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John McCabe

Publisher: Novello & Co

Gladestry Quatrains (2005),
This work was commissioned by the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts Ltd
Text Writer
Jo Shapcott
Publisher
Novello & Co Ltd
Category
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
2005
Duration
20 Minutes
Soloist
soprano
Orchestration
Availability


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Programme Note
John McCabe Gladestry Quatrains (2005),
View sample pages at ScoresOnDemand
Gladestry Quatrains is a setting of twelve short poems by Jo Shapcott, from her collection of the same title. It originated in a project for the 2003 Presteigne Festival called A Garland for Presteigne, in which ten composers associated with the Festival were asked to write a short song each, celebrating the Welsh border country – the choice of poetry ranged widely, and I chose two of Jo Shapcott’s evocative miniatures (still adding up to slightly less than the timing I had been requested to provide!). As I wrote them, I started to make sketches for some more settings from the same collection, and the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts very kindly commissioned this new, larger song-cycle proper for their 2005 Festival.

The original pair of poems form the third (Gwaithla Brook) and last (Cefn Hir) of the songs, in which the eighth combines two poems, Burl Hill and Newchurch. Throughout, I have been aware of the sights and sounds of nature, the character of the landscape, and the sense of history and timelessness of this beautiful part of the world, as reflected in Jo Shapcott’s poetry, as well as (I hope) the wit and directness of her expression. The whole work, though it has eleven songs, still lasts only about twenty minutes – the concision of the texts, and the need to find musical equivalents to this, was an important part of the concept of the piece.

© Copyright 2005 by John McCabe

Performances
Date
Title
Reviews
Gladestry Quatrains ... made their mark, ranging through the florid, the declamatory, and the lyric rapture in the close-knit response to Shapcott's hills and ridges.
Geoff Brown, The Times,9/1/2005
...few pieces can have had such a particular resonance ... The sense was of words being deeply rooted in this part of Radnorshire, but also embracing an unselfconscious universality. Shapcott's Gladestry Quatrains offered 11 intimate pictures, miniature in proportion, but artfully conceived by McCabe for soprano and piano so as to build aural images and moods: the piano's wild gusts and then its pounding chords for the black clouds at Burl Hill and Newchurch carried the vocal line with a dark passion.
Rian Evans, The Guardian,9/1/2005
McCabe's Gladestry Quatrains, setting 11 poems by Jo Shapcott, sometimes Housmanesque in the way they combine spiritual and topographical landscapes, had a strong sense of pictorial communication. Piano accompaniments were vivid in their imagery, vocal lines, occasionally high-floating, pointed the gentle irony of Shapcott's verses, and there was a satisfying sense of completeness in the way McCabe shaped his structures.
Christopher Morley, The Birmingham Post,9/1/2005
John McCabe's settings of Gladestry Quatrains were as pithy and epigrammatic as Jo Shapcott's 12 short poems, which charted local and human landscapes with great wit and poignancy. These wryly observed verses were pointed up by occasionally soaring vocal lines, whilst the piano accompaniments, were sharply-etched. Ethereal, sustained chords conjured up distant tolling church bells in 'Dolyhir', whilst thunderous, dark chords etched 'serious black clouds' surrounding Burl Hill and Newchurch. Elsewhere, the style ranged from crisp, toccata-like figurations introducing 'Hergest', to a delightful chant-like mini-processional in 'Song in the Shed' where 'every day is Sunday'. The resulting 20-minute work offered strongly characterized and fastidiously fashioned settings, matching the range and depth of the poems, from the intimacy of a shared joke to the touching acceptance of the transience of all things. McCabe enhanced his texts with a limpet-like fidelity to the tone of the words whilst capturing and sketching the moods they provoked with a painterly sensibility.
Paul Conway , Tempo Magazine,4/1/2005
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