HYMNS FROM KING’S
20 hymn arrangements
arr. Stephen Cleobury
SATB and organ
Edition Peters EP72534 £7.95
This is an excellent resource for organists and choirs. Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge, has assembled 20 of his arrangements of popular hymns; a CD companion to this volume is also available, that is not only a demonstration of fine hymn singing from King’s but also a teaching aid. It includes all the hymns in these arrangements. Most of the hymns are provided with descants, sometimes above a verse sung in four-part harmony. Nevertheless, these arrangements can be adapted for organ and unison voices, both choir and congregation. Verses are treated in an interesting way: sometimes lower voices, sometimes upper voices, sometimes with varied harmonies. Bear in mind that the descants were written for the boys of King’s College, Cambridge, so the high notes may not sound as focused when sung by your parish choir. Some choirs may prefer to avoid the descants altogether, although they will still sound effective incorporated into the organ part. Nevertheless, choirs will enjoy these arrangements, and organists will enjoy accompanying them. The ‘big’ arrangements will suit the great festivals of the church, but some of the quieter arrangements could be sung most effectively by the choir during the administration of communion. Highly recommended.
NOVELLO BOOK OF HYMNS
50 hymn arrangements
SATB choir, congregation and organ
Novello NOV295878 £14.99
Here are 50 mostly new arrangements for choir and congregation or choir alone. A few are familiar: Guiting Power has John Barnard’s harmonization and descant, and I spotted half a dozen items from the 2013 Novello Book of Music for Lent and Easter – but even within those seasons the selection is wide-ranging. The 15 items for Lent and Passiontide include, as expected, ‘Forty days’, ‘When I survey’ and ‘My song is love unknown’, but also The Servant King arranged by Meirion Wynn Jones and In Christ alone arranged by Stephen Jackson. The latter is one of several arrangements that could be sung with congregation throughout, but are conceived more as choir anthems: the dramatically contrapuntal ‘up from the grave’, followed unaccompanied by ‘he stands in victory’ and then tenors singing ‘for I am his and he is mine’ harmonized by other voices – this splendid choral arranging would be lost with a congregation singing as well.
Many arrangements start in unison, then vary verses in harmony and upper or lower voices, before a descant final verse. Jonathan Wikeley’s Westminster Abbey, with extended organ introduction and three-part SSA final descant, and Stuart Nicholson’s How great thou art and Shine, Jesus, shine, characterized by sprightly, through-composed organ parts, stand out among more adventurous settings. But other arrangements that look inward to the ‘soul’ of the hymn are particularly special: John Bertalot’s Rhosymedre in two parts throughout, William McVicker’s Pastor Pastorum and Nottingham where simplicity produces the more powerful effect, and Martin Neary’s Channel of Peace (St Francis). Quibbles include omitting the ‘extra bar’ in Here I am, Lord and sometimes the choice of just one set of words when alternatives would fit – and of course nobody agrees on every choice of key. Nevertheless, this is a most useful resource.
ENGLISH CHORAL MUSIC: Motets and Anthems from Byrd to Elgar
Christopher Robinson and Richard Mailänder
Mixed choir, with and without organ
Carus 2.016 €24.90
This well-presented anthology from Byrd to Elgar was compiled primarily to introduce German choirs to English church music. Christopher Robinson (one of the co-editors) has used his vast experience to select and provide a good variety of music, mainly anthems and motets but also settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Stanford (in C) and Walmisley (in D minor) and two Lord’s Prayers by Farmer and Stone; so some music for choral evensong is included here. Most of these 40 pieces, readily available elsewhere, will be familiar to those brought up in the English choral tradition. At the end of each anthem, whether English or Latin, a German translation is given, and the useful index lists the scoring of each work and the source of the text (usually biblical). Some are written in closed score and others open score, but in this ‘choral conductor’s edition’ no piano reductions are given for unaccompanied anthems. This can be a challenge for the accompanist, especially for anthems in five and six voice parts. A useful teaching CD of many of the pieces is included, sung by a choir directed by Richard Mailänder. A choral edition of this book is available showing vocal parts without printed accompaniments, although for many of us used to the English tradition, singing our line with no reference to the accompaniment is a challenge.
BE STILL FOR THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD [E]
David Evans arr. Antony Baldwin
SATB and piano
Banks Music Publications ECS 590 £1.75
HERE I AM, LORD [E]
Daniel Schutte arr. Antony Baldwin
SATB and piano
Banks Music Publications ECS 589 £1.95
FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH [E]
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications GCL019 £1.95
PIE JESU [E/M]
Gabriel Fauré arr. Adrian Connell
SATB and piano or organ
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 88703 £5.95
Here are three arrangements in popular style and an oddity. Antony Baldwin has produced eminently singable SATB arrangements of two popular hymns, designed to be performed by choir alone. Both arrangements have a divided alto line and both go up a semitone for the last verse, but don’t hold that against them! They are well crafted and many parish choirs will enjoy singing them.
David Blackwell is a composer who writes beautifully for choral voices. His SATB setting of For the beauty of the earth is an attractive arrangement that may be particularly useful at harvest festival time for small parish choirs.
The oddity here is an arrangement of Fauré’s Pie Jesu in the key of A flat for SATB choir. For me (and perhaps for Fauré too) such a version seems to complicate the beautiful soprano solo writing, and at £5.95 for four pages of music I wonder whether choirs will consider this a worthwhile investment.
CAROLS FOR SATB
CAN IT BE TRUE? [E]
SATB and piano
Banks Music Publications BMP012 £1.95
A SPANISH CHRISTMAS SEQUENCE [E/M]
arr. Hazel Hudson
SA Men and piano or organ
AS JOSEPH WAS A-WALKING [E/M]
SATB and piano
Oxford X609 £1.85
Can it be true? may be familiar as the winning entry for the BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition 2014. The composer has sensitively set Susan Hill’s poem to music that cleverly exploits sections of the choir as the melody is shared around. The accompaniment is written effectively for piano rather than organ.
Hazel Hudson has arranged four Spanish Christmas songs for SA and men (for choirs without tenors). The arranger notes that the first three songs could be sung in unison. The texts are only given in English, but the attractive and lively melodies have a definite Spanish flavour. These four unusual Christmas pieces would be excellent choices for a community choir, perhaps planning its first Christmas concert.
Alan Smith’s As Joseph was a-walking is beautifully composed using the traditional rhythms of the Cherry Tree Carol. It is a lively and enjoyable carol with a sprightly organ accompaniment.
NOWELL, NOWELL! [E/M]
SATB and piano
Oxford X608 £1.85
LULLAY, MY LIKING [M]
SATB with solos
Oxford X604 £1.60
LA BERCEUSE (FRENCH LULLABY) [E/M]
Barbara Bell arr. John Rutter
SATB and piano
Oxford X610 £2.20
Jonathan Willcocks has set the text of The First Nowell to a lively and exciting melody – certainly not congregational, but great fun when singers and pianist have mastered the rhythmic patterns. It is not difficult and would be an exciting ending to a concert.
Lullay my liking by Matthew Owens has the same structure as Holst’s arrangement: unaccompanied with an easy four-part refrain contrasting with single melody line verses. If you have an excellent soprano soloist (and/or tenor), this would be a beautiful and atmospheric piece.
La Berceuse is a beautiful and simple lullaby with words and music by Barbara Bell. The words are only printed in French which may limit its use, but John Rutter has made an attractive arrangement (with orchestration available) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the carol which won the Bach Choir carol competition in 1975.
PAST THREE O’CLOCK [E/M]
DREAM CAROL [E/M]
Thomas Hewitt Jones
SATB, T solo, organ or piano
Banks Music Publications GCL012 and 017 £1.95 each
Thomas Hewitt Jones’s two carols are peaceful and dreamy. It was a surprise to find Past three o’clock treated this way, yet it works beautifully and the music really matches the words, with its contrasting 5/4 time in the verses and 6/4 in the chorus. Dream Carol is an attractive and atmospheric arrangement of a poem by Paul Williamson that relies on imagery from a northern-hemisphere Christmas for its effect.
CAROLS FOR UPPER VOICES
THE THREE KINGS [M/D]
SSA and piano
Oxford BC194 £2.20
WHAT CHILD IS THIS? [E/M]
SSA and piano
Oxford W191 £2.20
Bob Chilcott has set Henry Longfellow’s poem The Three Kings to music commissioned for Nicholas Carter and his fine girls’ choir of Queen Mary’s School, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire. This is not easy, but well-crafted music which will be rewarding and enjoyable to perform after careful preparation. Chapple’s carol is set in triple time (rather than the compound time of the familiar Greensleeves to which these words are often set) and could be a useful carol for an upper-voices choir.
THE INFANT KING [E/M]
arr. Christopher Robinson
SS and piano
Novello NOV295405 £2.75
ADAM LAY YBOUNDEN [M]
SS, solo (or semichorus) and piano
Novello NOV95383 £2.25
Both also available for children’s voices, SATB choir and piano
The melody of Thea Musgrave’s Adam lay ybounden is that used in Peter Warlock’s version. It is here arranged for two-part children’s choir plus solo (or semichorus) and, with the right forces, could make for an exciting performance. Christopher Robinson’s two-part version of The Infant King (a well-known Basque Noël) is easier but no less effective. Both these carols are described here as ‘for children’s voices’ and piano but are also published separately in versions for children’s voices, SATB choir and piano.