HOME
ABOUT
BROWSE CDs
ARTISTS
COMPOSERS
NEWSLETTER
CONTACT
 

 

 

 

 



YOU PROMISED ME EVERYTHING
Cheryl Frances-Hoad

 

 

 
1. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [04:12]
One life stand - i - Brief encounter

2. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:10]
One life stand - ii - The pros and the cons

3. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [06:11]
One life stand - iii - Tide to land

4. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:09]
One life stand - iv - Ante-natal

5. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [06:14]
One life stand - v - The shadow tree

6. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:05]
One life stand - vi - Rubbish at adultery

7. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:37]
One life stand - vi - In the chill

8. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [04:30]
One life stand - vii - The cycle

9. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [03:39]
There is no rose

10. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [03:27]
Don't

11. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [05:50]
Psalm 1

12. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:54]
You promised me everything last night

13. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [03:04]
Nunc dimittis

14. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:30]
Beowolf - i - 'So'

15. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [00:54]
Beowolf - ii - 'Grendel'

16. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [01:06]
Beowolf - iii - 'For twelve winters'

17. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [00:55]
Beowolf - iv - 'I had a fixed pupose'

18. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [01:15]
Beowolf - v - 'In off the moors'

19. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [03:34]
Beowolf - vi - 'Then his rage'

20. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:59]
Beowolf - vii - 'When Hrothgar arrived'

21. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:45]
Beowolf - viii - 'Hildeburgh'

22. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [01:12]
Beowolf - ix - [piano interlude]

23. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [01:12]
Beowolf - x - 'A lot was to happen'

24. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:15]
Beowolf - xi - 'He rippled down the rock'

25. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [04:15]
Beowolf - xii - 'Then he drew himself up'

26. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [02:08]
Beowolf - xiii - 'For fifty years'

27. Frances-Hoad, Cheryl [03:28]
Beowolf - ix - 'For fifty years'

Artist(s):
Cheryl Frances-Hoad,
Jennifer Johnston,
Joseph Middleton,
Alisdair Hogarth,


RPS Award-winning young British composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad released 'The Glory Tree'  (CHRCD021) on Champs Hill Records in 2011 and the label is delighted to continue to support her remarkable talent

"...what comes out of these pieces....is a voice overflowing not only with ideas, but also with the discipline and artistry necessary to harness them." Kenneth Walton, The Scotsman

This recording of vocal and choral works is a more overt exploration of her fascination with narratives and features an array of young talent including mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston, pianist Joseph Middleton, Gonville and Caius College Choir, and cellist Rebecca Knight. 

One Life Stand takes Schumann�s iconic Lieder cycle Frauenliebe- und Leben (Women�s Lives and Loves) as an inspiration, but updates it with eight poems by the poet and crime-writer Sophie Hannah.  Schumann's original, with verses by Chamisso is iconic, but in the words of Jennifer Johnston 'rather outdated�.   One of the outstanding features of One Life Stand is the resourcefulness of its piano writing as it traces the course of a life-dominating relationship from the woman�s point of view from 'Brief Encounter' to 'Rubbish at Adultery'.

Cheryl wrote There is No Rose when she was just 14 for unaccompanied SATB choir, a magical part song.

Don�t! (2009) might be regarded as a little appendix to One Life Stand. Dedicated to Jane Manning for her 70th birthday, it quickly takes its singer over the top, out of tune, and out of breath as she runs through some urgent injunctions to be observed in the daily attempt to keep the marriage running smoothly.  

Psalm No. 1 for SATB choir and organ was commissioned by Gonville & Caius College to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University.  It won a BASCA British Composer Award in 2010.

For an example of extraordinary vocal bravura one need look no further then the soaring and febrilely falling phrases of You promised me everything last night (2011), for soprano, cello and piano duet, which sets just those six words that make up the title.       

The Nunc Dimittis (2000), scored for 21 solo voices, must be one of the most dramatic settings of the familiar words.       


 

 


Champs Hill�s previous CD devoted to both instrumental and vocal works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad revealed a fascination with narrative, overt or implied, that helped to drive her music forward. The present disc, by concentrating on vocal and choral works, really gets the narratives out in the open, so to speak, in her songs; while her choral works show her using traditional forces in sometimes un-traditional ways, to create decidedly individual effects.

One Life Stand originated as a reaction to Schumann�s iconic Lieder cycle Frauenliebe und Leben (Women�s Lives and Loves). The singer Jennifer Johnston had remarked that though she loved to sing Schumann�s cycle, she found Chamisso�s poems, mired as they are in the attitudes of the early 19th century, �rather outdated� � to put it mildly � and suggested that Frances-Hoad should write an updated version. Frances-Hoad settled on a series of eight poems by the poet and crime-writer Sophie Hannah that, in the composer�s view, �form a narrative that is clear yet open to interpretation, and contains the whole gamut of complex emotions (both serious and humorous) that made the poems such a dream to set to music�. She also felt that in the course of composing the cycle she found much inspiration in Schumann�s song-cycle, and many of the songs �are based very closely on either the harmony and/or the motivic material of what in my view is the �corresponding� song in Frauenliebe und Leben [....]�, in particular the piano textures and the very varied relationship between voice and piano. �One of the wonderful things about writing a new composition that is a companion piece to a great work is that you get to know the original work from the �inside out� as it were, and it is often the subtlest nuances of texture and harmony that become the most important inspiration�.

With that introduction One Life Stand hardly requires commentary. The eight songs of the original Frauenliebe und Leben, tracing the course of a life-dominating relationship from the woman�s point of view (a �one life stand� as Frances-Hoad�s title has it) from the first flush of passion to the bitterness of final bereavement, though of course they constitute one of Schumann�s supreme masterpieces in the field of Lieder and an unassailable monument of the 19th-century song repertory, have always � surely even in Schumann�s day? � demanded some suspension of disbelief. Chamisso�s verses, published in 1830, whatever their degree of imaginative sympathy � and Adelbert von Chamisso himself, poet, novelist, soldier, explorer and botanist, was no thoughtless conventional man of his time � remain a male fantasy about female emotions, firmly centred in the sexual ethos of his age, and based on the exaltation of the man (�who is the source of all joy�) and the special bliss of motherhood. That Robert Schumann should have chosen to set them and dedicate the result to Clara, in the year of their marriage � though nothing was conventional in that remarkable relationship, which rested firmly on intellectual and emotional affinities and in which neither partner was simply submissive to the other � nevertheless feels, just faintly, like a sort of injunction or reminder of �correct female behaviour� imposed (hoped for?) by the man.1 As the decades, and now centuries, pass, the space for � and need for � a more down-to-earth, authentically female riposte has opened ever wider.2 Romanticism, if not dead, is now very shy to show its face in a world over-supplied with Reality, of which humanity famously cannot stand too much.

As the composer�s note might lead us to expect, one of the outstanding features of One Life Stand is the resourcefulness of its piano writing, which encompasses onomatopoeia (the �train music� of the first song), toccata-like flamboyance and a rare harmonic intensity. Everywhere the instrumental writing feels totally appropriate to the poem, even when Sophie Hannah�s poems are establishing a sometimes hilarious contrast to Chamisso. Thus, in the second song, �The Pros and the Cons�, Chamisso�s protagonist�s doubt that her man can really have chosen her out of all women is transmuted into today�s familiar I will phone him / should I wait? / should I? / am I doing it too often? / surely he knows it�s his turn to phone anyway? dilemma. We are thus prepared � up to a point � for the whimsical humour of the fourth song, �Ante-Natal�, and the acid-etched scorn of the sixth, �Rubbish at Adultery�. Yet between these Frances-Hoad has placed two of her finest lyrical inspirations: �Tide to Land�, in its outer sections largely a 3-part invention for voice and piano of remarkable purity; and especially �The Shadow Tree�. This song, with its dawning awareness of a darker, alternate future, is the heart and turning-point of the cycle, and doubtless best experienced in that context, yet on its own it can surely stand equal with any traditionally conceived English song of recent decades.

For us, perhaps, the one song in Frauenliebe und Leben that strikes an authentic note is the final one, �Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan� � the song of bereavement. In One Life Stand, its function is divided between the last two songs. Whether death or betrayal has intervened (coming straight after �Rubbish at Adultery� it is difficult to be sure), �In the Chill� feels its first effects in all their shocking impact. And while the Chamisso-Schumann narrative is linear, ending with the man�s death, Sophie Hannah�s �The Cycle� seems to pick up on the woman�s wish to �withdraw into her innermost self� to suggest at least the possibility that it could be circular. She repeats, �I cannot start again. I cannot stay�, but Frances-Hoad�s obsessive piano arpeggios, so suggestive of her agitation and inability to come to any one of a dozen necessary decisions, are finally stilled as they arrive at the harmonies of the first song, �Brief Encounter�. Sadder and wiser, it is just possible the One Life Stand could begin again.

There is No Rose, for unaccompanied SATB choir, is among the earliest works that Frances-Hoad acknowledges (she was only 14). Winner of the Bach Choir Carol Competition of 1995, it was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall during their Christmas Concert of that year. Despite its immediate attractiveness, this is no simple carol but a partsong that meditates upon its text. What impresses about this rather magical piece, apart from its appealing melodic writing, is Frances-Hoad�s unhackneyed control of diatonic harmony, sometimes with modal, sometimes with slightly bluesy implications, and the deft way she negotiates between the poem�s English and Latin elements. In the final page, as English falls away and we are left with a collection of the salient Latin phrases, the music rises to a kind of matter-of-fact ecstasy.

Don�t (2009) might be regarded as a little appendix to One Life Stand. Dedicated to Jane Manning for her 70th birthday, it quickly takes its singer over the top, out of tune, and out of breath as she runs through some urgent injunctions to be observed in the daily attempt to keep the marriage running smoothly. The text was compiled from Don�t�s for Wives (1913), a handbook of marriage advice by Blanche Ebbutt in which the wife is advised �not to exhaust her artistic power� but absolutely to forbid her husband to wear �a violet tie with grass green socks�. The accompaniment, for piccolo and bass clarinet, is brilliantly and wittily crafted. One can see that Ebbutt�s volume could have been the source material for a One Life Stand of a hundred years ago!

Psalm 1 for SATB choir and organ was commissioned by Gonville & Caius College to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University. It was first performed by the Choir of Gonville and Caius, directed by Geoffrey Webber with Anne Lydford (organ) on 17 May 2009. It won a BASCA British Composer Award in 2010. The uncompromising text presents a stark opposition between the righteous man, whose observance of the Law allows him to flourish like a tree and prosper in all he does, and the ungodly who are like chaff driven away by the wind, and who will inevitably perish. This furnishes the basis for a dramatic two-part structure. First we have the pellucid diatonicism of the first section, where the organ�s single long- held chord symbolizes both stability and sufficiency, the voices flowing and flowering lyrically into the comparison with the tree, with useful growth. But from the first mention of them, the ungodly (sung parlando rather than cantabile) are forces of dissonance with their leaping minor ninths, tending to separate into a host of conflicting parts, the familiar chromatic choral metaphors for the wind that disperses them an obverse to the righteous�s flowering tree. The final verdict that they shall perish is delivered with extraordinary force (�rising to a virtual scream� is the composer�s direction) and this time it is the organ that sinks away into silence and darkness, as if bearing them off into a yawning pit.

For an example of extraordinary vocal bravura one need look no further then the soaring and febrilely falling phrases of You Promised Me Everything Last Night (2011), for soprano, cello and piano duet, which sets just those six words that make up the title (in fact the work�s subtitle is �six words, two chords, many melismas�). The music imagines, as if going through the course of an entire (and sadly, it would seem, short-lived) relationship, every possible meaning or implication or inflexion that might be given to the phrase � on the face of it a romantic clich�, virtually emptied of meaning by repetition, and yet in the context of love and passion, always new. The composer�s own expressive directions trace the emotional trajectory (joyfully, wistfully, idealistically, somewhat gloriously ... gradually turning to ... desperation and ... anger, self-reproach, disbelief, sadness ... and desolation). While the voice is the focus of motion and activity, it seems trapped by the indifferent hymn-like harmonies of the accompaniment, immune from or uncaring about joy or sorrow. The work begins and ends on a triad of A major, but the �desolate� ending holds back the consolation of the major third until the voice�s last note.

The Nunc Dimittis (2000) was commissioned by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge for a service featuring other works by other Caius composers at the time. Scored for 21 solo voices, and premiered by Gonville and Caius College Choir at Fotheringay Church on 6 September 2000 and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, this must be one of the most dramatic settings of the familiar words, most of which are heard at the outset in Soprano 1�s beautiful unaccompanied recitative. But at the word �salvation� Soprano 2 takes up the text and at the same time sound cascades down through the other waiting voices. Roused to vocal life, the choir now deconstructs the text, from phrases, through single words, to waves and clouds of repeated single vowels. �Glory be to the Father...� is a rapid rhythmicized fusillade of notes, starting ff; at this point Soprano 1 re-enters on her highest C, stilling the tumult (the other voices suddenly withdraw into unpitched whispering) and concluding the work with ecstatic melismas in its highest register.

Frances-Hoad�s attraction to musical narrative, explicit or implicit, which informs so many of her works, finds almost archetypal expression in what is the most ambitious work in this collection, though scored only for mezzo-soprano and piano: a half-hour setting of a compressed and modernized version of the great Anglo- Saxon poem Beowulf, premiered at the 2012 City of London Festival by Jennifer Johnston and Alisdair Hogarth. One thinks of similar vocal tours de force as Judith Weir�s �opera� for unaccompanied voice based on King Harald�s Saga. In Beowulf, though, the material is yet more primordial, and the effect is genuinely epic. Here narrative is severely paramount, presented absolutely straight, entirely without irony apart from the sparse dramatic ironies revealed by the poem itself. Frances- Hoad had already visited Anglo-Saxon poetry in her song-cycle The Glory Tree, a shamanic chamber work accompanied by an extended version of Schoenberg�s Pierrot Lunaire ensemble; Beowulf is altogether starker. Frances-Hoad treats the ancient text � the fountainhead, in effect, of all subsequent English narrative � less like a flexible resource to be moulded by musical treatment than a kind of solid object, a wondrous artefact like (say) a helmet from Sutton Hoo, requiring careful (but in a sense almost impersonal) presentation.

Her main device to shorten the text is to omit the episode of Grendel�s mother, allowing her to create a two-part narrative (Beowulf�s fight with Grendel; Beowulf�s fight with the dragon) set within a prologue and epilogue. Between those parts, acting as an interlude, as mysterious as it in the full poem, she is able to create a lyric episode that, eschewing names and details, encapsulates the narration of �the Fight at Finnsburg� which is the reason this Danish epic of kings and heroes and monsters stands at the beginning of English poetry � through the deeds of the Jutish warrior Hengest (unnamed here), who would be forced to leave Denmark to seek his fortune across the North Sea.3

As befits the archaic text, the music itself is pared down to essentials, deriving its basis from first principles. The open fifth, from the beginning, is the primordial sound from which Frances-Hoad derives the two-chord piano fanfare that is the setting�s first motive force. Over the course of half an hour the keyboard music opens out to encompass a tremendous range of technique, imagery and expression, but what is most striking about it is the directness and almost defiantly traditional ways in which everything falls into place, from the rumbling bass sonorities of the monsters to the high detached notes, like flecks of ash, which finally ascend from the hero�s funeral pyre. As for the singer, she requires formidable stamina and strong powers of characterisation, but above all the ability to encompass the poem�s many quickly shifting moods, from the most graphic narration of bloody conflict to the shocked, quiet, fatalistic despair of the ending. Altogether the work must be accounted a tour de force of contemporary vocal writing with roots reaching back to the remote past.

Malcolm MacDonald

1 In fact Clara, who did sometimes affect a Chamisso-style tone of romantic abasement in her diaries and letters, and who bore Robert eight children, thus curtailing her beloved performing career, could be said to have submitted to the superior demands of his music, but since she came to organize and direct the way in which that music was treated, becoming his business manager, ideal interpreter and, increasingly, his shield against the world, it is clear that within the marriage he came to rely equally (or more) on her than she on him.

2 Recently the Finnish composer Lotta Wennak�ski has done something similar, though more Nordic in character, in her cycle Naisen rakkautta ja el�m�a (Love and Life of a Woman), drawing on poems by several contemporary Finnish poets.

3 Here the poem paradoxically manages to invert the relationship between history and myth. The protagonists of Beowulf inhabit a timeless age of legend, imagined as the very remote past � yet they are entertained while feasting by a lay about a historical event from the 5th century AD (as we can be fairly confident the fight at Finnsburg was, though we do not have the full story), and one that had enormous historical consequences (nothing less than the founding of the Kingdom of Kent and the start of the Anglo-Saxon-Jutish conquest of the whole of England). What is history to us becomes legend (the funeral pyre of Hildeburgh�s son) to them, while prefiguring Beowulf�s own obsequies at the end of the poem. (T.H. White does something similar in The Once and Future King, where Arthur and Uther and Gawain are the �historical� figures and Richard the Lionheart and Edward III figments of legend.)


" from supple assurance... to very funny... to austerely epic... Frances-Hoad's work shows a keen instinct for text-setting..."
"Mezzo Jennifer Johnston is a superb advocate, the glossy depth of her voice matched by the spirited intelligence of her musicality"
BBC Music Magazine

“it’s clear that Frances-Hoad is able to fuse Romantic and Modernist sensibilities and to composer music which sings with naturalness and honesty which communicates richly and deeply.”
Opera today

   
   

Copyright © 2017 Champs Hill Records