Mediaeval, Baroque & Classical…

This was the first ever choral piece I sang as a twelve-year-old, having joined the school choir by accident. (I thought I had joined the orchestra!) Loved it!!

For me this is one of those pieces whose composition feels so natural and effortless – as if it were a song that had to exist – or that already did.

There are certain pieces which are so great that it is simply impossible to hear or play them too many times. They never lose their freshness and excitement. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is one and Karl Jenkins Palladio is another. Graced here with the phenomenal choreography of Karl Jenkins, inspired by Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and a standout dance performance by Amar .Ramasar, Ask La Cour, and Chase Finlay.

I love both renditions of this song, first appearing in 1528. Both the choral and the folk evoke a distinctly English feeling of baroque. Being 50% English, I can’t help singing along!

For me William Byrd has wonderful, warm, vulnerable and human feeling to everything he writes. There is a nakedness to it. Something even more immediate than Tallis. It is easy for me to see the sequence from Tallis the tutor to Byrd the student who takes the genre further.

I disagree with those of my friends who bemoan quotations from great music in commercials. For many of us it is our introduction to great music. For instance, it was Hamlet cigars that introduced me to this mpiece of music and to Bach. For which I am very grateful!

This always transports me. The genius of Prokofiev, mediated brilliantly by Valery Gergiev and the Marriinsky Orchestra of St Petersburg.

Beautiful, simple, clean, earnest, memorable. Stephen Berni, if you’re watching, I remember your voice handling the tenor solo all those years ago!

I was introduced to this piece through an homage to it in the 1967 episode of Star Trek, titled “Amok Time.” It was the “Spock’s theme” in an iconic fight on the planet Vulcan, a fight to the death between Spock and Kirk. Years later I was working in Camden Town, London and had to pass a rehearsal space en route to a friend’s apartment. This was playing inside the building as I passed. Needless to say, I arrived at my friend’s place a good 16 minutes late!! Have been arrested by this piece ever since. And I love this performance of it.

There’s a bit of Holst’s The Planets in most Star Trek themes – and in this one more than most. I love the brooding promise of drama and violence in this piece. It is my favourite Star Trek theme. Thank you Danny Elfman.

This music is so wonderfully evocative of the Robinson Crusoe series and of those innocent days of watching it as a child in the 60s and 70s. 

It amazes me that a song can last, and still carry the essential emotion and meaning so many years after its composition in 1689. Somehow the fact that it was penned 65 years after the founding my high school made me feel as if my world and world of this opera somehow overlapped. I think I was 13 when I first performed this opera with my school choir. Enduringly grateful to our choirmaster Ian Hooker for introducing us to such an amazing and inspirational musical canon.

So much music in Mozart’s Requiem. There is a reason it is the most widely quoted requiem mass. I might not dot the i’s and cross the t’s of its theology, but this is one of my favourites for many reasons. I enjoyed performing it as a treble, then as an alto, then as a tenor! Every part is fun!

For me this is a standout piece amid the canon of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It certainly evokes the scene introducing the royal children movie The King and I, but beyond that this piece has a power and integrity which have given it a longer life than most of the songs in the movie’s score. I like the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein in general, but I have to say I admire how different and distinct a flavour Richard Rodgers created for this piece in particular.

When I first heard the Tallis Scholars perform Perotin’s Viderunt Omnes I thought I was listening to twentieth century choral music. When it was back-announced as twelfth/thirteenth century I was completely astonished. And I have been a fan of Perotin ever since. 

Along with the arresting scholarship and presentations of Shelby Foote, and the beautiful voice of its narrator, an unknown fellow by the name of Morgan Freeman, the score given to the ABC documentary series “The Civil War” was, I believe, absolutely integral to making the series an absolute classic. It is poignant and so evocative of another time. It forces you to stop and listen and feel.

I have a feeling that the writer of the Fargo theme knew Ashokan farewell. For me this theme is equally arresting and is a once heard, never forgotten theme. Still, sad and brooding.

I don’t hold to the doctrine of fear and uncertainty in the genre of the requiem mass. Curiously this is why I like Faure’s requiem. I find in it a warmth and longing, rather than terror of Mozart of the terrorization of Verdi. I performed it once as a treble and once as a bass. Both wonderful experiences…

…Hats off to Verdi though for this unfortgettable music encounter.


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