Unsung Heroes – Peel, Orr & Somervell

 

 

This year’s Unsung Heroes included the songs of Graham Peel, C. W. Orr and Arthur Somervell. It took place at Robinson College, Cambridge on Sunday, September 24th.

Chairman, Sarah Leonard reviews the afternoon below.

AESS Unsung Heroes Concert 2017
On Sunday 24th September members of the AESS met at Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge and gave an excellent concert of songs by C.W. Orr, Graham Peel and Arthur Somervell. It was a fascinating afternoon full of beautiful songs, and every singer delighted the audience with their voices and enthusiasm for the songs. I was delighted that so many members came forward to sing and play.

All agreed that it was a very special afternoon and we heard many forgotten gems.

The singers taking part were Karen Harris, Iain Sneddon, Sarah Leonard, Wendy Lawson, Sue Anderson, Clive McCombie. Paticia Williams, Stephen Miles and Carolyn Richards.

Our two wonderful accompanists were Patricia Williams and Diana Bickley. Wendy Lawson accompanied herself.

Michael Pilkington gave an enlightening talk about each composer, and Nicola Harrison read very movingly from Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad, interspersed between the poems Somervell set.

The concert was superbly organised by Patricia Williams and we thank her very much for all the time and hard work this took.

A copy of Michael Pilkington’s talk is below, as is the full programme.

Unsung Heroes.
We have today three composers with very different reputations.

Graham Peel does not even appear in New Grove, but is still remembered for a few songs out of some hundred that he composed, a dozen of which are still in print. He was born in Salford in 1877, and educated at Harrow and Oxford. He read history, but studied music privately for a while with Ernest Walker. He then moved to Bournemouth where he stayed for the rest of his life, working as a public servant. While there he became President of the local branch of The British Music Society, and Chairman of the Bournemouth Municipal Choir. Clearly music was more than just a hobby, though never his profession.
I have found two comments on his songs. Caroline Denham wrote about music in Manchester and mentioned that Peel’s songs ‘were always direct, simple and melodious with a very clear structure.’ Philip Scowcroft has written ‘Peel’s genuine lyrical gift hovers between ballad and art-song, but is perhaps more often nearer the former.’ This seems to me a reasonable assessment.
Of the seven we are to hear today two – ‘Noon-hush’ and ‘Her Loveliness’ are out of print, the rest are among the 13 still available. Of the four that I have ‘In summertime on Bredon’ and ‘The Early Morning’ are quite unforgettable.

Charles Wilfred Orr was born in 1893. He was never in the best of health, but did have independent means, so did not need to earn money through his compositions. He wrote 35 songs, but almost nothing else. All his songs are still in print, but none are well known. Though Peter Warlock and Arnold Bax among others were impressed by some of his work, and Delius gave him much encouragement, his songs were little known during his lifetime. In 1974, two years before his death, he wrote to Stephen Banfield: ‘About two years ago the BBC gave a series of 12 recitals of British Song; about 21 composers were represented, but yours truly was not among them. Last summer there was a series of six recitals of songs by British composers (at the Wigmore Hall, I went!) with a special feature of settings of Houseman at each recital, but again poor C.W.O. was completely ignored.’ This second complaint is particularly relevant – 24 of his 35 songs are settings of Housman.

It is interesting to note that Orr’s ‘first acquaintance with Housman … was through Graham Peel’s ‘In summertime on Bredon.’ After this Orr was almost obsessed with trying to set Housman’s verse in a manner that Hugo Wolf would have approved of. He later wrote ‘No English songs have ever given me the thrill that German lieder have done.’ This despite admitting his German was inadequate and that he had to rely on English translations of the poems. His music is influenced by both Wolf and Delius. New Grove gives him half a column written by Christopher Palmer, who describes him as ‘one of the finest British song writers of the century.’ However, he ends the short article by saying ‘The most notable instrumental pieces are A Cotswold Hill-tune for string orchestra and the Midsummer Dance for cello and piano.’ They are in fact his only instrumental works

Orr also wrote a number of articles and reviews, in one of which he wrote: ‘So long as English vocalists prefer to sing, and English audiences to hear, songs in languages in which 90% of them could not so much as order their breakfast correctly, so long will translations be banned from our concert platforms.’ A sentiment with which I heartily concur.
I have the music to 13 of his songs, and two CD’s covering his complete work, performed by Mark Stone and Simon Lepper. However, only one of the songs I have is being performed today. In relation to the friendship between Orr and Warlock they dedicated songs to each other, and in two cases at least imitated the other. Warlock’s ‘Consider’ has an elaborate piano part, much more like Orr than Warlock, and Orr’s ‘Tryste Noel’ could have been composed by Warlock.

Somervell’s position is rather different. Born in 1863 he studied music here at Cambridge with Stanford, spent two years in Germany, and then a period with Hubert Parry at the RCM. In 1894 he joined the teaching staff at the College. In 1901 he started work as inspector of music for the Board of Education. He retired from this in 1928 and was knighted for his work the following year. He not only wrote a large number of songs, but many choral works, a symphony and a violin concerto, both of which are now available on CD. A thoroughly professional musician.
However, in his excellent book on English Song, ‘Parry to Finzi’ Trevor Hold wrote in 2002 ‘Arthur Somervell is an unaccountably neglected English song composer. Championed by Parry as a young man, acknowledged as one of the leading English songwriters by his thirties, assured of a place in the history of English music for his pioneering song-cycles, yet today he is rarely heard and rarely performed.’ Things have changed a little since then. The recording made by Graham Trew in 1980 was the first ever of ‘The Shropshire Lad’, and now there are no less than six CD’s to be found on the web.

Somervell composed five song-cycles. The first was ‘Maud’, (1898), a setting in 13 numbers of about a third of Tennyson’s dramatic poem. This is the first English true song-cycle, and a powerful and dramatic work. You will hear more about it when four songs from it are performed, later.

The second was ‘Love in Springtime’ (1901), not a real cycle, just a collection of songs relating in some way to Spring. A mixed bunch, but it does contain the wonderful ‘Young Love lies sleeping’. (This is now sung.)

The third cycle was ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (1904) which appears in the second half, and I shall talk about it then. The other two cycles, ‘James Lee’s Wife (1806) and ‘A Broken Arc’, (1923) are settings of Browning. They both contain much fine music, but lack convincing stories.
We shall now hear all the songs which are NOT settings of Housman. Sit back and enjoy.

Somervell’s ‘A Shropshire Lad.’
I first discovered this cycle in the late nineteen forties. The music was out of print, and I was so taken I copied the whole thing out by hand. Some ten years later B&H reissued the music, naturally retaining two or three misprints. C.W.Orr, in spite of his mania for Housman, admitted he did not know Somervell’s work.
Somervell has selected 10 poems from Housman’s first collection of 63 to create a convincing storyline: young man falls in love in spring – his beloved dies before they can marry – in despair he joins the army, and dies abroad. Both Banfield and Hold find the music attractive, but too comfortable at times. This is in the hands of the performers, for there is plenty of anger in the music waiting to be used.
Another criticism expressed by both these writers is that Somervell pays no attention to the underlying homosexual feelings in these poems. I feel strongly that this is unfair. Only after Housman’s death in 1936 was the volume of ‘More Poems’ published, which made clear his sexual orientation. In 1904 when Somervell created his work no one knew of this, and Somervell was surely justified in setting the poems at their surface meaning of a young man who lost his girl. It seems to me unreasonable to accuse him of ignoring something that was only understood in hindsight many years later.
Finally, I have never understood why, when singers wish to perform settings of Housman they almost invariable go first to Butterworth. Apart from being settings of individual poems, not cycles, both ‘Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad’ and ‘Bredon Hill and other songs’ are of very variable quality, some really good – ‘Loveliest of Trees’ and ‘On the idle hill of summer’ for example, but I am inclined to agree with C.W.Orr, who in a letter to Stephen Banfield wrote this: ‘But, as you know, I do not share the general admiration for Butterworth’s songs; some of his so-called simplicity I am blasphemous enough to describe as infantilism. (Particularly that atrociously feeble folk song he has used for ‘When I was one-and-twenty.’)’
This may be going a bit far, but I hope you will agree that it is high time Somervell’s fine work resumed its proper place in our concert halls, not merely on CDs.

© Michael Pilkington 2017

 

Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge

Sunday September 24th, 2017

The Association of English Singers and Speakers presents

UNSUNG HEROES.

Introductory talk –

Michael Pilkington

The Early Morning Peel

Tryste Noel Orr

Young love lies sleeping Somervell

In the Highlands Peel
Her loveliness     Peel
Sorrow and Spring Peel

Noon Hush Peel
Silent noon Orr
Hymn before Sleep Orr

Plucking the Rushes Orr
The Bargain Somervell

Maud has a garden           Somervell
Come into the garden      Somervell
Oh, that twere possible    Somervell
My life has crept                Somervell

Singers, in order of appearance:
Karen Harries, Sarah Leonard, Iain Sneddon,
Wendy Lawson, Sue Anderson, Clive McCombie.

Accompanists:
Patricia Williams, Diana Bickley

INTERVAL

When I was one and twenty         Orr
When the lad for longing sighs    Peel
Oh When I was in love with you  Orr

Into my heart an air that kills               Orr
Westward on the high hilled plain      Orr
See how thick the gold cup flowers    Orr

In Summertime on Bredon            Peel
When the Lad for Longing sighs    Peel

A SHROPSHIRE LAD

Somervell – Housman

Introduction

Michael Pilkington
Loveliest of Trees

Song
When I was one and twenty

Song:
There pass the careless people

Song:
There pass the careless people

Poem:
Along the field

Poem:
In Summertime on Bredon

Song:
The Recruit

Poem:
The Street Sounds to the soldiers tread

Song:
The New mistress

Poem
On the idle hill of summer

Song:
White in the moon the long road lies

Song
Terence, this is stupid stuff,

Poem
Think no more lad

Song:
Tis time I think

Poem
Into my heart an air that kills

Song:
With rue my heart is laden

Poem
The Lads in their hundreds

Song:

Poetry read by Nicola Harrison

Singers in order of appearance:
Carolyn Richards, Stephen Miles, Karen Harries, Patricia Williams Clive McCombie, Sue Anderson, Iain Sneddon, Sarah Leonard.
Accompanists: Patricia Williams, Diana Bickley

Our thanks to the Master and Staff of Ronsinson College for their hospitality.

FOOTNOTE – STOP PRESS!
Members will be delighted to know that we have seven songs from the complete A Century of English Song volumes in the ABRSM’s new singing syllabus starting in January 2018.

Grade 5
The Early Morning. Graham Peel. Volume 8

Grade 6
A Melancholy Song Anthony Hopkins Volume 1
How should I your true love know? Roger Quilter Volume 1
Pot and Kettle. Clive Pollard. Volume 10

Grade 7
Love is a Sickness. Patricia Williams. Volume 10

Grade 8
Mother I will have a husband. Gordon Jacob. Volume 4
Copyright © 2017 AESS, All rights reserved.

 

 

The Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2017

The AESS Senior Prize Final, The Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2017
took place at the London College of Music on Wednesday, May 31st.

This was the first time that the competition was held at thhe LCM and the AESS is grateful to the Director and Staff for their generosity and support in loaning the use of their facilities.

Chairman, Sarah Leonard, welcomed the audience and introduced the evening.

Ten singers and pianists performed five twenty minute themed recitals of their choosing, using poetry, prose and English song which the enthusiastic members of the audience greatly enjoyed.

The judges, Samuel Evans, Nigel Foster, Stephen Varcoe and Jonathan Courage were impressed by the variety and strength of the performances and awarded the prizes accordingly:

1st Prize of £2,000 Becca Marriott – Soprano

2nd Prize of £1,000 Katy Thomson – Soprano

3rd Prize of £1,000 Corinne Cowling – Soprano

The Accompanist’s Prize of £1,000 John Cuthbert – Piano

Dame Patricia Routledge spoke about her own experience as a young singer learning to enunciate clearly under the tutelage of a demanding singing teacher. She acknowledged her admiration of the dedication of all of the performers as they strove to fulfil the remit of the competition.

Former winner, Samuel Evans, spoke about the judging criteria. Communication was the watchword for the judges among other considerations.

Sarah Leonard presented the awards.

The AESS is extremely grateful to Dame Patricia Routledge for her long association with and generous sponsorship of the Senior Prize.

Acknowledgements:
The Director and Staff of the London School of Music, including Ivor Flint. Esther Sheridan, Alice Auer
The Judges of the preliminary round: Barbara Alden, Nicola Margarita Harrison, Brian Parsons
Colin Drage – Treasurer
Stephen Miles – Co-ordinator

The AESS hopes that all the singers and pianists found the competition to be a valuable experience in developing their artistic and performance technique.

The AESS thanks them for helping with its core aim ‘to encourage the communication of English words, in singing and speech, with clarity, understanding and imagination’.

The perforrmers and judges

 

Plus Dame Patricia Routledge


Judge and former winner, Samuel Evans explains the judging criteria

The prize winners: Corinne Cowling (3rd), Becca Marriott (1st), Dame Patricia Routledge, Katy Thomson (2nd), John Cuthbert (Pianist’s prize)

The programme. Click on the links below:

AESSPRFinal2017

ProgrammesPRFinal2017

AESS Fell Prize for Musical Theatre Competition 2017

The AESS Fell Prize for Musical Theatre 2017 took place at the Sylvia Young Theatre School on Sunday, May 14th.

Ten finalists were scheduled to perform themed eight minute programmes of their own devising which had to include speech and song.

The distinguished judges were the musical theatre singer/actress Ria Jones and stage director Dominic Shaw.

They expressed their appreciation of all the performances, mentioning details of some of the performances which had particularly impressed them.

They laid great emphasis on the need for the clear expression of text in both song and speech.

Their joint decision was to award the prize of £1,000 to Jessica Aubrey of the Royal Academy of Music Musical Theatre Post Graduate Course.

Jessica had performed So long by Che Walker, Stone cold by Demi Lovato and With him by Joey Contreras. The judges asked her to reprise her performance by way of an encore.

Members of the Toni V Fell Trust were on hand to present the cheque to Jessica and the AESS is proud of the continued association with the Fell Trust for this competition.

The AESS is grateful to the judges and also to the pianist Tamara Saringer who accompanied all the performers.

Thanks also to the co-ordinators, Jean Hornbuckle and Jane Roberson for the smooth running of the competition.
Dominic Shaw, Jessica Aubrey, Ria Jones


Judges and entrants

The enthusiastic audience

AGM & Dinner 2017

The AESS AGM and Annual Dinner took place on Sunday, April 30th at the Royal Over-Seas League

Around thirty attended the AGM and fifty dined after a wonderful concert by the Hilliard Ensemble, aided and abetted by Chairman, Sarah Leonard.

James Bowman CBE was the guest speaker and talked about his career, his recent judging of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition and his thoughts on the clear articulation of the English language in song and opera and his experience of the difficulty in achieving this, especially in new music.

The Hilliard Ensemble in full throttle


The Silver Swan with Sarah Leonard


Sarah Leonard introduces James Bowman


James Bowman toasts the AESS, whose work is ‘needed now more than ever!’


Thanks to Anthony Dawson who arranged the evening

Trustees Report 2017-1

AESS Timothy West & Prunella Scales Speech Prize for Actors Final

THE TIMOTHY WEST & PRUNELLA SCALES SPEECH PRIZE FOR ACTORS INAUGURAL COMPETITION 2017
1st Prize £750 2nd Prize £500 3rd Prize £250

Saturday 29th April at 2.00pm

Central Bankside Campus

4 – 8 Emerson Street London SE1 9DU

Panel of Judges:

Timothy West Jonathan Courage Rosamund Shelley

Programme

The actors were representing the following colleges; Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the London Drama Studio, Royal Academy of Music Musical Theatre Course, East15, Guildford School of Acting and the London College of Music BA Acting Course.

In summing up after their deliberations, the judges mentioned the importance of the actors’ connection and identification with the material being performed and the need for clarity in the delivery. It was agreed the standard was very high and the judges decided to award the prizes in the following order.

Jamie Sandersfield First Prize

Ella Hunter-Clark Second Prize

Holly Durkin Third Prize

The Association of English Singers & Speakers is most grateful to The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for allowing use of the Emerson building.

On behalf of the Association I would like to thank the adjudicators and those that judged the preliminaries:

Marilyn Cutts, Martin Parr, Jonathan Courage.

A big thank you goes to Stephen Varcoe, the competition administrator.

Lastly, I am enormously grateful to our sponsors, Timothy West and Prunella Scales for donating the 1st prize.

Sarah Leonard – Chairman

Speech Programme 2017
The audience listens attentively

Timothy West, Rosamund Shelley,Jamie Sandersfield, Holly Durkin, Ella Hunter-Clark, Jonathan Courage

The finalists and judges

Courtney Kenny Award Final Result 2017

The final of the Courtney Kenny Award 2017 took place at Tonbridge School on Sunday, March 12th and the expectant audience was treated to some fine performances from the five finalists.

We are grateful to the head teacher and music staff at Tonbridge School for the use of the music facilities and to the judges, Richard Suart, Patricia Williams and Anthony Dawson. We also thank all of the participants who took part in the competition and who are helping to further the aims of the AESS.

Sarah Leonard was on hand to introduce the proceedings and Courtney Kenny awarded the prizes.

Richard thanked the entrants for their well thought out thematic programmes and the amount of work that had gone into their preparation.

The standard of the final was exceptionally high and the judges decided to make the awards in the following order:
1st Prize £1,000 Renee Michaela G Fajardo
2nd Prize £500 Hope Lavelle
3rd Prize £500 Lydia Jane Haynes
Pianist’s Prize £500 Hunter Mabery

Many congratulations to them and our thanks to all the singers and pianists who took part in the final.

As always, our thanks go to Courtney Kenny for his generosity in funding this competition
Anthony Dawson, Richard Suart, Cournety Kenny, Hope Lavelle, Renee Michaela G Farjardo, Lydia Jane Haynes, Patricia Williams, Hunter Mabery
The entrants

Sarah Leonard (left) with the judges and entrants

The programme cover and recital details:

CKProgCover2017

CKFINAL2017Prog

The 2017 AESS Annual General Meeting and Dinner

The 2017 AESS Annual General Meeting and Dinner
will be held on Sunday, April 30th 2017 at
The Royal Over-Seas League, St. James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR

I am delighted to announce that our guest speaker will be the counter-tenor, James Bowman, and we are also grateful to the members of the Hilliard Ensemble who have agreed to come out of retirement for one night only to give us a short concert of English repertoire at 6pm after the AGM at 4:30pm.james-bowman                                                             James Bowman

thehilliardensemble4                                                      The Hilliard Ensemble
It should be a splendid occasion, so do put it in your diary. The concert and dinner are open to members and non-members, and friends are very welcome.

Tickets will be on sale from January.

Dinner invite 2017

Best wishes,

Sarah Leonard – Chairman

The Junior Competition – The Catherine Lambert Junior Recital Prize 2016 Results

The Catherine Lambert Junior Recital Prize Final 2016

Saturday November 26th at 16:30 at The Royal College of Music

Panel of judges: Jonathan Courage, Penny-Price Jones, Mary Mogil

1st prize £300 – Ellen Pearson accompanied by Jessica Pearson

2nd prize £200 – James Cobb accompanied by Joan Taylor

3rd prize £100 – Sophie Benfield accompanied by Deborah Shah

Spoken prize in memory of Marion Lines £200 – Sophie Benfield

The AESS is most grateful to The Royal College of Music for allowing us to use The Recital Hall, and to Veronica Veysey Campbell and Liza Hobbs in the Junior Dpt. for all their help.

Special thanks go to Carolyn Richards, the competition administrator, for all her hard work in organizing a delightful event.

Thanks also go our three excellent judges whose thoughtful notes will be passed on to the finalists.

The judges felt that the standard of singing and speaking from all the young competitors was even higher than last year, and we wish them every success in their future endeavours.

The AESS is indebted to Catherine Lambert for her continued support of the Junior Competition and also to the family of Marian Lines for continuing the Speech Prize in her memory.

Sarah Leonard

Chairman of the AESS

juniorcompwinners1James Cobb – 2nd, Ellen Pearson – 1st, & Sophie Benfield -3rd & Speech Prize

juniorresults2016

With judges – Judges, Stephen Varcoe Mary Mogil, Penelope Price Jones & Jonathan Courage

The Catherine Junior Recital Prize 2016

The Catherine Lambert Junior Recital Prize 2016

The final will be held on Saturday, November 26th at the Royal College of Music Recital Hall from 4.00pm until 7.00pm

The preliminary round will take place on Sunday, November 13th at Taggs Yard, London and at a venue in Birmingham on the same day.

The deadline for entries will be Saturday, November 5th

The Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition Final 2016

The AESS Senior Prize

The Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2016

The Final took place on Wednesday, May 25th at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Chairman, Sarah Leonard, welcomed the audience and introduced the evening.

Five singers sang a twenty minute themed recital of their choosing using poetry, prose and English song which the enthusiastic members of the audience greatly enjoyed.

The judges, Lynton Back, Nigel Foster, Jane Highfield and Maria Jagusz were impressed by the variety and strength of the performances and awarded the prizes accordingly:

1st Prize of £2,000 Claire Barnett-Jones – Mezzo-soprano
Joint 2nd Prize of £1,000 Jonathan Hyde – Baritone
Joint 2nd Prize of £1,000 Kieran Rayner – Baritone

The Accompanist’s Prize of £1,000 Somi Kim – Piano

Patricia Routledge was unable to be present and Lynton presented the awards. He spoke of the judging criteria and the importance of finishing words to aid clear diction.

The AESS is extremely grateful to Patricia Routledge for her long association with and generous sponsorship of the Senior Prize.

Acknowledgements:
The Director and Staff of the GSMD
The Judges of both rounds
Susan Field – Treasurer
Stephen Miles – Co-ordinator
All the singers and pianists who took part. The AESS hopes that they all found the competition to be a valuable experience in developing their art and performance technique.

The winner, Claire Barnett-Jones

attachment

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.clairebarnettjones.com

 

Winner of the Accompanist’s’Prize, Somi Kim

Unknown

 

 

 

 

http://www.somikim.com

 

The competitors listen to Lynton Black speak before the presentations

AESS1

The singers, pianists and judges

AESS2
The prize winners and judges. From Left: Nigel Foster, Jane Highfield, Somi Kim, Claire Barnett-Jones, Lynton Black, Jonathan Hyde, Kieran Rayner, Maria Jagusz

AESS3
The Programme:

AESSPRFinal2016 Pages 1 & 4

ProgrammesPRFinal2016 Pages 2 & 3