappears at the end as we reach our destination.

17. Take, O take those lips away: Op.23 no 4 Roger Quilter (1877-1953)

Words by William Shakespeare.

From the opening of Act IV Scene I of ‘Measure for Measure', this is one of a set of Five Shakespeare Songs composed by Quilter in 1921. Quilter's graceful elegance and love of words is evident in all his telling song settings.

18. Now sleeps the crimson petal: Op.3 no 2 Roger Quilter (1877-1953)

Words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Tennyson's words are so beautifully realised musically in this most popular of Quilter's settings. One of his early works this is a real gem. Few composers of English songs have matched his achievement for the repertoire.

19. Fair and true: Peter Warlock (1894 – 1930)

Words by Nicholas Breton

As was his wont, Warlock often preferred words from the Elizabethan period. These words are from a poem ‘Melancholic humours' of 1600, and what most beautiful words they are, transforming into an equally beautiful musical setting.

20. Yarmouth Fair: Peter Warlock (1894 – 1930)

Words traditional Norfolk folksong, updated by Hal Collins

The composer E.J.Moeran (1894 – 1950) was a great collector of folksong, and this one was sung to him by a Norfolk road mender, John Drinkwater, who alleged that he had discovered the words in an old newspaper and that they inspired the tune we all now know. Warlock's setting uses quirky harmonies.

21. Duetto buffo di due gatti: attributed to Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

Although included in an opera ‘Otello' by Rossini and attributed to him, this ‘Comic duet for two cats' is also thought to be the work of his contemporary, Robert Lucas Pearsall. It is a highly popular piece for two voices as a comic portrayal of two felines each trying to outdo the other with rival virtuosity, which at times culminates in indignant miaows and spitting.

The counter-tenor

The counter-tenor is a high male voice of distinctive timbre, whose heyday was the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Then for almost three centuries the counter-tenor was supplanted by the female alto, the contralto. But during the latter years of the twentieth century the counter-tenor has experienced a renaissance. Contemporary composers such as Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein have composed works specifically with this voice in mind.

But also admirably suited to the counter-tenor timbre is our wealth of song down the centuries from both sides of the Atlantic. The British Isles are represented by the Golden Age of Dowland and Purcell to the twentieth century songs of Quilter, Warlock, and Britten, and in a desire to widen the repertoire still further and forge new ground, June Clark has made several arrangements of some of the most enchanting and best loved Negro spirituals, together with Appalachian carols and of course who would not want to sing ‘Shenandoah' from America's treasure house?. Some of these arrangements are solos and others duet versions.

Two piano pieces by Percy Grainger continue the same sentiment of the pastoral nature of beautiful countryside. The first piece, ‘Near Woodstock Town', is an imaginative realisation of the folksong. In the middle Grainger adds a counter melody to be sung over the piano. The harmonies towards the end become more adventurous, as is this composer's trademark. The second piano piece ‘Now, O now I needs must part' has been linked together with the original Dowland song, a farewell to Elizabeth from a departing suitor. The piano transcription thereby bridges the gap of four centuries with an amazing metamorphosis of the simple song into the ever more complex and daring harmonies of the Granger work.

The final piece on the disk is the popular ‘Duetto buffo di due gatti ‘(‘Comic duet for two cats') which has no American connections and rather tenuous English ones. It is considered by some to be the work of the English composer Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856). We make no excuse for including it except that it is one of the gems of the repertoire for two singers as a virtuoso contest.

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