by Jarrett Hoffman
We’ll train our focus today on two musicians from the British isles: the world said hello to English composer William Walton on March 29, 1902, and goodbye to Irish composer Charles Stanford on this date in 1924.
One intersection between Walton and Stanford: the Agincourt Carol, an English folk song recounting the 15th-century Battle of Agincourt. Listen to the carol here, performed at the Tower of London on the 600th anniversary of the battle in 2015 (pictured above). Then watch a clip of Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film version of Henry V using that same tune in Walton’s scoring — a perfect match for the patriotic tone of the movie, which arrived near the end of World War II.
Stanford also recognized the power of the carol — and the associations it carries — when he set it in his 1918/1919 A Song of Agincourt, which commemorated members of the Royal College of Music who had died in World War I. It was premiered under his direction by the orchestra of that conservatory in 1919. Although no full performance is readily available, it was featured in a recording on the Hyperion label — listen to a short clip here.
Back to Walton, his music for the Olivier movie can also be heard in concert under the title Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario. Adapted from the film score by conductor Neville Marriner, actor Christopher Plummer, and arranger Christopher Palmer, it also includes lines from Shakespeare’s play.
The Akron Symphony performed that piece in 2019, and music director Christopher Wilkins described it vividly in a preview conversation:
In Walton’s piece, the narrator helps to paint “the vast fields, the sense of moving from England to France, and the sight of 20,000 troops,” Wilkins said. “But we also rely on the music to convey the scene and the setting, and to transport us emotionally. We go through the whole build-up to the battle, the night beforehand, and the vigil, and then the battle itself is portrayed in music. The smoke clears, and Henry says, ‘The day is ours,’ and there’s this tremendous feeling of catharsis.”
It’s starting to feel like a cliché to compare everything to the pandemic, but let’s look forward to that day when the smoke clears — or perhaps the aerosols — and we can all say, “The day is ours.”
NEW PODCAST SERIES FROM ASO:
Speaking of the Akron Symphony, their podcast Unorchestrated has begun a new series titled “Deep River: The Legacy of the Spirituals.” In Episode One, Jonathan Turner and Brenda Justice join co-hosts Christopher Wilkins and Thomas Moore to discuss the importance of spirituals in American history, with a particular focus on the contributions of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
And if you were hoping to hear some music as well, you’re in luck: the episode opens with an excerpt of Moses Hogan’s arrangement of Elijah Rock (performed by the Gospel Meets Symphony Choir) and closes with Burleigh’s arrangement of Deep River (performed by Jonathon Turner).
TODAY ON THE WEB:
In local features and connections, 7:30 pm brings both “Medieval Visionaries” on Les Délices’ SalonEra series, as well as Cleveland’s Duo Anime (Mell Csicsila and Andrew Pongracz, mallet percussion) in a presentation by Penn State.
Other attractions from London and New York: tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake at Wigmore Hall at 3:30 pm, and “Jessye Norman in Concert” from Lincoln Center at Home at 7:30.