I chose to arrange Britten's A Hymn to the Virgin as it was fresh and vivid in my mind at the time of discussing this collaboration with the London Sinfonietta. Originally scored for eight-part chorus and divided into two separate choirs for antiphonal effect, this work was composed by Britten whilst serving a spell in the school sanatorium. He was just 16. The anonymous text, which Britten found in the Oxford Book of English Verse, is copied below.
I had originally planned to take his original score off in a new, almost unrecognisable direction, fusing the live ensemble with winding and stark electronics. However, having attempted many different angles, I kept coming back to the original in its simplest pure form. I therefore decided to make an acoustic arrangement, staying almost entirely true to the source. Whilst losing the aforementioned antiphonal effect, I hope that this arrangement captures a glimpse of the purity in Britten's work.
Lady Flow'r, is based on the opening phrase of A Hymn to the Virgin. The live instrumentalists are doubled by a pre-recorded track, recorded by engineer, Jody Elff, and violinists Cornelius Dufallo and Amy Kauffman, in New York. For both movements of this project, the quintet is mildly amplified with reverb.
Of one that is so fair and bright
Velut maris stella,
Brighter than the day is light,
Parens et puella:
I cry to thee, thou see to me,
Lady, pray thy Son for me
That I may come to thee.
All this world was forlorn
Till our Lord was y-born
De te genetrice.
With ave it went away
Darkest night, and comes the day
The well springeth out of thee.
Lady, flow'r of ev'rything,
Rosa sine spina,
Thou bare Jesu, Heaven's King,
Of all thou bear'st the prize,
Lady, queen of paradise
Maid mild, mother es Effecta.
— Anna Clyne
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.