Rhinegold Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas
British vocal ensemble VOCES8

Josephine Miles

VOCES8 premieres six new commissions

7:30, 25th November 2020

Vocal ensemble VOCES8 will premiere six new commissions from major choral composers on Saturday 5 December as part of the Live from London online festival.

New works from Ken Burton, Taylor Scott Davis, Melissa Dunphy, Jocelyn Hagen, Paul Smith and Roderick Williams were commissioned by the VOCES8 Foundation for their virtual Christmas festival. The pieces will be given their world premiere performances by VOCES8 in a programme titled Solstice, reflecting on a challenging year while also celebrating the Christmas season.

Details of the commissions are as follows:

  • Jocelyn Hagen: Mother’s Song. For this new piece, Hagen has used a translation by Willis Barnstone of an anonymous Japanese text in which the health and wellbeing of a mother’s child are sought.
  • Taylor Scott Davis: Solstice. Davis worked with his regular collaborator, US poet and writer Milton Brasher-Cunningham, in composing Solstice. The 3-minute piece is for the dark of winter and the holiday season, a time when we naturally wish to connect with those close to us.
  • Ken Burton: Descend to Earth. Burton was drawn to the poetry of 18th-century slave and writer Phyllis Wheatley for his commission Descend to Earth. The troubles of both the pandemic and racial oppression in 2020 resonate with Wheatley’s concise poem, the start of which recalls the Christmas season.
  • Roderick Williams: Winter Nights. Composer and baritone Roderick Williams used an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as the text for Winter Nights, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds on to today.
  • Paul Smith: Let’s walk together. The text of Paul Smith’s new piece was written by Daniel Simpson and sums up the character of the composer and the vocal ensemble he founded, VOCES8, expressing connection, interaction and movement. Composed for SSAATTBB unaccompanied choir with baritone solo, this 3-minute piece has sonorous hymn-like chords which introduce cascading faster voices in its middle.
  • Melissa Dunphy: Halcyon Days. Written to a new text from her regular collaborator poet Jacqueline Goldfinger, Dunphy’s Halcyon Days creates a period of calm during winter storms where we reflect on what we have lost, but rise up to face the new year with joy and grace.

The pieces will be premiered on Saturday 5 December at 7pm GMT via the Live from London festival, and will be published by Edition Peters.

Single concert tickets for the Live from London festival cost £12.50. Season tickets start at £80 (Live from London – Christmas) and £50 (Bach for Christmas), with both combined for £120 (Live from London – Christmas EXTRA). Ticket holders will be able to watch live at 2pm EST | 7pm GMT and/or on demand from the date of broadcast until 15 January 2021. Each broadcast concert lasts 60 minutes.


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