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Trinity College Cambridge celebrates Rhian Samuel's birthday

Sunday 11 February 2024

Trinity College, Cambridge, CB2 1TQ

5.40pm Steven Grahl, organ
Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547
Rhian Samuel: The Tender Branch (world premiere) 
Howells: Master Tallis’s Testament 
Bach arr. Dupré: Sinfonia from Cantata 29 

The Tender Branch for solo organ is also based on an earlier piece, this time, ‘Fel Blodeuyn’ (‘Like a Flower’), commissioned for the University of Reading Centenary concert at St George's Chapel Windsor, in October, 1992 and dedicated to the memory of Jenny Hunt, a music student ar Reading who, sadly, died just after graduating there. The titles of both pieces quote Job, Chapter 14;  that of the new work seems most apt for today: ‘For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.’  It takes its opening theme from the earlier work, but then moves to other, more up-beat material, introducing a hopeful note, contrasting, fast, and dance-like, and also uses the wide range of the organ.    (composer's note)

The Tender Branch has been recently published by Stainer & Bell.

6.15pm Choral Evensong
Traditional Irish / Routley: Hymn 339, omitting vv. 3 & 4: Slane 
Rose: Responses 
Psalm 60
Noble: Canticles Service in b 
Anthem: Dear Night (Samuel) 
Rowlands: Blaenwern 
Bach: Voluntary Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564 


The unaccompanied choral work, Dear Night, sets part of a poem, ‘The Night’,  by the Welsh-born poet, Henry Vaughan (1620/21 –1695). I was drawn to this text principa­lly by particular phrases within it: ‘Dear Night’; ‘God’s silent, searching flight’, and ‘When my Lord’s head is filled with dew’. They all, for me, reflect Vaughan’s metaphysical vision. For these, I used dream-like, mystical sounds, with an emphasis on high, women’s voices, while music for words that imply a worldly consciousness is louder and more emphatic, providing a ‘realistic’ counter to the dream-like sounds.  At the very end, ‘God’s silent, searching flight’,  previously an unaccompanied soprano solo, is now underlaid with the quiet opening music of ‘Dear Night’, to achieve, I hope, a certain peaceful fulfilment.  The work, written in 2021, is partly based on an earlier setting of the same text, commissioned by St Peter’s Singers, Hammersmith, in 1998. Here it is given a different instrumentation and new, extended, material. (composer's note)

▶ recording of Dear Night

Forthcoming BBC R3 broadcast in celebration of Rhian Samuel's 80th birthday (date & time tbc)


Earth Newborn

1. The Trumpet

2. Lights Out

3. Bright Clouds of May

4. After Rain


I was intrigued to learn that Edward Thomas, known to a great extent as a war poet, had a south-Wales background: he spent most of his school holidays with his relatives in Pontarddulais and Ammanford. His wonderful descriptive and colourful language betrays a Welsh influence, as seen clearly in his essay, ‘Beautiful Wales’, but the four poems of ‘Earth Newborn’ have an intensity and beauty beyond national influences. The imagery in the last poem in particular, where Thomas speaks, for instance, of the twelve golden apples on the crab-apple tree, and the rain’s ‘uncountable crystals both dark and bright’ persist in the mind. ‘Earth Newborn’ was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the BBC Singers in 2022 and premiered by them at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, London, with conductor Nicholas Kok in April 2023. (composer's note)

▶ Composer of the Month: Rhian Samuel

▶ Rhian Samuel in Five (or Six) Pieces

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