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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Jonathan Dove wrote There Was a Child as a tribute to a friend’s son who died tragically young. Filled with both joyous celebration and heartfelt emotion, it’s a big, warm-hearted modern masterpiece in the spirit of Britten and Vaughan Williams—following in an evergreen english tradition and featuring the combined forces of the CBSO and CBSO Chorus, Youth Chorus and Junior Chorus with soloists Joan Rodgers and Toby Spence.
I started looking for words for all these voices to sing. I found poems by Charles Causley and Langston Hughes describing the wonder of birth; by Wordsworth, Keats, Traherne and Emily Dickinson conjuring up different aspects of childhood—naughtiness, carefree playfulness, youthful adventures. My choices were informed by stories Rosie and Richard had told me about their son Robert—particular stories about a unique individual, but which also conjured up archetypal images of youthful liveliness, mischief and outdoor escapades.
Most of the texts are celebratory, but there is no avoiding the terrible moment when a young life is cut short in the middle of adventure. Shakespeare evokes the grief of a mother for her child, and Tichborne sings of death coming too soon. I did not want the piece to end here, and it was important for Rosie to remember all the joy her son’s short life brought her. Walt Whitman’s poem There was a child went forth is a radiant vision of a child absorbing everything around him and connecting with the whole world.
Jonathan Dove © 2012
Jonathan never knew Robert but we spent much time talking about him, and There was a child has surpassed all my expectations. Jonathan has completely captured Robert’s spirit. He was a warm, kind, thoughtful, bright, gregarious and fearless person who grasped every opportunity that presented itself. His great compassion, true love of mankind and adventurous spirit continue to inspire all of us who knew and loved him.
There was a child, a modern oratorio, uses a sequence of poems to trace a young life from birth, through childhood to young manhood. Robert would have been delighted that such a joyous piece of music should have been composed to honour him and all the young people who, like him, have been taken from this world too soon.
Rosemary Van Allan © 2012