Premiere of The Pine Boughs Past Music Op.39, by Christopher Morley

The Gloucester Music Society – Song Recital
Performed by Roderick Williams and Andrew West on 15th April at St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester
Birmingham Post – April 2010

Review by Christopher Morley

I imagine Gloucester Music Society could never have dreamt of a more rewarding way to celebrate its 80th birthday: an audience drawn from all
parts of the country crowding the atmospheric St Mary de Lode Church, and quadrupling the average attendance; a singer — Roderick Williams — at the

top of his reliably excellent form; and the premiere of a work specially commissioned for the occasion to crown what has been an entire season of British music alone. This was ‘The Pine Boughs Past Music’, a song-cycle by Worcester-based Ian Venables, a composer with a singular gift for capturing the nuances of English poetry and shaping them into memorable fusions of
vocal line and accompaniment.

Its first three songs were settings of Ivor Gurney, the Gloucestershire poet who declined into terminal depression as a result of World War I, bleak,
atmospheric, and sometimes with a surprisingly French feel. The final one sets “In Memoriam Ivor Gurney” by another Gloucestershire poet, Leonard
Clark, and begins in similarly sombre mode. It builds, however, to an ending
of extraordinary affirmation, pianistic bells ringing in Cotswold skies. There were tears in the audience at the conclusion.

The rest of the programme, Ivor Gurney himself, and former Gloucester Cathedral organist John Sanders included, was a constant delight, Williams
and his perceptive accompanist Andrew West contributing so much to the joy
of the evening.

Rating: 5/5