Sunday, November 25, 2012

Benjamin Britten: Cuckoo! from Friday Afternoons

As I wrote the other day, 2013 sees the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth and the Britten 100 website has been launched in preparation for the celebrations. So this Sunday's music video sees a rare excursion into the classical world.

Friday Afternoons was a set of songs that Britten wrote to be sung in schools.They are settings of poems, many of them collected by Walter de la Mare in his anthology Tom Tiddler's Ground. Cuckoo! was written by Jane Taylor, whom I assume to be the same woman who wrote the words to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

This performance by the choir of Downside School, Purley, was recorded around 1960 and is used on the soundtrack of the recent American film Moonrise Kingdom.

In our post-Savile world we shall, for better or worse, hear a great deal about Britten and boys next year. For the time being let us just remark on how superlatively well he wrote for children's voices and how much we have lost with the decline of the tradition of singing in schools.

But the people behind the Britten centenary celebrations are trying to do something about this with their Friday Afternoons project:
Friday Afternoons is a nationwide singing project led by Aldeburgh Music, culminating on Britten’s birthday – 22 November 2013. The initiative, which forms part of Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary programme and the worldwide Britten 100 celebrations, is based around the set of 12 Friday Afternoons songs that he composed for the school in Prestatyn where his brother was schoolmaster.

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