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COLLABORATIONS

Michael Berkeley, composer

Clare Hammond, piano
Madeleine Mitchell, violin
Mahan Esfahani, harpsicord
Alice Coote, mezzo
Julius Drake, piano
Robert Plane, clarinet
Rachel Roberts, viola
Chris Hopkins, piano
BBC Singers
Joshua Ryan, organ
Owain Park, conductor
Neil Tennant, vocals
David Gilmour, guitar & vocals

Catalogue Number: ORC100321

Release Date: June 14th

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A compilation celebrating the extraordinary legacy of composer and broadcaster Michael Berkeley

COLLABORATIONS
Michael Berkeley (b.1948)

Haiku 1: Birds
1. I Blackbird in birdbath
2. II Red Kite
3. III Starlings
4. IV French Partridge
5. V Goldfinches
6. VI Blue Tits
7. VII Crows, Rooks and Ravens
8. VIII Barn Owl
Clare Hammond, piano

9. Notes on the Loss of a Friend
Madeleine Mitchell, violin

Haiku 2: Insects
10. I The Fly
11. II The Moth
12. III The Bee
13. IV The Spider
14. V The Ladybird
15. VI The Maybug
Mahan Esfahani, harpsicord

Speaking Silence
16. I Blow, Northern Wynd
17. II Echo
18. III And is it Night?
19. IV The Ragged Wood
20. V Père du Doux Repos
21. VI Blow, Northern Wynd
Alice Coote, mezzo
Julius Drake, piano

22. The Magnolia Tree
Robert Plane, clarinet
Rachel Roberts, viola
Chris Hopkins, piano

23. Super Flumina Babylonis
BBC Singers
Joshua Ryan, organ
Owain Park, conductor
Emma Tring, soprano

24. Released by Love
BBC Singers
Joshua Ryan, organ
Owain Park, conductor

25. Cradle Song
BBC Singers
Joshua Ryan, organ
Owain Park, conductor

26. Listen, Listen O My Child
BBC Singers
Joshua Ryan, organ
Owain Park, conductor

27. Zero Hour
Neil Tennant, vocals
David Gilmour, guitar & vocals

Clare Hammond, piano
Madeleine Mitchell, violin
Mahan Esfahani, harpsicord
Alice Coote, mezzo
Julius Drake, piano
Robert Plane, clarinet
Rachel Roberts, viola
Chris Hopkins, piano
BBC Singers
Joshua Ryan, organ
Owain Park, conductor
Neil Tennant, vocals
David Gilmour, guitar & vocals

When I asked Neil Tennant what I should do with our recent song for Ukraine, Zero Hour, he replied, ‘Put it on the next Michael Berkeley album of Collaborations’ as though, pop star-like, this was a common occurrence. But it sparked an idea as there were several pieces, the results of working with favourite musicians, that came to mind. What the compilation demonstrates is my journey from a tonal base in the liturgical choral writing to a more linear spare language, as in The Magnolia Tree, and the two recent keyboard pieces, Haiku 1: Birds (for piano) and Haiku 2: Insects (for harpsichord). Both these works were inspired by the virtuosity of their dedicatees, Clare Hammond and Mahan Esfahani.

Separating these sketch-like pieces is a recent lament for solo violin, Notes on the Loss of a Friend, which was my immediate and impulsive response on being told by the violinist Madeleine Mitchell of the sudden death of Nicholas Snowman, a friend and great supporter of contemporary music.

I initially wrote my song cycle, Speaking Silence, for the baritone David Wilson-Johnson. However, a long-term collaborator (indeed my vocal guru when I was running the Cheltenham Festival), Julius Drake, suggested that the cycle would sit particularly well and maybe even better for mezzo and would suit the then young and rising star Alice Coote who gave the first mezzo performance in a Radio 3 broadcast from St.George’s Brandon Hill in Bristol which I include here.

Live first performances can be problematic but sometimes they have an immediacy that is hard to re-capture as in The Magnolia Tree (2023).  JS Bach has long been at the apex of the music I love and passages from The Art of Fugue inspired this chamber work, although that only becomes apparent as the music gradually unfolds. It’s a trio for clarinet (Robert Plane who gave several fine performances of my Clarinet Concerto – a score from what you might call my expressionist period), viola (Rachel Roberts) and piano (Chris Hopkins).  The piece was commissioned by the Presteigne Festival with which I have been associated since its inception over forty years ago.

I first worked with the BBC Singers when I was commissioned by the Corporation to write an anthem, Easter, setting George Herbert, for its 60th Anniversary Celebrations at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of the Queen. Their musicianship was and is outstanding. They are conducted here by Owain Park, fellow composer and member of the Gesualdo Six.

Zero Hour transports me back to my days as a pop musician in a group called Seeds of Dyscord, a somewhat less august ensemble when compared to the line-up for Zero Hour which has vocals and lyrics from Neil Tennant, a guitar solo from the iconic David Gilmour and production by Hugh Padgham (Sting and The Police) and Paul Wix Wickens (musical director of Paul McCartney’s touring band).

When Michael Berkeley asked Neil Tennant for his thoughts on the direction of their recent song for Ukraine, “Zero Hour,” Tennant casually suggested, “Put it on the next Michael Berkeley album of Collaborations”. This offhand remark sparked an idea for Berkeley, reminding him of several pieces written over the years born out of collaborations with favourite musicians. The resulting new album, a compilation celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Michael Berkeley, showcases the composer’s evolution from tonal choral writing to a more spare, linear language, exemplified by “The Magnolia Tree” and the keyboard pieces “Haiku 1: Birds” and “Haiku 2: Insects,” dedicated to Clare Hammond and Mahan Esfahani, respectively.

Amidst these sketch-like pieces is a poignant lament for solo violin, “Notes on the Loss of a Friend,” an immediate and impulsive response to learning of Nicholas Snowman’s sudden passing, a dear friend of Berkeley’s and a great advocate of contemporary music. Berkeley’s song cycle, “Speaking Silence,” initially written for baritone David Wilson-Johnson, found new life with mezzo Alice Coote, championed by collaborator Julius Drake. The immediacy of live performances including “The Magnolia Tree,” sit alongside further collaborations with esteemed artists and ensembles including the BBC Singers and conductor Owain Park.

“Zero Hour” harkens back to Berkeley’s earlier days as a pop musician, with this new track bringing together an illustrious lineup featuring Neil Tennant’s vocals, David Gilmour’s guitar solo, and production by Hugh Padgham (Sting and The Police) and Paul Wix Wickens (musical director of Paul McCartney’s touring band).

Michael Berkeley
Composer

Michael Berkeley was born in 1948, the eldest son of the composer Lennox Berkeley. Benjamin Britten was his Godfather and as a boy soprano Michael sang with him and as a chorister at Westminster Cathedral. He studied composition, singing and piano at the Royal Academy of Music and then had lessons with Richard Rodney Bennett.

Berkeley has written in almost every musical genre including solo, chamber, orchestral and choral music. His three operas have been toured in the UK and produced in Australia, America and Italy. He has been Composer in Association to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and New York Philomusica and was the Artistic Director of the Cheltenham Festival between 1995 and 2005 where he premiered over a hundred new works from both leading and young composers.

Berkeley has long supported his composition with broadcasting, most notably as the presenter of Private Passions on BBC Radio 3 since its inception in 1995. He was awarded a CBE for services to music in 2013 and the following year was made a crossbench peer in the House of Lords where he consistently speaks on behalf of music and music education.

Michael Berkeley’s music is available from Oxford University Press or the composer’s own website: www.michaelberkeley.co.uk

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