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As I sat on a sunny bank 'I saw three ships'

I saw three ships
author of text

Elizabeth Poston was music director of the BBC’s European Service during the Second World War, an all-too-rare outlier as a woman with power to influence Britain’s musical life. It is likely that she also oversaw the sending of coded messages, on Churchill’s orders, to resistance fighters in occupied Europe. Poston studied composition with Vaughan Williams, whose love of folksong she shared. Her setting of the English traditional carol As I sat on a sunny bank, a variant of its better-known sibling I saw three ships come sailing in, packs the joyful news of the Nativity into six short verses. For good measure Poston plants a fragment of The First Nowell in the keyboard countermelody to the fifth verse. The piece was first performed by King’s College Musical Society in January 1969 as part of A Garland Gay, Poston’s surprise gift to her dear friend E M Forster for his recent ninetieth birthday.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2021


In the bleak midwinter
KGS0060-DDownload only Available Friday 5 November 2021


Track 16 on KGS0060-D [1'52] Download only Available Friday 5 November 2021

Track-specific metadata for KGS0060-D track 16

Recording date
1 December 2020
Recording venue
King's College Chapel, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Benjamin Sheen
Recording engineer
Benjamin Sheen
Hyperion usage
  1. In the bleak midwinter (KGS0060-D)
    Disc 1 Track 16
    Release date: 5 November 2021
    Download only Available Friday 5 November 2021
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