Enough with the spotted snakes: New London Children’s Choir
New London Children’s Choir
St James’s Piccadilly
17 March 2018
Gary Carpenter The Lamplighter: ‘The Lamplighter’, ‘Escape at Bedtime’, ‘Marching Song’, ‘The Moon’
Malcolm Williamson From a Child’s Garden: ‘My Bed is a Boat’; ‘The Lamplighter’
Amanda Dean We Spotted Snakes
Katrina Toner The Land of Nod
Paul Archbold Be Not Afeared
My Lagan Love
Ronald Corp My Bed Is Like a Little Boat
Philip Lane Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind
Richard Bullen Fiery Tales
Joshua Ballance The Willow Song
Rhiannon Randle Nocturne
Nico Muhly From a Railway Carriage
Ivor Gurney Five Elizabethan Songs: ‘Sleep’, ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’
Patrick Nunn Lullaby – You Spotted Snakes
Ernest Tomlinson Pat’s Fiddle
Henry Purcell If Music Be the Food of Love
Ronald Corp Sigh No More Ladies
Toby Young Three Shakespeare Songs: ‘Orpheus with His Lute’, ‘You Spotted Snakes’, ‘When That I Was a Little Tiny Boy’
What a programme! I’m not sure I’ve ever yet been to a concert that included five world premieres and six commissions, and when I think back to the sort of rep I sang as a child I feel quite ashamed, or more correctly retrospectively stern of the lack of ambition of the adults involved.
Still, one cannot expect to like every new piece one hears or even to think it’s worth the composing, and perhaps the adults involved in my children’s choirs were right to have us singing Vivaldi’s Gloria again and again year on year. Or more correctly, might well have found this concert an endorsement of their cautious approach, being the sceptical so-and-sos they evidently were.
Sitting alongside these fictitious avatars I’d probably agree that a disappointingly large proportion of the pieces in the concert, new and old, were of the despairingly generic pseudo-jazzy idiom that I sense some people think children like. I’d also share with them the anguish of hearing the umpteenth setting of ‘We spotted snakes’ or ‘The Lamplighter’ to add to oodles that already exist; and perhaps even exchange snarky looks of incredulity that anyone might think the Willow Song could make a suitable text for children’s choir. Curatorial sensitivity there was not.
But, childhood avatars, don’t let caution blind you to success. Bullen’s Fiery Tales and Randle’s Nocturne stood out from their surroundings in their inventiveness, each finding strengths in the strictures of the commission. Bullen combined memorable melody with vivid word-painting in his setting of an anonymous 17th-century poem (going off-piste from the Shakespeare/Stevenson requirement), with many intelligent and entertaining touches; it was only the middle passage that seemed a little too tricky for the singers. Randle’s setting of a Puck remix was more diffuse but seemed miraculously pitched to what the singers could achieve, raising them at their height to a truly thrilling sound.
Solo interludes from soprano Camilla Seale completed the programme, all very pleasantly sung but particularly successful in the simplicity of the trad. Irish My Lagan Love.
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