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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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The Three Ravens is based on an old English song and was in the first place composed to a modernized version of the original text by Sir Harold Boulton in July 1902. Grainger later revised the setting in 1949, reverting to the original text which had been unknown to him in 1902. The work is arranged for baritone solo, mixed chorus and instrumental accompaniment and the choral writing gives us an early example of Grainger’s interest in sliding intervals. The atmosphere captured in this music, depicting a slain knight mouldering in the field with the ravens discussing how they might take breakfast, is at once both sinister and moving. Grainger’s original scoring is for either five clarinets, flute and four clarinets, other woodwinds, or harmonium (reed-organ or pipe-organ).
There were three ravens sat on a tree, Down a down hey down hey down. And they were black as they might be, With a down. Then one of them said to his make: ‘Where shall we our breakfast take?’ With a down derry derry derry down down.
Down in yonder green e field, Down a down hey down hey down. There lies a knight slain under his shield; With a down. His hounds they lie down at his feet, So well they can their master keep; With a down derry derry derry down down.
‘His hawks they fly so eagerly,’ Down a down hey down hey down, ‘There is no fowl dare come him nigh,’ With a down. But down there comes a fallow doe, As great with young as she might go, With a down derry derry derry down down.
O she lifts up his bloody head, Down a down hey down hey down. And kissed his wounds that were so red. With a down. She gat him up upon her back And carried him to earthen lake. With a down derry derry derry down down.
She buried him before the prime, Down a down hey down hey down, She was dead herself ere evensong time. With a down derry derry derry down down. Now God send every gentleman Such hounds, such hawks and such a leman. With a down derry derry derry down down.