Thursday, 9 April 2009


 Although these are 'stand-alone' songs, all four of them are on the following recording. Together, they make up about a 10-minute concert item, but performers may choose fewer, or re-order the sequence. The songs, in the recorded order, are
    1. The Oak and the Ash
    2. Rosebud in June 
    3. Bonny at Morn

    4. Searching for Lambs

Connect your device to a decent sound system or enclosed headphones, and click the orange PLAY button:

Alternatively, you could listen to the music at its URL:
If you wish you can follow all the scores here in a new window as the music plays.
The score and the mp3 recording are free and downloadable. Ensembles are free to perform this music with no risk of copyright infringement - just acknowledge me in announcements or program notes as the composer. The music was composed in 2009 and revised in 2011.
These computer-synthesized mp3 recordings are by no means intended as the "authorized version" in terms of performance. They are intended merely as a private introduction for each performer prior to the start of rehearsals, therefore should never be broadcast. Indeed, I necessarily had to compromise artistically between the need for rigid adherence to the beat and the more interpretative and delightfully flexible reality of flesh-and-blood performers.
The lyrics are traditional. Computer music notation programs such as Sibelius (as far as I am aware) cannot yet actually pronounce words, thereby denying these songs their pivotal aspect, that of "Story-telling". The computerized “vocalize” quality on the recordings is necessarily a bland compromise when compared with real voices singing real words. I also encourage performers to approach these arrangements with a flexible and relaxed attitude to phrasing, much like folk-singers do - it is appropriate with this music that enjoyment, passion, and a cheeky sense of humour overcome the stultifying strictures of "correct" academic musical protocol.
It may feel intuitive, for instance, to accelerate a little during a rising passage where the lyrics are leading towards some crucial word. A well-placed silence can be magic, akin to a painter’s dramatic use of white. Experiment with holding pauses just that dangerous bit longer than written, and watch what happens. Take time to breathe between phrases. Also, where lyrics suggest social/comic interaction between characters, don't feel inhibited to enliven and entertain by indulging in occasional "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" stage histrionics. It is true, though, that understatement is both more humorous and dignified. And so much more, yes, "British", old chum.
Performers will need a proficient intervallic sense for well-intoned performance of the harmony. Although the melody is always clearly present in one voice or another, the surrounding voices clothe it in a constantly mutating blend of Tertian, Quartal/Secundal sonorities. Resist the temptation to employ a rehearsal pianist - purer intonation as the result of listening to each other will generate a sonority sweeter than the piano’s equal temperament. Ironically, these recorded versions, even though nominally ‘vocal’ sounds, are actually equally-tempered due to the setup of the Sibelius program. In that sense, live singers have the opportunity to adjust sizes of intervals and thus produce a version harmonically even ‘sweeter’ than the recordings. To this end, I suggest some rehearsal run-thrus at molto adagissimo. Take care to minimise if not entirely eliminate vibrato... in the interests of accurately honed  temperament.
Real folksingers often delight in ad-lib embellishment of a melody. I have written out some such ornaments, but encourage whichever singer has the melody from moment to moment to enjoy venturing into a few (tasteful) ones of their own. If you have fun, the audience will too.

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