Dance, my heart
The Girls and Men of Sheffield Cathedral Choir
Director: Neil Taylor
Organ: Peter Heginbotham
Dance, my heart Robert Walker
As the apple tree Robert Walker
Missa Brevis Robert Walker
Adam lay ybounden Robert Walker
O Lord, thou hast searched me out Robert Walker
Psalm 2 Robert Walker
Hymn - Thine for ever Robert Walker
Psalm 1 Edward Elgar
Give unto the Lord Edward Elgar
Ave Maria Edward Elgar
Ecce sacerdos Edward Elgar
Intende voci orationis meae Edward Elgar
Seek him that maketh the seven stars Edward Elgar
Light of the world Edward Elgar
Dance, my heart
"Vernacular materials are strongly evident, and there's no attempt to be stylistically pure. Old forms, shapes and tonalities rub shoulders with more contemporary devices"
Robert Walker, note on the Piano Quintet (1984)
For many years Robert Walker (born 1946) lived in Brinkwells, the Sussex cottage where Elgar composed his 'Cello Concerto (1918-1919), and the most obvious link between the two composers for the purpose of this recording. In fact the similarity between the two goes further. Both sought old forms and imbued them with new meaning. Both struggled to be accepted - Elgar retreated back to the Malverns having failed to gain recognition as a composer in London in his early career- Walker left Britain in 1992 to live in Bali having suffered neglect (much to the bewilderment of his audiences), and now lives and teaches in Thailand. Both composers were profoundly influenced by the environments in which they grew up - Elgar and the Malvern hills; Walker as a chorister at St Matthew's Church, Northampton, the remarkable church that commissioned works by Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Gerald Finzi and Benjamin Britten amongst others.
Walker went on to study at Cambridge from 1965-68, before becoming Director of Music at Grimsby Parish Church, one of the few churches in the country with a choir school, for five years. In 1978 he made the decision to become a full-time composer. From 1982-1991 he was Professor of Composition at the London College of Music. His style, described so aptly in the above quotation, has been described as years ahead of fashion.
Nowhere in this recording is this more evident than in Dance, my heart, which was written at the request of Michael Nicholas for the RSCM Cathedral Course at York Minster in August 1978. The words are from'One hundred poems of Kabir' translated by Rabindranath Tagore. The writing, for double choir and organ duet, is very lively, making extensive use of the possible rhythmic permutations within a single bar. A calmer second section, notable for whispered Sprechstimme ('Mad') leads us towards the serene Andante commodo in which the choir parts make use of an aleatoric technique above the gently undulating organ part. This soon gives way to the energy exposed at the opening, and the closing pages are an aural and performing tour de force.
The aleatoric technique is again explored in the almost erotic As the apple tree; near the end of the work the choir sing the opening phrase entirely at their own speeds. The work was written for the marriage of Walker's nephew in 1982 and dedicated "To my Father, who only likes the black notes" (the piece is in D flat major).
Edward Elgar was born in Broadheath, near Worcester in 1857. He is seen as the best British composer of his day and ranks as one of the finest European romantic artists. Throughout his life he received very little formal training in music (lack of means prevented him from studying in London or Leipzig); it is possible that because of this Elgar's distinctive and original musical voice shines through.
Elgar grew up in a highly musical environment in Worcester. His father was well known throughout the region as a competent musician, the owner of a music shop and the local piano tuner. From 1846 Elgar's father had been organist of St George's Roman Catholic Church in Worcester; the young Elgar became his assistant there before succeeding him in 1885. It was here that many of Elgar's early choral pieces were first performed, such as the motets Ave verum corpus, Ave Maria, Intende voci orationis meae (1886-87) and Ecce Sacerdos (1888). Whilst the motets are miniatures of consummate charm and beauty, Ecce Sacerdos foreshadows the grand processional style characteristic of Elgar's more mature style.
The city of Worcester is synonymous with the great Three Choirs Festival, and this presented Elgar with many opportunities for employment, both as a performer and composer. The short oratorio The Light of Life was composed in 1896 and first performed as part of the Worcester Three Choirs Festival on 18th September of that year. Within this oratorio can be found the anthems Light of the World and Seek him that maketh the seven stars. Light of the world is typically Elgarian in its use of strong thematic motives and exhilarating modulations. Seek him that maketh the seven stars is altogether a more gentle piece for men's voices making extensive use of appoggiatura techniques. Two dramatic sections for tenor solo break the indulgence of the tutti sections.
Sheffield Cathedral Choir
The Cathedral Choir sings Evensong on each weekday except Monday during term-time at 5.45pm. Sunday services are the Sung Eucharist at 10.30am and Evensong at 6.30pm. Currently there are some 60 young people are involved in the Cathedral Choir. These children attend schools all over the city of Sheffield, and come in to rehearsals and services up to five times each week to be joined by the Cathedral Songmen and Student Songmen.
The boy and girl choristers all receive individual singing tuition from a specialist vocal tutor during their time in the choir, and, in addition to their regular services, the Cathedral Choir often gives concerts in the Cathedral and beyond, broadcasts on radio and television, and tours at home and abroad. In recent years the choir has visited South Africa, Germany, Holland, the South Coast of England, the West Country and East Anglia; in October 2001 all forces will undertake a 12-day tour of the USA. In the past four years, the choir has made 5 CD recordings, with more planned for the future.
The Cathedral is often a centre for workshops/singing days given by distinguished visiting musicians, including Sir David Willcocks, John Rutter, Scott Stroman, Ralph Allwood, Michael Brewer and Vivien Pike.
A native of Bradford, Neil Taylor won a Scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1986. He was organ scholar at St Albans Cathedral, and in 1990 was appointed Assistant Organist at Norwich Cathedral. As well as premiering many new works in his time at Norwich, he made numerous broadcasts and recordings with the Cathedral Choir, which received high critical acclaim, and toured with them on the continent and in the USA. As well as directing the Cathedral Consort, he formed the Cathedral Girls' Choir in 1995, which completed its first CD recording and made a highly successful tour of Germany in 1997.
In 1997 he took up the post of Organist and Master of the Music at Sheffield Cathedral, where he is responsible for the Cathedral Choirs of boys, girls and men and the Cathedral Chamber Choir. Since his appointment, the Cathedral Choir has toured both at home and abroad (including Germany and Holland) and will tour the USA in October 2001. He has previously made a CD recording, amongst others, of 20th century music by Sir Lennox Berkeley, George Malcolm, Grayston Ives and Mark Blatchly (Et in Terra Pax - LAMM 124D).
Neil has directed choral courses as far afield as Aldeburgh and Mexico City, and is a regular member of staff on the Eton Choral Courses.
In his spare time he enjoys reading, cycling, swimming and walking. A keen cook, he is also an enthusiast of real ales and good wines.
Peter Heginbotham was born in 1976, and was educated at Solihull School, where he was a Music Scholar. In 1994, he was appointed to the Organ Scholarship of Truro Cathedral, also acting as an Assistant Housemaster at Polwhele House School, and a visiting bassoon teacher at Truro School.
In September 1995, he moved north to become the Sir Henry Coward Organ Scholar at Sheffield Cathedral and University, where he gained the degree of B.Mus. Whilst in Sheffield, he ran the Student Orchestra, played continuo for the "Operaworks" production of "Dido and Aeneas" at the 1997 Edinburgh International Festival, was Chairman of the University Summer Music Festival in 1998, and was Secretary to the Management Committee of the Cathedral Arts Festival. He also accompanied the Sheffield choirs on tour, both in the UK and in Germany.
In September 1998 he moved to Chester Cathedral, where he ran the Voluntary Choir and played for the Cathedral Girls Choir on tour in Paris and Sens. He also conducted a 70 strong choral society near Liverpool.
He has been Assistant Master of the Music at Sheffield Cathedral since November 1999. He directed the songmen of the Cathedral Choir for their recent trip to Paris, during which they sang for the High Mass in Notre-Dame. This is his third CD with the Cathedral Choir.
In his spare time, he enjoys motoring and travel, as well as testing the results of other peoples' cooking.
Produced by Simon Johnson
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
© Lammas Records 2001