The Bird of Paradise

The Musicians of Churchill College, Cambridge Directed by Mark Gotham

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The Bird of Paradise

The Musicians of Churchill College, Cambridge Directed by Mark Gotham

Listen

About

On behalf of everyone involved, I am delighted to present this inaugural recording, celebrating the musical life of Churchill College, Cambridge. We begin in a suitably celebratory style with a short fanfare written especially for the two major festal occasion in the college calendar: the Founder’s and the Scholars’ feasts. A long form of the fanfare’s title might run Founder’s Fanfare and Scholars’ Fugato, or even as a playfully alliterative Founder’s Fugato Fanfare in Fourths and Fifths.

We then proceed directly to the ‘bird of paradise’ title-tracks for this collection: a poem by Robert Graves, followed by Professor Emeritus Hugh Wood’s Paraphrase on his own song setting of that text. To set the mood for Hugh’s piece, the Graves is first read aloud by poet John Kinsella, another fellow at Churchill whose own highly musical work we are delighted to feature with his Last Harpsichord Penillion, written in response to a performance of Rameau on the Churchill Rubio (a theme taken up later in this collection).

Hugh Wood is a composer of international significance with whom the College is delighted to be associated, and so it is entirely fitting that we should celebrate his music by taking it as the centrepiece of this collection. Indeed, this recording of the ‘Paraphrase’ began life as a part of the College’s 80th birthday celebrations for Hugh: it was made as a gift from his former student, the clarinettist Lynsey Marsh for that occasion. Lynsey is now principal clarinet of the Hallé orchestra, and we are touched that she has made time for this project.

This centrepiece is accompanied by a diverse selection of topically and stylistically relevant pieces which showcase the range of musical activity at Churchill. On the topical side are a number of ‘pastorals’, and on the stylistic side we follow a favoured programming strategy of partnering Hugh’s music with that of his major influence, Johannes Brahms.

We begin with the College’s big band, ‘Churchill Jazz’ and their take on the pastoral mood with an arrangement In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning by former student, James Brady. James was an active, recent member of the musical life of Churchill College and is now making waves as a freelancer. He was especially dedicated to securing the reputation of Churchill Jazz as one of the foremost big bands in Cambridge so it’s great to welcome him back to work with the latest incarnation of ‘ChuJazz’ as is it continues to go from strength to strength.

This pastoral is contrasted with two from the baroque repertoire, beginning with perhaps the most famous pastoral of them all: the depiction of shepherds abiding in the fields in Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah. This charming movement was recorded by the strings of The Orchestra on the Hill (a college orchestra run jointly by Churchill and its neighbours) following a recent performance of the whole work.

The College’s fine two-manual Rubio harpsichord makes an appearance in the Handel before being given a solo outing in Rameau’s Le Rappel des Oiseaux (the call of the birds). Edward Lilley is the inaugural organ scholar at Churchill College, and a fine keyboardist specialising in baroque music. The Rameau not only connects with the theme of the disc, and the allusions of Kinsella’s poem, but it also serves to show off what is generally considered to be the ideal repertoire for this instrument.

Brahms is featured twice on the disc, first with MPhil student Lay Kodama’s piano quintet providing a glimpse into the lively, ever-evolving chamber music scene at Churchill; and secondly with the Orchestra on the Hill now combined with the Inter Alios Choir for an arrangement of Brahms’ sumptuous Geistliches Lied. The Geistliches Lied was originally scored for keyboard accompaniment but the lush, independent contrapuntal lines have proved irresistible to many arrangers over the years. It is a work of astounding compositional ingenuity (a double canon at the ninth) and that technical feat is certainly remarkable, but it is the ease and beauty of Brahms realisation that makes the work truly special.

I would like to thank all of the many people involved in this project, and on behalf of them, I very much hope that you enjoy the result. Thank you for you interest in our first recording.

Mark Gotham

 

Mark Gotham
Director of Music-Making

 

Listen

Track listing

  1. Mark Gotham: Founder’s Fanfare
    Churchill Festal Brass
    Mark Gotham, conductor
  2. Robert Graves: The Bird of Paradise
    Read by John Kinsella
  3. Hugh Wood: Paraphrase on The Bird of Paradise
    Lynsey Marsh, Clarinet
    Stephen Gutman, Piano
  4. David Mann and Bob Hilliard (arr. James Brady): In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
    Churchill Jazz
    James Brady, Director
  5. Handel: ‘Pastoral’ from The Messiah
    The Orchestra on the Hill
    Mark Gotham, conductor
  1. Brahms: Scherzo-trio from the piano quintet in f minor
    Lay Kodama Quintet
  2. John Kinsella: Last Harpsichord Penillion
    Read by the author
  3. Rameau: Le Rappel des Oiseaux from the Deuxième Suite in the ‘Pièces de Clavecin’
    Edward Lilley, harpsichord
  4. Brahms (arr. Gotham): Geistliches Lied
    Churchill College Chamber Choir
    The Orchestra on the Hill
    Moira Cox, solo cello
    Mark Gotham, conductor

Credits

Churchill Festal Brass

The Strings of the Orchestra on the Hill

Violin I

Violin II

Viola

Cello

Bass

String Theory Quintet

Churchill Jazz

Inter Alios Choir

Soprano

Alto

Tenor

Bass

Production and Studio Engineering

Image credit: Ben Yanis