On December 5, 2020, as part of its LIVE From London – Christmas online festival, British choral ensemble VOCES8 premiered six new pieces by composers Jocelyn Hagen, Taylor Scott Davis, Ken Burton, Roderick Williams, Paul Smith and Melissa Dunphy.
The 6 New Commissions
“Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.
Jocelyn Hagen is one of the best-loved choral composers working in the USA today. Her commission, “Mother’s Song,” uses a touching translation by Willis Barnstone of an anonymous Japanese text in which the health and well-being of a mother’s child is sought.
The text of “Let’s Walk Together” by Daniel Simpson neatly sums up the character of its composer, Paul Smith, and the vocal ensemble he founded, VOCES8. Connection, interaction and movement are all characteristics. Composed for SSAATTBB unaccompanied choir with baritone solo, this 3-minute piece has sonorous hymn-like chords which introduce cascading faster voices in its middle.
Melissa Dunphy is an original and exciting composer living in the USA, though of Australian background. Her piece, “Halcyon Days,” written to a new text from her regular collaborator, poet Jacqueline Goldfinger, creates a period of calm during winter storms where we reflect on what we have lost and rise up to face the new year with joy and grace.
British composer Ken Burton was drawn to the poetry of 18th-century slave and writer Phyllis Wheatley for his commission piece “Descend to Earth.” The dual troubles of pandemic and racial oppression in 2020 resonate with Wheatley’s concise poem, the start of which recalls the Christmas/Holiday season.
Taylor Scott Davis
“Solstice” is the commission by US choral composer Taylor Scott Davis and his regular collaborator, the US poet and writer Milton Brasher-Cunningham. “Solstice” is a 3-minute piece for the dark of winter and the holiday season – a time when we naturally want to connect with those close to us.
The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is proud to inspire people through music and share the joy of singing. Touring globally, the group performs an extensive repertory both in its a cappella concerts and in collaborations with leading orchestras, conductors and soloists. Versatility and a celebration of diverse musical expression are central to the ensemble’s performance and education ethos.