Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Iona Boat Song

I used to do a great deal of arranging for my small choral groups, and over the years I suppose I must have around 30 or 35 arrangements for all combinations of voices. I always wrote for the forces that I had in any particular year. Sometimes the intake at the JRAM would be all girls and no boys, sometimes 6 sopranos and 3 tenors, and other years it might be satisfactorily even, and I might have a spread of each voice in even numbers - that was as rare as snowdrops in August !

Thus, when I look at, or think back to my arrangements they are a wonderful mix and match. At one point I had no male voices at all, so all the songs are SSA or SSAA etc, and I remember one particular all girl number which was an arrangements of a Russian folk song for two solos, and SSAA - I realise now, what a great group of voices they must have been to sing in so many parts - bearing in mind that I don't think the Ensemble ever had more than 15 singers, and mostly it was around 12. I have smilingly fond memories of the SATB pieces, each year we came to Paradise Island to give charity concerts, and to have a holiday, I would arrange a new Scottish folksong - albeit in a rather Romantic and luscious style, they were much appreciated by our audiences.

The best I ever wrote was an SATB arrangement of 'The Iona Boat Song', simple and scrunchy, soft and disciplined, and very lovely, even if I say it myself, who should'nt. I had a crop of singers during the year I wrote that one who have now almost all gone on to sing or teach at a very high standard, it was a bumper year for talent!

I am still in touch with the vast majority of them, and the most pleasing part of the story, is that those who now teach, in Conservetoire and privately, still use those arrangements with their own vocal ensembles - what finer compliment could there be.

When I moved to Paradise, I truly thought I would never have that sound again, but life has a peculiar way of swinging around again, and during our concerts in Vienna, when I took my Paradise ensemble on tour, I heard once more that certain purity and discipline again, and it was such a joy !

This Smilebox slideshow is one I made for my holiday cottage website, but the singers are singing The Iona Boat Song, in Gaelic in the Basilica St Peterskirche in Vienna in 2006. I hope you enjoy it. There were 8 young singers, 2 sopranos, 2 mezzos a baritone and a tenor, ranging in age from 17 to 26. Boys just out of Music College, and girls either just on their scholarship way, or keen young aspirants. A Paradise special vintage I think.


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