Run, shepherds, run!
underlines Dove’s preoccupation with and feel for drama and the dramatic. This was a Spitalfields Festival commission, celebrating the life of Christopher Robert Vaughan, who died in his late thirties. Vaughan was a local resident in Spitalfields and Patron of the Festival who left part of his estate to funding the Festival’s ‘Learning and Participation’ programme. (This was not the only work commissioned from Jonathan Dove in memory of Vaughan as he was also asked to write a community cantata On Spital Fields
to celebrate Vaughan’s life.) The poem—‘The Angel’s Song’ by William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585–1649), from a collection called Flowers of Sion
—is energetic and ideal for Dove’s purposes. The music was written to be performed with audience participation and they need to be taught their ‘refrain’ before the performance. In fact the music is quite complex as the audience part is divided up as the piece progresses, first into two parts and then into four parts, all of whom sing with a section of the choir. As Dove writes in his preface: ‘The four-part division presents the audience with quite a challenge: it may result in a degree of happy chaos, but this is all part of the fun.’
The main theme that runs throughout is also taken by the audience. Dove treats it in a number of different ways and, imaginatively (and helpfully), before the audience’s first entries their phrases are sung strongly by the choir, which they then imitate. The model for much of this piece is Britten’s A Boy was Born in which he has a constantly repeated energetic figure passed around the vocal parts over which is sung a binding longer-note melody (sung by the boys’ choir in Britten’s case). The result is very exciting and strongly energized.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2010