Say the name Edward Elgar and most likely you’ll think of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches or Enigma Variations. Elgar’s fame, like that of many famous composers, is based mainly on a handful of large-scale orchestral works.
But Elgar also wrote many songs and part-songs. Part-songs are secular songs written and arranged for several vocal parts – often Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB), but also for all male or all female voices.
It is one such part-song that the ladies of Raunds community Choir are working on for our Christmas Concert.
Elgar wrote The Snow, op. 26 no. 1 in 1894, when he was still comparatively unknown. At the time there was a fashion in England for competitive choral festivals, and these created a high demand for original compositions. Elgar was particularly adept at writing part-songs, and the demand meant that it was a rather lucrative pastime for him.
His wife Alice was a published poet and the words to The Snow are taken from her epic poem, Isabel Trevithoe, a love story based in Cornwall.
It’s a three-part song for female voices, with an accompaniment for two violins and a piano. It moves from haunting minor key to joyful major and back again. It’s extremely beautiful and as one of the female voices involved I look forward to singing it.
It’s lovely to be back and also lovely to see new faces among old friends.
Two sessions in and already we’re thinking about the Christmas Concert, new seating arrangements and all.
It will be lovely to sing in the beautiful St. Peter’s Church this year.
There’s been a definite swing flavour to the first two sessions but Sally has prewarned us that we’re doing something completely different next week with the Seal Lullaby, by Eric Whitacre.
I’m a huge fan of Whitacre, who is an amazing choral composer. The Seal Lullaby was originally written when Whitacre was approached by a major film studio to collaborate in writing a score to accompany an animated version of Rudyard Kipling’s children’s story – The White Seal. The story opens with the mother seal singing softly to her pup. Whitacre read the story and loved it. He immediately penned a simple melody with complex harmonies and submitted it to the studio bosses. He never heard back so eventually phoned them to ask if they’d listened to it, and if so what they hadn’t liked about it. The response he received was, ‘Oh…we decided to make Kung-Fu Panda instead!’
Whitacre was disappointed but he kept the song, and some years later the Towne Singers – a Californian Community Choir – commissioned an arrangement of it.
I have enclosed a link to the choral piece here and I’ve also sourced the separate soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts which I thought might be useful for practice purposes. Maybe we could all have a look before next Tuesday and surprise Sally!
The Seal Lullaby
Hope it helps!