Artist Led, Creatively Driven

Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo

Roderick Williams, baritone
City of London Choir
Hilary Davan Wetton, conductor

Release Date: Apr 12th


Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo
Joseph Horovitz

1. Introduction
2. The Lord looked down
3. The People of Fun City
4. Then Japhet, Shem And Ham
5. It looks like rain
6. For the floodgates of Heaven were opened
7. Forty days and nights
8. For the Lord closed the floodgates
9. Father Noah please open the porthole…
10. Ten the Lord looked down
11. Oh what a wonderful scene

Roderick Williams, baritone
City of London Choir
Hilary Davan Wetton, conductor

Captain Noah & His Floating Zoo was written in 1970; a witty, jazz-infused account of an evergreen story, it remains irresistible to this day. One of several light-hearted ‘oratorios’ written around the same time, for a younger audience, about memorable Old Testament characters (see also Joseph, Jonah and Daniel), it was the singular result of an inspired collaboration between old friends Joseph Horovitz (1926–2022) and Michael Flanders (1922–1975). Both are distinguished names. Horovitz had escaped Vienna for London with his parents in 1938 and became a renowned composer, pianist and teacher – a professor at London’s Royal College of Music as well as the composer of seventy-something celebrated film and television scores. Flanders was a brilliant lyricist and performer – one half of the duo Flanders & Swann, masters of musical satire and greatly loved for their charming comic songs.

Captain Noah was primarily intended to be sung in schools, in unison or two parts, and in 1976, it received the Ivor Novello Award for the Best British Work for Children. In the preface to the Novello edition the authors indicate that they “hope it will be useful wherever and whenever groups of singers and musicians need a work of some length to perform together, and that they will arrange, divide and adapt it (within reason) as best suits their available talent and the occasion.”
Horovitz himself immediately arranged the piece for six male voices and jazz piano so that the King’s Singers (the original line-up) could give the London premiere and record the work in their exquisite, inimitable style. Yet another version was made by the composer for one soloist (variously the voice of God, Noah and Narrator) and large chorus with jazz trio. It is this version that the City of London Choir has enjoyed recording with Roderick Williams.

Ten short movements tell Noah’s story. God’s world-weariness turns to condemnation of Fun City, and Noah being charged with building an ark to preserve mankind and all the creatures of Earth. After forty days and nights of rain, eventually dry land appears complete with rainbow representing hope and the promise of peace. The narrative culminates with an order to go forth, increase and multiply – by two, by two, by two, by two… The cantata exploits genres of music from waltz to samba to hoe-down as it recounts the story that has captured the imagination of all ages over centuries. It is as entertaining and resonant today as ever.
Like the rest of the world, the City of London Choir was forced to stop singing in March 2020. Its last concert before the covid pandemic had, by coincidence, been a performance of Elijah, another Old Testament tale full of divine retribution in the form of famine, fire, flood – and plague. Required to stay at home, choir members kept singing together over the internet as much as they could and eventually, in one of the first live performances in the summer of 2021, the choir reunited physically (albeit socially-distanced) in St Giles Cripplegate in the City of London to perform a kaleidoscopic programme of life-enhancing song in celebration of the return to live music-making. The concert was entitled ‘Sunshine after Rain’, and Captain Noah fitted the bill perfectly.

Remembering the particular joy and hope of that occasion, the choir chose to make a new recording of Captain Noah for the 21st century as its very final project before his retirement with Hilary Davan Wetton, the choir’s inspirational Musical Director for 34 years. The choir commissioned former member Kate Aldrovandi to design the cover art which takes the City of London as its backdrop.

© Jenny Robinson

City of London Choir
The City of London Choir has been singing in the heart of London since 1963, and has been described by The Times as a ‘leader among non-professional choruses’. The choir regularly promotes its own concerts in London’s finest concert halls, with leading professional orchestras, instrumentalists and soloists, as well as performing each year for a variety of other promoters in major venues. The CLC sings regularly at Cadogan Hall, the Barbican, the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.
The CLC enjoyed the inspirational direction of Hilary Davan Wetton for 34 years, and made a number of recordings under his baton with considerable critical success including Vaughan Williams’s An Oxford Elegy with Jeremy Irons, Finzi’s Requiem da Camera and In Terra Pax with baritone Roderick Williams, Beethoven’s Der glorreiche Augenblick and The Nation’s Favourite Carols with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The choir is a registered charity whose object is to nurture a love and understanding of music among its members and audiences, and is committed to creating opportunities for children and young people both to perform and to attend concerts, notably through its Young Apprentice Bass and Tenor Scheme.


Hilary Davan Wetton, conductor
Hilary Davan Wetton has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a conductor of both choral and orchestral ensembles. Principal Conductor of City of London Choir from 1989-2023 and Artistic Director of the Military Wives Choirs since 2019, he was also conductor of Guildford Choral Society 1968-2008, Artistic Director of the Leicester Philharmonic Choir from 2009-2018, and Founder/Conductor of the Holst Singers 1979-1993. Currently Associate Conductor of the London Mozart Players, he was Principal Conductor of the Wren Orchestra of London for 10 years, and Artistic Director of Milton Keynes Orchestra 1975-2008. He has worked with most of the major London orchestras as well as orchestras in Europe, Australia and the USA, and has an extensive and highly acclaimed discography. He has been awarded honorary degrees by the Open University and De Montfort University, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
The recording of Captain Noah & His Floating Zoo is the Hilary’s final project with the City of London Choir after 34 years as its Principal Conductor.


Roderick Williams, baritone
Roderick Williams is one of the most sought-after baritones of his generation with a wide repertoire spanning baroque to contemporary. He enjoys relationships with all the major UK and European opera houses also performs regularly with leading conductors and orchestras throughout the UK, Europe, North America and Australia. Festival appearances include the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh and Melbourne. As a recitalist he is in demand around the world and appears regularly at venues including the Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw and Musikverein and at song festivals including Leeds Lieder, Oxford Lieder and Ludlow English Song.
Roderick Williams was awarded an OBE in June 2017 and was Artist in Residence with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 2020-22, Artist in Residence at the 2023 Aldeburgh Festival and Singer in Residence at Music in the Round. He was also one of the featured soloists at the coronation of King Charles III in 2023.
As a composer he has had works premièred at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican, the Purcell Room and on national radio. In 2016 he won Best Choral Composition at the British Composer Awards and from 2022/23 he holds the position of Composer in Association of the BBC Singers.

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