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Benjamin Britten- Semester 1 Choir Paper From performing and composing a variety of works, Benjamin Britten became a well known English composer. Benjamin was born to a dentist in Suffolk on November 22, 1913. His talent was noted at an early age of twelve, and Benjamin had private studies with composer, Frank Bridge, at the Royal College of Music. The public caught a glimpse of Britten’s talent in 1934 with his a cappella work of “A Boy was Born”. In 1939, Britten and Pears sailed to America where they began their relationship with each other after working together on music pieces. They worked and lived together for almost forty years. After Britten’s premiere of “Peter Grimes” in 1945, he became known around the world. ¬†From there Britten started writing operas and eventually became one of the top composers in the 20th century. Britten composed several choral works including “War Requiem,” which ended up being one of his most famous works. Benjamin started the Aldeburgh Festival, which has became a very famous festival. It features new music composed by contemporary composers along with some of Benjamin’s pieces. Benjamin had a strong passion for music, and that’s all he did for his job. Britten died of a heart failure on December 4, 1976 and was buried at Aldeburgh Parish Church in Suffolk England. Ever since he had pneumonia had the young age of three months, Benjamin struggled with health issues throughout his life. The first choral piece I chose was “A Hymn to the Virgin.” I chose this piece because it is about Christmas, and since we have just ended the Christmas season I thought it would be appropriate. This is also one of Benjamin Britten’s better known choral pieces. This piece stood out to me because there are many times throughout the song that the energy would erupt, and then it would fade out again. It gave it an exciting suspenseful feeling. I related this piece to a boiling pot of water. It started out slow and quiet, but then it got louder in spots, as if the bubbles were rising in the pot which created a dramatic tone. The use of the Latin responses enforced the idea of the dramatic and fast passed feeling. This song was written in SATB, and is sung A Cappella. Latin and English languages are both used in this piece. It is set up so choir one will sing in English to choir two, and then choir two will respond in Latin. . “A Hymn to the Virgin” is a unique and distinctive song. It was Benjamin Britten’s first church piece that survived. Benjamin composed “A Hymn to the Virgin” on July 9, 1930. He was only sixteen years old at the time. Four years later, Britten considered it ready for publication after he slowed the speed so it would be easier to sing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQfBbBCmVqE https://musescore.com/user/13107681/scores/3417566 The second piece I choose was “Rejoice in the Lamb.” I thought “Rejoice in the Lamb” had many mixed tones within it. There were some parts that sounds despairing and sorrowful, but others had more of an upbeat chating sound to them. I even pictured ballet dancers dancing to parts of the song as well. So overall there were a lot of different feelings people could have while listening to this song, and that is why I chose it. I like stories, songs, poems, and paintings that have multiple explanations behind them, and for me this song made my mind jump everywhere. Some pictures that I envisioned were, as I mentioned before, ballet dancers, soldiers marching, a cat climbing up a mountain, and for most of the song, a river moving slowly. The fact that so much was going on all in one song is what stood out to me the most. This piece was written for SATB and SATB solos, accompanied by an organ. “Rejoice in the Lamb” is sung in English. Benjamin Britten wrote this song for the fiftieth anniversary of St. Matthew’s church. Part of the text is from the poem “Jubilate Agno” written by Christopher Smart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JoTLDRhcH4 https://www.sjsd.k12.mo.us/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=10094=8200=REJOICE%20IN%20THE%20LAMB.pdf The third piece I chose was “Hymn to St Peter.” I chose this piece because it had more of an upbeat happy tone to it, whereas the majority of Britten’s songs seemed more sad and slow. One minute and forty five seconds into the song, it really came to life and that’s what stood out to me the most. The choir came in strong and powerful, which gave it a jubilant feeling. One the flip side, at the end of the song the happiness seemed to die out. Which made me think about all life, and the saying “all good things eventually come to an end.” Throughout the song it switched between the joyful high spirited feeling and the feeling of sadness and tragedy. There were times that it reminded me of a ceremonial song. This piece is written for SATB, accompanied by an organ, and written in English. In 1955 Benjamin Britten wrote this song for the five hundredth anniversary of St. Peter Mancroft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XbpOeo90qUhttp://www.boosey.com/imagesw/print/music/$wm1_0x700_$_M060014505_mus.jpg Overall I thought the structure of Britten’s choral pieces were similar. One thing that I noticed while listening to the songs he composed was that the words were drawn out longer than the modern day songs we hear today. Another similarity that I noticed, was that a lot of his pieces were christian related. Even within the titles, you’ll see the christian aspect correlating with the piece itself. Each piece has its own little twist to it. The feeling of happiness mixed in a sad song is one way a song is different from the others. The language of his songs also vary from another, and like “A Hymn to the Virgin,” two languages are used in the same song. I thought that it was pretty interesting not only how he put two languages in one song, but the way he structured it having the English singers sing to the Latin singers and the Latin singers reply. Not all of Britten’s songs have instruments with them either. As a whole, I enjoyed listening and researching Benjamin Britten’s choral pieces. Although sometimes it was difficult to find what I was looking for, it all ended on a good note. Benjamin Britten’s website: https://brittenpears.org/

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