Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The New Ghost by Vaughan Williams

One of the most beautiful of all 20th century English Art Songs has got to be 'The New Ghost' by Vaughan Williams. I have not taught it since I came to Paradise to live, as the right moment or the right student had not surfaced. Today, however on looking for some challenging music for my alto M I happened upon it and the light switch flicked on! She can do it, and can tackle the notational trickiness as well as give it the sweep it needs to tell this most powerful story.

It was composed in 1925 and is a truly miraculous miniature. The poem by Fredegond Shove tells the tale of a newly dead soul who shakes off the garments of death and walks to meet his Lord. I adore the poem almost as much as the melody line, and it is such a wonderful example of a real partnership for voice and piano. There are two places where VW marks that ' there does not need to be exact correspondence between the piano and voice', which gives rise to an even greater sense of the ethereal wandering of the soul on its journey. I sang it a great deal and when I recorded it for M yesterday I felt once again how it is soaked into my bones !

One always wonders if a student will love what the teacher loves, and this is such an 'off the wall' type of song, I was full of trepidation that M would think I had lost the plot in giving her it! Thankfully she saw much which appealed to her, quite apart from the sheer vocal challenge of the song, so I feel it will become a firm favourite given time.

VW was a quiet genius, and so very British. His music breathes green countryside, flowing rivers and understated excitement. The feeling of warmth and unconditional love in this song gives me goose pimples even after knowing and singing it for 40 years.

A beautiful album with Jennifer Vyvyan she sings The New Ghost towards the end.


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