Corp has already established a very strong reputation as
a conductor of both choral and orchestral music. Now along
comes a CD, which is as welcome as it is fine, that shows
us what an excellent composer he is.
was first alerted to this CD when a couple of tracks were
played on BBC Radio Three. One was a gorgeous, quiet homophonic
setting of ‘God be in my Head’. This is one of the set of
pieces entitled Forever Child and it so impressed
me that I ordered the disc without delay. I was not disappointed
when it arrived and since then I’ve been returning to the
disc repeatedly for sheer pleasure.
aforementioned setting of ‘God be in my head’ is the sixth
of the seven part songs that comprise Forever Child.
The collection was composed by Corp to celebrate a little
boy, Ben, who died tragically young not long after Corp had
met him. These settings constitute a delightful and well-contrasted
celebration of the innocence of childhood. The second of
the set, ‘New Year’s Chimes’ appropriately evokes pealing
bells in the choral writing. ‘Where go the boats’, to words
by Robert Louis Stevenson, is wonderfully easeful and flowing.
The seventh and last song, a setting of ‘On My First Sonne’ by
Ben Jonson is a most touching homophonic envoi, which
impressed me as much as any of the set. Incidentally, the
very last track on the disc, Requiem, another Stevenson
setting, is the piece with which Corp originally planned
to end this little cycle but Ben’s parents asked him to set
the Jonson poem instead. Requiem uses the same music
but Corp expanded it for ‘On My First Sonne’ and I think
this Jonson setting makes a better conclusion. Still it’s
good to have Requiem as well and it was sensible to
separate it on the disc from the cycle for which it was originally
has done much work with children’s choirs over the years
and this is reflected in several of the compositions. The
set of Four Elizabethan Lyrics was written for the
Farnham Youth Choir and is an appropriate challenge for a
choir that had just been named Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year.
Here it’s the ladies of Voces Cantabiles that do the honours.
I enjoyed them all but thought that the third, ‘Elegy for
himself’ was particularly effective. The words of this were
penned by one Chidlock Tichborne on the eve of his execution
in 1585 at the age of just twenty-eight. Corp’s setting conveys
very well the resignation and regret of the condemned man.
After this the concluding Shakespeare setting, ‘When daffodils
begin to peer’, with obbligato clapping by the singers, is
a welcome and cheery contrast.
you no more sad fountains is
also a youth choir piece, taken from a larger cycle of
pieces for children’s choir. It’s an innocent, pure little
piece that makes an immediate and positive impact on the
are a couple of Christmas pieces. Verbum Patri reminded
me of such carols as Walton’s What Cheer? – and none
the worse for that. It’s in the style of a medieval carol
and the lively irregular rhythms are a delight. By contrast Lute-Book
Lullaby is a gentle and rather lovely little piece.
most substantial offering is a setting of Mathew Arnold’s
poem, Dover Beach, so memorably set previously by
Samuel Barber. Corp’s version is highly atmospheric. The
piece is the most complex on the disc and sounds far from
easy to sing. It’s for eight-part choir and towards the end,
in the section beginning “Ah, love, let us be true”, there’s
a most effective additional part for a children’s choir.
Here that part is sung, most effectively, by a solo soprano.
For the most part the pulse of the music is slow and it sounds
haunting, though there is a quicker, lighter section at “Sophocles
long ago”. The concluding section is gravely beautiful and
at the end Corp brings the work full circle by reprising
the music with which everything began.
more immediate impact is made by the unaccompanied Missa
San Marco. Corp conducted the first performance of this
work at Mass in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, when he led
the Highgate Choral Society on a visit there in 2002. In
his note he tells us that the congregation applauded them
at the end of Mass and, at the celebrant’s request, they
encored the final section of the Gloria – the section beginning
at ‘Quoniam tu solus’ I suspect. It’s not hard to see why
this Mass setting should be so well received for it is tremendously
appealing. The Gloria features dancing rhythms in its outer
sections while the central portion is more calm and reflective.
The Sanctus is joyful, starting with what sounds like pealing
bells but the Benedictus, which follows without a break,
is more reflective, as is the Hosanna with which it concludes.
The predominantly tranquil Agnus Dei reprises material from
the Kyrie. This is a lovely setting of the Mass, which should
be within the compass of good church choirs and I hope it
will be widely taken up.
then that’s one of my hopes for this CD. As well as giving
pleasure in its own right to listeners I hope it will be
heard by many conductors of choirs and that it will provide
them with the stimulus to perform Ronald Corp’s thoroughly
engaging and expertly written choral music. There’s some
super music on this disc, music that cries out for wide circulation
impossible to imagine that Ronald Corp could have been better
served than he is by Voces Cantabiles. I don’t know if the
choir is comprised of professional singers but it sounds
to be. The sound they produce is youthful, fresh and clear
and their singing gives consistent pleasure. Happily they
are given recorded sound of excellent clarity and ambience.
All the texts are provided and Ronald Corp himself contributes
an excellent note.
CD has given me enormous pleasure from start to finish. I’m
delighted that Dutton have issued it, continuing their admirable
advocacy of English music. This is one of the most enjoyable
discs to have come my way for a long time.
information on Ronald Corp, visit www.ronaldcorp.com
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