Releasing on 2 September 2022
Emma Johnson, Songs of Celebration
Nimbus Alliance NI6431
Emma Johnson, clarinet, John Lenehan, piano
Gloucester Cathedral Choir, directed by Adrian Partington
The Pied Piper, by Jonathan Dove, for Narrator, Clarinet, Recorders, Children’s Voices and Piano:
'There are many theories about the meaning of this story: it might relate to the plague, to a natural
disaster, emigration, or a dancing mania. The piper might be a shaman, a recruiting agent, or Death. Robert Browning’s popular 1842 poem tells the mediaeval tale in lively rhyme and in 2009, Emma Johnson approached me with an enticing idea: she would become the Pied Piper, using her clarinet as the pipe, could I set Browning’s poem to music? I suggested that it could be even more exciting if she were to narrate the poem herself if I could write gaps into the clarinet part, allowing her just enough time to speak.' Jonathan Dove
'In recent times girls have been invited to sing in church and cathedral choirs. It was with this in mind that I considered writing a Christmas song for clarinet and higher voices setting one of my favourite medieval poems: the 15th century I Sing of a Maiden that is Makeless. The poem tells of the miracle of the divine birth and always brings to mind music I heard once in a Coptic Christian church in Cairo. I have retained their original Middle Eastern flavour, giving us a glimpse of how the earliest church music might have sounded. Towards the end of the song, clarinet and voices climb higher and higher to express the poet’s joy at the birth of Christ. I became so fascinated with composing for clarinet and upper voices that I found myself writing three more songs, all celebrating the Christmas story, grouped under the title, Songs of Celebration.
It was very gratifying to see the children in Gloucester cathedral choir singing with gusto, relishing its beat boxing and glissandi which felt at once incongruously modern and yet perfectly apposite in the cathedral surroundings. Carol of the Bells takes nuggets of the famous Ukrainian Carol by Mykola Leontovich and transforms them into a peal of bells ringing. It demands virtuoso singing from the choir and I am in awe at the panache with which these young singers perform it. Coventry Carol is from the mystery play traditionally performed in Coventry, England, in the 16th century (author unknown). Herod has ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of two years old and the carol is a lullaby sung by their mothers. This has to be the most disturbing story in the Bible. In my setting the clarinet part is intended to evoke Rachel weeping for her children "and refusing to be comforted because they are no more".
Silent Night regularly tops charts of best loved carols and was written in 1818 by the Austrian musician Franz Xaver Gruber with lyrics by Joseph Mohr. To create an atmosphere of calm, I invited the children to sing the carol softly, like a lullaby, accompanied by rocking, running notes from the clarinet which could represent a cradle swinging to and fro. Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring from 1723 completes this album’s celebration of the Christmas story. The English translation is by Robert Bridges but the German lyrics, Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesus remains my joy) perhaps give more of the sense of sheer happiness in his faith expressed by Bach in this chorale, with its continuous bouncing triplets lapping around a noble theme.' Emma Johnson
Digital download and streaming links will be posted here on release day.
Electronic press kit available for review use.
Pre-release single from The Pied Piper: