Advent Calendar Day 15: There is no rose of such virtue – Maconchy

I thought I’d finish this sequence with a 20th century arrangement by a woman composer, Elizabeth Maconchy. Maconchy was born in 1907 in Hertfordshire, England, and seems to have written mostly for string quartets and chamber orchestras, though she wrote a handful of operas for children.

There aren’t a lot of women composers out there, mostly because performing music is a cooperative endeavour, and so eras when a woman’s sphere was supposed to be the home, it was far harder for a woman to get her work performed and into the public eye than it was for, say, a woman writer or artist, who could work alone (and publish under a male name if necessary).  So I’m inclined to feature women composers when I see them.

Having said that, I would have picked this out of all the modern arrangements of this text simply for the high, lively ‘allelulias’ at the start, which sound to me like a particularly delighted chorus of angels.  I like the lightness and delicacy of this piece very much, and it’s easy to see how Maconchy’s style would adapt itself to chamber ensembles.





Advent Calendar Day 14: There is No Rose of Such Virtue – Chanticleer

I bet you thought that Jesus was the only rose in this story.  Surprise!  Mary also gets to be a rose.  Obviously, this horticultural affinity runs in the family.

There is no rose of such virtue is a medieval text with literally dozens of settings available.  Everyone has done his or her own version, and it seems to have been especially popular in the 20th century (I feel like there was a bit of a medieval revival in the 20th century), with versions by Britten, Joubert and the Medieval Baebes, to name a few of my favourites.  (Or Sting, to name an amusing but unfortunate non-favourite.)

But the original tune is actually incredibly beautiful in its own right, and I especially love Chanticleer’s arrangement – have I mentioned recently that I’m a sucker for male voices singing in harmony?  This is, admittedly, quite a repetitive piece of music, but I rather like the meditative effect of listening to it while enjoying the gallery of Madonna and Child paintings.  I hope you do, too.

Advent Calendar Day 17 – There is no rose of such virtue (Chanticleer)

Are you ready for more roses?  Today’s rose is a 15th century English rose, and is a text that has been sung to many different arrangements.  Interestingly, it seems to have become a big thing in the last century or so – I’ve found melodies and arrangements by artists who I know – Britten, the Mediaeval Baebes, Joubert, and, regrettably, Sting – and ones who are new to me – Young, Koppin, McDonald, Memley (my favourite of this lot), and, honestly, each YouTube video leads to another new version of this piece.  I’m beginning to feel I could fill an Advent Calendar just with this text.

(It’s a lovely text, but really?)

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit traditional this week, so we are going to eschew all this 20th and 21st century madness for a proper, old-fashioned version, which goes to what I understand to be the original tune, as sung by Chanticleer.  After all those lush dissonances, it’s a pleasure to hear a nice open fifth or two, and a melody that makes sense on its own…

… and that, apparently, is all I want to say about it.  I’m exhausted after listening to fifteen different 20th-century arrangements of this song*…

… oh, I will add that I rather like the slideshow on this one.  Nicely put together.

*Andrew is now mocking me because I told him that after a while all the 20th century arrangements start blurring together into one lush yet spoooooky dissonance.  He says that they aren’t that alike, really**.  He wasn’t in here listening to them.  (They aren’t that alike, really.  But there is a definite trend in the direction of being slow, atmospheric and just a little bit atonal, and I’m afraid my palate is just not refined enough to care.  I’m too busy looking for my next cheap Baroque fix.)

**Andrew now claims that I am misrepresenting him.  This is what a surfeit of 20th century music does to me.  It completely destroys my moral compass.  Or, alternatively, it leads me to make what I maintain was a perfectly reasonable paraphrase of what was actually said.  But apparently, Andrew does not agree with me.  Unfortunately for Andrew, this is my blog, so I get to write whatever I like.  He will have to start his own blog.