The Prioress in Spring
Music by Paul Johnson
Director: Ian Moore
Organ: Nigel Kerry
Soprano: Adey Grommet
Counter tenor: Charles Humphries
The Walsingham Centenary Mass with Prime Brass
O Gloriosa Virginum
Corpus Christi the fountainhead
Exposures for counter tenor and organ
Make this night loveable
At last the secret is out
The Prioress in Spring for soprano and organ
Holy Week and Easter Carols
Total playing time 58m 00s
Paul Johnson was born in Clenchwarton, Norfolk in 1930. He went up from King Edward VII School, King"s Lynn - via two years National Service - to Jesus College, Cambridge to read Music. It was the era of Patrick Hadley, Peter Tranchell and Thurston Dart, the musicologist whose influence was dominant at that time. Composition was at a low ebb. "The only member of the Music Faculty to spot that I might be harbouring a creative spark was Henry Moule," writes the composer.
Nevertheless, Cambridge offered much to absorb in directions first opened up by the wartime Powell and Pressburger film "A Canterbury Tale", with its celebration of traditional Englishness, Chaucer, medieval cathedrals, polyphony, the organ . . . even the complexities of human behaviour. Every one of these elements, in fact, is present somewhere in the music recorded here.
After working for a time as P.A. to Thurston Dart, Paul Johnson taught Music for six years, spent two more at Anglia TV producing children"s programmes and until its closure lectured in Music at the now defunct Sidney Webb College of Education in London. Following this, he trained at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation as a Systemic Family Therapist and Counsellor, subsequently working in private practice for several years.
Drama has always been an interest. Benjamin Britten warmly commended his alternative introduction to "The Little Sweep". In the 1993 King"s Lynn Festival he presented his dramatic entertainment "The Play of Margery Kempe" devised from the vivid autobiography of Lynn"s famed Fifteenth century mystic. It was revised for the 1998 Festival and presented with the York Waits and Eastern Voices.
As for composition, the occasional song or carol emerged once every five years (and mostly lost). The present collection owes itself to the organist Nigel Kerry, who on the slenderest evidence invited Johnson to be a composer-in-residence for the thirteen months" Centenary celebration concerts at Walsingham. A handful of surviving pieces were dusted down and revised and a dozen or so new ones composed, either directly for events at the National Shrine or for artists with whom he had made contact as a result of the Centenary.
Paul Johnson often writes his own lyrics or freely adapts old sources to his musical requirements. He aims to capture a familiar mood or scene - the serenity of the Christmas crib, the pleasurable arrival of summer, the humour of the unexpected, the poignancy of loss - in a lyrical idiom which an English audience can comfortably relate to. The influences are obvious enough; Britten, Walton, plainsong, Dankworth; somewhere one might even spot Noel Coward.
This Cambridge based brass quintet has gained its reputation for its unique blend of musicianship, versatility and humour. The group is equally at home with Gabrieli canzonas, Circus marches or Gershwin arrangements.
Cambridge Voices, one of the most exciting ensembles promoting new choral music today, comprise some of the best adult choral singers in Cambridge. The group includes former members of college chapel and cathedral choirs, who now work for accountants, publishers, university and education departments, a travel agent, the RSPB, in information technology and in music administration. Since their foundation in 1990 their performances have included many successful tours in France, Austria, Switzerland, former East Germany and Rome. They have made television and radio recordings for ORF, released several CDs and commissioned over twenty major scores. Under their inimitable director, Ian Moore, Cambridge Voices are in demand for their concerts of unmistakeable originality.
Adey Grummet was born in Australia where she trained as a dancer and actor as well as a singer. She has worked in the UK for various companies including English Touring Opera, Opera North, Welsh National Opera and D'Oyly Carte in a wide repertiore from mainstream to contemporary.
In addition to this she has created the roles of Fairy in Meckenburgh Opera's premiere of Julian Grant's Jump Into My Sack, Corallina in In The House of Crossed Desires by John Woolrich for Music Theatre Wales and Fernane/Eva in Ian McQueen's Picasso - Out Of The Blue for Compact Opera.
Concert appearances over the past two years have included a St John's Smith Square recital An Airy Spirit, Orlando Gough's Axaxaxax Mlo at the Purcell Room, Kapilow's Green Eggs and Ham and Gertrude McFuzz and Walton's Facade with the Martell Ensemble, her show Things We Found Under The Sofa with Graham Coatman at the Dewsbury Festival, Judith Weir's King Harald's Saga and Mike Parkin's Lady Masery and the Daily Worm for PM Music Ensemble and recitals in the King's Lynn and Walsingham Festivals.
Next year she will sing Little Moon in Judith Weir's A Night At The Chinese Opera for Scottish Chamber Ensemble, premiere But Release Me From My Bands by Graham Coatman in the Bridgewater Hall organ recital series and take a new cabaret show Sing Me A Song Of Social Significance to the Dulwich Festival.
Charles Humphries studied singing at the Royal Academy of Music with Charles Brett and after graduating continued his studies with James Bowman and Michael Chance and is since becoming recognised as one of the foremost counter-tenors of his generation. He has sung in major European vocal ensembles such as Cardinall's Musick and Les Gens Soloistes.
As a soloist, recent work has included performances under Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort, Robert King and The King's Consort, John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque soloists. Throughout 1997-98 his recital work has included performances in Karlsruhe at the Handel Festival, a programme of J.S.Bach"s solo cantatas for Danish radio in Copenhagen and English song in Wratislavia, Poland.
Charles Humphries' solo recordings include a Messiah with the Vienna Boys Choir, a disc of duets and solos by Purcell and Handel, and Schutz cantatas. As a consort singer he has recorded for Paul McCreesh, Richard Hickox, Robert King and John Eliot Gardiner. He directs and sings with a newly formed chamber ensemble called "Kontrabande" specialising in music of the 17th and 18th century for Counter-tenor and single instrumentation. Since its formation Kontrabande has performed in London and throughout Europe; in January 1999 they will make their Wigmore Hall debut.
Ian Moore read music at Cambridge University and sang in the Choir of King's College Chapel. Later he acted as assistant organist at Ely Cathedral and St Andrew"s Holborn before becoming arranger, accordianist and prima donna for the Classic Buskers duo, with whom he has performed the "Queen of the Night" aria in Japanese. In a more serious vein he is recognised as an innovative choral director in spite of failing the choirmaster's examinations for the Royal College of Organists three times. Though not professing to be a composer, he has occasionally written works for Cambridge Voices, the choir which he founded in 1990. Many of these pieces have been premiered in the choir's celebrated series of Parisian concerts each August. Nigel Kerry is a graduate of Oxford University, having studied the organ in London with Nicholas Danby. A former assistant organist at Queens' College, Cambridge, he has now returned to that city as Director of Music of the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs - one of England's largest Catholic churches.
He enjoys a busy concert career: recent engagements have included recitals at Westminster Abbey and St John's Smith Square, while the 1998-99 season includes recitals at St Paul's Cathedral, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and the King's Lynn and Norfolk and Norwich Festivals. In addition to his live performances he has also recorded a solo CD of concert works on the historic organ of St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. A further CD is scheduled for release in early 1999.
During 1997-98 he was Artistic Director of the Walsingham Centenary celebrations at the RC National Shrine of Our Lady. He was responsible for organising a thirteen-month programme of festivities - concerts, recitals and lectures - which marked the centenary of the revival of pilgrimages to the famous Norfolk shrine.
The recording was made in Emmanuel College Chapel, Cambridge in September 1998 by kind permission of the Master and Fellows. It has been generously sponsored by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.
Produced by Richard Lloyd
Executive Producer, recording engineer and editor, Lance Andrews
Cover painting by Merrill Middleton
The music of Born That Night from Decani Music 30 North Terrace, Mildenhall Suffolk IP28 7AB
The remainder of the music available from Fanneran Music 22 Albert Avenue, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE30 1EE