Awake the Voice
for SATB soloists, SATB Choir, Audience and Chamber Orchestra
Clifton Cathedral Bristol December 9th 2018
“Additions to the Christmas repertoire are always welcome, and Awake the Voice! (2014) for choir, soloists and orchestra by Bristol-based composer Jonathan Palmer is no exception. The six movements comprise settings of festive-themed verse, dating from the 15th to the 20th century, and offer new perspectives on familiar Christmas themes: ‘Nowell’, ‘Holly and Ivy’, ‘Shepherds watching’ and others.
The musical style is an eclectic mix, with passages evoking the rhythmic energy of Walton, mock-Baroque (listen out for the harpsichord and cello in the second movement) and an original folksong pastiche. The canonic writing of the fourth movement is skilful and invigorating and calls to mind the devilishly complex canon “old Joe has gone fishing” from Peter Grimes. Throughout, the instrumental writing is subtle, sensitive and full of textural variety, with brass fanfares, warm string sounds and memorable solos for flute and oboe.
But the work’s unique selling point is the involvement of both audience and orchestra with the singing, bringing the work to a joyful and triumphant conclusion. Entirely original, you will nevertheless find yourself asking ‘now, where have I heard that tune before?’ as you hum it on your way home”.
“I have rarely heard such beautiful alternating duets and harmonies between the soloists as I heard in your second movement”.
“I liked your orchestration and the imaginative interplay between choir, soloists, orchestra and audience. The cumulative effect of the last movement worked really well. I’m glad I made the effort to be there”.
“I could hear your musical ‘voice’, but was pleased to be able to hear many musical influences. In the orchestration there were some lovely English pastoral influences (similar to Finzi in the more lyrical moments, especially the woodwind to my ears). I could also hear a bit of Mathias, Vaughan Williams but some wider ranging jazz, blues and hints of musical theatre!”
“I had great fun playing in the concert and really enjoyed it. We were singing the ATV tunes on the way home!”
Dove sta Amore
2018 revised version for small orchestra
“Love and Beauty” album by the Ensemble de la Belle Musique, Singapore, 2020.
It’s good to know that there are still composers who are prepared to write beautiful, lyrical (if not, ‘schmaltzy’) melodies.”
for Wind Quintet
Severnside Composers Alliance ‘PICTURES IN SOUND’ , 18th May 2018 Royal West of England Academy , Bristol. The Roaring Fork Wind Quintet
“In the performance of ‘Celestine’, I could both see and hear the graphic mirror-writing; it was later I realized that the whole movement is constructed like a palindrome.”
Cantata Europa (1992)
Full Orchestra, chorus, soprano and tenor soli
“I had never sung in a choral work in five different languages before; what a novel idea? Since this cantata was to celebrate joining the EU, did you consider writing another one to celebrate leaving?(!)”
Suite for cello trio (2021)
“An ingenious reworking for cello trio of selected movements from the Bach solo cello suites. The master himself would have been happy to see his immortal work presented in such an inventive new format. A 7th Bach Suite? Not quite, but close!”
“Jonathan’s compositions continue to impress and excite. They are great to play!”