Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Songs Now CD Launch at Late Music

Saturday 4th August 2012

In the last ten years or so, I have been noticing a gradual but perceptible increase in both the quantity and the quality of songs being written by British composers. I am not sure why this is. However, in recent decades, the influence of the European avant-garde has receded, the influence of rock music has become ever stronger and British composers seem to have become more at ease with stylistic diversity as well as with their own national musical heritage. I suspect that these factors have all played a part in creating circumstances that are more favourable for songwriting than have existed for some time.

In 2007, a few of us discussed this and decided to form the short-lived 21st Century Song Project. Several new song cycles were written for this including four that appear on this CD – Power, Armstrong Whalley and Crowther. The strength of these songs further convinced me things were moving in this direction. However, we found it difficult to secure funding and were only able to deliver two concerts.

In 2009, the NMC label released their excellent quadruple Songbook CD, featuring songs by over 100 composers. The release of this CD prompted discussions in the national media about the possibility of a revival of British Song. This seemed a good omen and made me more determined than even to do a significant song project. The previous year – 2008 - I had formed the Grimsby St Hughs Festival. The aims of this Festival are to bring professional classical music concerts to North East Lincolnshire and to programme and promote new music that is relatively accessible but has a 21st century ‘sensibility’, so to speak. Now, inspired by the NMC songbook, I decided to devote a day of the Festival to 20th and 21st Century British song.

The Song Day took place at Grimsby Minster on Saturday 25th September 2010 and comprised three recitals – soprano and piano, tenor and piano and baritone and piano – and an excellent talk on British song by Peter Reynolds. Each concert was an approximately equal mix of early 20th century songs and 21st century ones. Moreover, we did our best to programme some of the very finest composers of 20th century songs and the recitals included works by Britten, Warlock, Quilter, Walton, W Denis Browne (a stunning songwriter who is ridiculously under-rated), Bridge, Finzi, Gurney and Butterworth. The 21st century songs included a generous amount of the songs on this CD. We even had an audience vote – just a bit of fun really – as to whether people preferred the 20th or 21st century music and the 21st century stuff won by 8%! One person wrote that he preferred the 21st century stuff ‘even though’ he was born in 1936!

The songday was so successful that there was a widespread feeling that we should not leave it at that but, rather, capture the new songs on CD. Funding from the Arts Council and the Festival’s reserves made this possible and we were delighted when Meridian agreed to release the CD. The CD was certainly a joy to make. The performers, the composers, the engineer and the staff at the National Centre for Early Music in York – where the CD was recorded – and at Meridian Records have all been a pleasure to work with. This is, of course a tribute to their absolute professionalism. However, I think it is also due to their belief – expressed several times to me – that, with this CD, we were all working on something a little bit special.

I am delighted that we will be launching the Songs Now CD at the August 2012 Late Music concert. All the tracks on the CD will be included in the concert. This is the full track listing for the CD which will be available at the Late Music Concert Series, all good classical music record shops and from the Meridian website http://www.meridian-records.co.uk/

This is the full track listing

Songs Now – British Songs of the 21st Century

Paul Carey Jones – baritone
Ian Ryan – piano

David Power Eight Evening Songs.

Tom Armstrong Opened Spaces.

David Lancaster Memory of Place.

Richard Whalley Six Songs of Old Japanese Wisdom.

Peter Reynolds Adieu to all Alluring Toys.

Steve Crowther Songs for Don.

William Rhys Meek Winter is a Slow Death Waiting.

Michael Parkin Three Songs.

David Power

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