Saturday, 7 January 2017

New Year 2017

Classical Break - New Year

This is a repeat from 2011.  A happy new year 2017 to all our listeners!

Here is a new poem by Mike Burrows:

A Sonnet On New Year’s Eve

(A Dream)

Quiet long took the high hills at a rush
And is all intent where ancientness dwells.
On turfed or wooded land, darkness brought hush
Murmurous with wind and traffic: no bells
Speak and swing true change; the word of a near
Ring pierces miles of chill in one’s trance...
In mind only, sounding to the walker
New Year in system of deliverance.
So faint, the twisting scales wished-for and dreamed
Under parishes of half-moon and stars –
Whose communities approve cloudy-streamed
Jubilancy – as jugganauts, like cars,
Shine flat-angled or burrowing headlights,
The lit roads they join now teeming all nights.

Copyright, Mike Burrows, 01/01/15

Track One:       Out In The Dark, Burgon,

This is Classical Break, and I’m Rupert Kirkham.  Today’s programme was researched and written by Mike Burrows.  It is of British music, and is inspired by the season of New Year. You have just heard a setting, for alto voice and chamber orchestra, of Edward Thomas’ poem Out In The Dark, by Geoffrey Burgon. 

This has some of the elusiveness of New Year feeling - of coming out of oneself into the night of change and always-has-been-if one-had-but-known-it.  It comes from the song-cycle  Acquainted With Night.

New Year...: not for nothing was the Roman god-gatekeeper, Janus given two faces, one for the past and the other for the future.  The New Year is a time when we look back as tenaciously - if we have sense - as we look forward.  Where we have been, the sum of our experiences and how we continue, are what we are and, to an extent, our hopes of continuance.  What do we enter upon under the high gate?

We are in the middle of Christmas, and New Year brings Epiphany in its train:  a time associated with the pilgrimage of the Three Kings to the cradleside of Jesus Christ.  Here is a movement from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Hodie, A Christmas Cantata of 1954, The March Of The Three Kings, music of this composer’s old age, although in its vigour and harmonic and colouristic imagination, it suggests that Vaughan Williams was not disposed to look backward more than he had to to continue to build on his achievements.  We too can journey.

Track Two:  Hodie, The March of The Three Kings, Vaughan Williams

Calennig is a South Welsh New Year observance - a gift given between the night of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day noon.  Parties, often of children passed from door to door giving presents of food or money, and organizing the whipround necessary!  Each carried a decorated apple supported on four skewers in order to preserve the decoration.  Here is a breathless traditional song for the occasion, recorded in Gwynedd.

Track Three:  Calennig

Ring Out Wild Bells, a setting of verses from Tennyson’s In Memoriam made by Percy Fletcher, a composer chiefly remembered now for his music for brass band.

Track Four:  Ring Out Wild Bells, Percy Fletcher

Set on New Year’s Eve in Terror Town, Sir Michael Tippett’s fifth opera, New Year, for which he himself wrote the libretto, sees the violence and visionlessness of Somewhere Today opposed by Nowhere Tomorrow - as inhabitants meet strangers from a space-ship - and face up to life and reality and their possibilities.  Here are three numbers from the orchestral SuiteLove-Theme For Jo Ann and PelegrinRinging-in The New Year (spot the references to Auld Lang Syne) and The Space-ship Takes off Again. 

Tracks Five, Six and Seven:  New Year:  Love-Theme For Jo Ann and Pelegrin, Ringing-in The New Year and The Space-ship Takes off Again

Here is a poem by Mike Burrows, New Year

The Gatekeeper’s faces are calm with fate

Gazing both back and through the dark

And on earth, bronze swings and sounds in

Choirs of ancient peals.  Coming to day,

A stranger will show his face as new

And old and still unknowable; as yet,

He moves in clear concealment where 
                                              he grew -

His span drawn to us from the stars’
                                         bright mesh.

Morning will show him and deliverance

As what we earn, and as the bells clang

That calms as notes soften to resonance

One’s fear is only that in truth he must

Contract from Eve to a day like others -

To the soul of his least humane brothers.

Sir Arthur Bliss’ music for the ballet Adam Zero was commissioned by the Australian dancer and actor, Robert Helpmann, who created the choreography.  It is the life-cycle of everyman, seen as the birth, growth through high times to maturity and collapse of life-work and death - the seasons -  of a single year.  Let’s hear The Birth of Adam and the strange, starry beginning of life. Incidentally, near the bitter close of the ballet, before the curtain falls, the stage is reset for...Adam Zero’s life to begin again.   

Track Eight:  Adam Zero, The Birth of Adam

Wishes that loom so large at New Year are not always wise. In the poem, The Clock of The Years, a man imagines his dead wife made young again by the Spirit of time.  There is a terrible irony that will become clear as you listen.  This song comes from Gerald Finzi’s cycle based on poems of Thomas Hardy, Earth

And Air And Rain.  The song begins with a biblical quotation - Job, Four, Fifteen - recited over piano-flourishes, an appropriately hair-raising effect.  The poem is taken from Hardy’s collection, Moments of Vision. 

Track Nine:  The Clock of The Years, Finzi

So the young girl becomes a child, the child a baby, the baby goes to nothingness; the dead Wife is lost to memory.  It was the man’s choice, not Time’s, to mar the ordained.

All the same, this is a time for dreams of what were and what may be. Here is a setting of the poem of Yeats, He Wishes For The Cloths of Heaven, by Howard Skempton, a friend of the Communist activist and modernist, Cornelius Cardew.

Track Ten:  He Wishes for The Cloths of Heaven, Skempton

Inspired by the writings on New Year of the essayist, Charles Lamb, here is an orchestral piece by Gerald Finzi:  Nocturne - New Year’s Music.  Written early in the composer’s working-life, when he resided in Gloucestershire, an agnostic idealist much inspired by Morris’ Socialist writings, the works of Thomas Hardy, Georgian poetry, metaphysical literature and Charles Lamb’s antiquarian mysticism, this sombre piece is an expression of landscape and solitude with Winter thoughts on mortality and man’s determination to grow more worthy of his self-chosen destiny.  Warm wistfulness amid frost becomes resolve.  Finzi’s life was in many ways a race against time; his Father died a lingering death from cancer and siblings were struck down by illness, War and suicide, until one Sister and his Mother remained.  He was made conscious of the ironies of life and blindness of fate too early on to be at ease unless concentrating on his passions of his wife and two sons, music, poetry, apple-arboriculture.  Written in the 1920s, as he was starting out, it was revized during the Second World War and first published in 1950 - not long before its composer was stricken with leukaemia.  The broad hymn that rises out of wistful contemplation of the New Year landscape and distant bells is on an unusually large scale for this composer, typical in its undermined diatonic harmonies but beautiful in its uneasy struggle and triumph.  The dying fall is dark and resigned but there is no sense of that melody’s having been in vain; it sweetens the darkness, not with what might be but what may be.  The means are within our grasp.  Wishes and resolutions for oneself and for all count for something.  What the young composer wished and resolved became his life, and many have been the happier for getting to know him and his music.

Track Eleven:  Nocturne, New Year’s Music, Finzi

We’ll end with a medley of Scottish songs for New Year’s Eve.  Scotland Ho!  Fill Your Glass; We’re No’ Awa Tae Bide Awa; Happy We’ve Been Athegither, Highland Whisky; The Christmas Carousel; If I’d Get A Dram I’d Take It.  This was Classical Break and I’m Rupert Kirkham.  I hope that you have enjoyed our New Year programme and will join us again soon.  We wish you all the best for 2012.  Goodbye!

Track Twelve: New Year Medley, Trad