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Three Choirs Festival, Gloucester 26th July – 3rd August

Gloucester Three Choirs Festival

Ian Venables was one of the featured composers at this year’s Three Choirs Festival which was held in Gloucester. His music was heard in three concerts during the week one of which included the premiere of a new song, What Then? – a setting of a poem by W.B Yeats, written for the baritone Roderick Williams. Writing in the Church Times, Roderic Dunnett wrote, “…The Three Choirs Festival is patently one of the supreme events in the English musical calendar. In 2019, it is generally well-nigh faultless. The full week fields a flood of events throughout the day. English song plays a significant part…”

James Gilchirst and Anna Tilbrook

Dunnett’s review continued, “…James Gilchrist launched in with an accomplished and meaningful performance of Songs of Eternity and Sorrow a profound four-part Housman cycle by Ian Venables, beautifully wrought, emotionally probing…” James Gilchrist was accompnied in this performance by the Carducci String Quartet and pianist, Anna Tilbrook

Carducci String Quartet

Reviewing the concert for ‘Seen and Heard’ John Quinn wrote, “…Oh who is that young sinner?’ concerns a man who is being punished simply on account of the colour of his hair. The tempo is quicker here and the music biting. Gilchrist was searing in his delivery and the strong, irregular accents in the accompaniment emphasised the bitterness in Housman’s words. The first three songs had been very impressive but Venables saves his best for last. ‘Because I liked you better’ is a poem in which the poet enjoins the person he loves to forget him … The music is slow, tender and regretful, though never maudlin…. James Gilchrist sang the song with a plangent intensity that was entirely appropriate and I loved the poignant and very subdued instrumental ending. These are fine songs which received terrific advocacy today…”

The opening chamber concert of the festival was given the by distinguished violinist Madeleine Mitchell accompanied by the award winning pianist, Clare Hammond. Their English music themed recital included a ravishing performance of the composer’s early Three Pieces Op.11.  Their programme also featured the premiere of Robert Saxton’s Suite written especially for Madeleine Mitchell.

Ian Venables,Madeleine Mitchell, Robert Saxton, Clare Hammond

Certainly one of the highlight of the week was an English Song recital given by the acclaimed baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Susie Allan. The first half of their programme consisted of songs by contemporary composers including the premiere of Ian Venables’s recent song What Then?

Roderick Williams, Susie Allan

Writing for Midland Music Reviews Christopher Morley wrote, “…premiered in this group was Ian Venables’ What then?, a chilling setting of W.B. Yeats’ thought-provoking questioning poem. Brilliantly structured, with an inexorably trudging piano-part and a gripping refrain at the end of each verse, it ends with a huge final reiteration of the question. What then? Huge applause for Venables, the featured composers assembled here, and not least for Roderick Williams and Susie Allan” 

In a review for Seen and Heard John Quinn wrote “…Ian Venables’ What then? is the last in a set of Eight Songs for Baritone and Piano, Op 41. Venables’ setting of this Yeats poem is slow and solemn – the low piano part is suggestive of a slow march. This questioning, powerful refection builds to a powerful closing climax. It’s a fine song…”

Requiem Op.48 – London Premiere

“a contemplative work of profound beauty”

Holy Trintiy Church, Slaoane St, London

The composer’s Requiem was given its London premiere on the 2nd July by the award winning choral group, Evoke conduced by Victoria Ely. A  clearly delighted composer recieved rapturous applause and a standing ovation from an enthusiatic audience.

Victoria Ely and Ian Venables

The reviewer Robert Hugill described the Requiem as “a contemplative work of profound beauty” and a “significant contemporary Requiem” 

For the full review please CLICK here


“Even on just one hearing I’m in no doubt that this is a work of considerable importance and stature” – Seen and Heard  Review – John Quinn

See also Church Times – Review by Roderic Dunnett




A New Score From Novello

After ten years of wrangling over copyright problems this score has finally been published. The fifth song on the cycle was originally a setting of the poem ‘Reluctance’ by Robert Frost.  The Trustees of the estate have put an embargo on composers setting Frost’s poetry no matter what kind of composition was being written. There were to be no exceptions and so Ian venables’ setting of Reluctance suffered the same fate. The only way forward was for the composer to reset the song with a different poem. In 2018 the composer collaborated with the poet Jim Dening on a new text that would replace Frost’s poem.  Jim Dening’s poem ‘Ending’ was the result. The composer wrote in his forward to the cycle, ” The new text has exceeded all my expectations and although the poem has a different narrative from Frost’s, it is nevertheless and exquisitely beautiful poem that seamlessly realises both the structure and the subtly changing moods of the original setting”

To purchase or for further information please clik this link.


Haunting the streets of the past
I came upon those few places
where I found the tender warmth
of bygone friends and their graces;
and have come to mourn and implore
the ghosts of their faces.

The images fade like dead leaves,
with winds of winter abating;
they fall away one by one,
none but the most precious creating
a vision of some one now
who may be still waiting.

In our mem’ries are scraps of our lives
when we could be carefree and careless;
but some we cling to and guard
as if to redress an old promise,
though distance and heartbreak and loss
will have wiped out all solace.

Ah, here is the very place
where we parted as if we were sleeping;
we parted, and still now
I see past calling, past keeping,
the face or its ghost look back,
smiling, not weeping.

‘The Song of the Severn’ – Performance

11th May, Ivor Gurney Hall, King’s School, Gloucester.

Performed by Andrew Randall (baritone), Eric McElroy (piano) and the Carducci String Quartet 


The Ivor Gurney and Arthur Bliss Societies present a programme of music that will feature the 2nd UK performance of the composer’s chamber song cycle, The Song of the Severn.

This work was commisisoned by the Malvern Concert Club for their 2013 concert season and it was given it premiere at the Malvern Theatres by Roderic Williams, Tom Poster and the Carducci String Quartet.



It was later recorded for Signum Records. Click Here for details


CLICK below for an audio extract of On Malvern Hill



 Requiem Mass – Premiere

Gloucester Cathedral Choir, conducted by Adrian Partington

2nd November 2018

In 2017 the composer was commissioned by Bryce and Cynthia Somerville to write a Requiem Mass in memory of their parents. The Mass was given its premiere on All Souls’ Day 2018 by Adrian Partington and the choir of Gloucester Cathedral and the Introit was published earlier that year under the title of Requiem Aeternam (see below)

Review of the premiere by John Quinn for ‘SEEN AND HEARD’


Review  of the premiere by Roderic Dunnett for the ‘CHURCH TIMES’

Requiem ‘Introit published by Novello


“Ian Venables’ setting of the Introit from the start of a Requiem Mass is a beautifully expressive response to the words – one feels not only that every syllable has significance, but there is an almost hypnotic quality to the repetitions of short phrases”  Julian Elloway, Royal School of Church Music

For further details and music score please click the LINK below

The Introit was recently recorded for SOMM RECORDS by the chapel choir of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, conducted by William Vann.

It is now available on a CD of Remembrance music that also includes a new arrangement of Faure’s Requiem.

“Fauré’s Requiem, arranged for choir and organ by Iain Farrington, and Ian Venables’ newly-composed Requiem Aeternam (in its first recording) both offer succor and solace in their conviction that death is not the end but, as Fauré thought of it: “a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.” NAXOS REVIEW

To listen to the Introit and to purchase the CD please click the Link below


 End of Year Review of 2018

‘Looking Back’ and Looking Forward

Although the worldwide Armistice Day commemorations held on the 11th November 2018 marked the official 100th year anniversary of the ending of the Great War sporadic outbreaks of hostilities continued until the  formal ending took place with the signing of The Treaty of Versailles on the 28th June 1919. To coincide with the climax to the 2018 commemorations, The Philomusica of Gloucestershire performed a concert of remembrance music in Tewkesbury Abbey on the eve of Armistice Day. The concert included the composer’s large-scale choral work, ‘Awake, awake, the world is young’ Op.34. 

This work was commissioned by  the Charlton King’s and Cirencester Choral Societies to mark the Millennium in November 2000 and the texts reflected  the composer’s hope that this significant moment in history might bring into sharper focus humanities more noble aspirations. Indeed, the sentiments expressed in both the Tennyson and Flecker poems are those that we all hope for at the start of each New Year.’

The composer’s own response to the WW1 commemorations was his 2016 song cycle Through These Pale Cold Days’ for tenor, viola and piano. Since it’s premiere in June of that year this work has been performed several times both here in the UK and in the USA. In October 2018 it was the centrepiece of a WW1 Commemorative song recital performed by James Gilchrist with the pianist Benjamin Frith and cellist Richard Jenkinson. Its most recent performance was given in San Francisco last November sung by the acclaimed tenor, Brian Thorsett.

Latest Music Score From Novello

Five Songs of War and Remembrance for voice, viola and piano


New Publications from Music Sales: The Chester Vocal Anthology


The composer’s songs feature in a new series of song anthologies published by Chester Music. In three separate volumes for, soprano, tenor and bass twenty-four popular songs have been selected from the major exam boards syllabuses, spanning Grades 5 to 8 and beyond. Both the Soprano and Bass, anthology; includes the song ‘Flying Crooked’ and the Tenor anthology contains the song, ‘Because I liked you better’ (from Songs of Eternity and Sorrow).


The performance notes for the soprano volume are written by Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton. The programme notes for the tenor album by James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook and the notes for the bass album by Donald Maxwell and Angela Livingstone.

For further details please click the following LINK




Archery Promotions’ latest publicity brochure showcases Ian Venables’s CD recordings

Please click here to purchase CD recordings.