Magazine article Musical Opinion

Julian Dawes Premiere

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Julian Dawes Premiere

Article excerpt

A jubilant yet also reflective, meditative oratorio Shirat Hayam - The Song of the Sea - by British composer Julian Dawes was given a superb and highly enjoyable world premiere by the Aylith Choral Society, under their Musical Director Michael Etherton, with the Aylith Chamber Ensemble and Gemma Rosefield as cello soloist, on December 8. Warmly received by the capacity audience, Shirat Hayam is a thought-provoking large-scale setting of the poem from the Book of Exodus celebrating the crossing of the Red Sea, commissioned for the choir's 30th anniversary season. It represents the largest of a series of choral and solo vocal works on Biblical and Jewish themes, including the cantata Ruth and Songs of Ashes, a Holocaust song cycle by Julian Dawes, whose impressive output includes many theatrical, concertante, and chamber works. In Shirat Hayam, Dawes counters the biblical text's overt triumphalism with a more personal element, expressed in eight cello solos interpreting Psalm verses, which precede each of eight choral-orchestral movements. The musical style combines many of the composer's hallmarks, zestful, jazzy and dance-like rhythms, plangent modal-tonal harmony, and telling lyricism that finds expression in high vocal tessituras and colourful choral spacings. Especially poignant were Gemma Rosefield's cellos solos which conveyed almost cantorial eloquence, occasionally reminiscent of the deep outpourings of Ernest Bloch. The cello's polyphony, use of left-hand pizzicato and often dance-like development of motifs, imbued each rounded miniatures with the character of a commentary, as a kind of Fiddler on the Roof contrasting the outward mood of the choruses. …

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