Thomas Moore (1779-1852), adapted by Karl Jenkins; Carol Barratt; Basho Matsuo (1644-94); Walt Whitman (1819-92); Biblical (E); Ukukula Umcolo / Zulu text (anon)
Sing! The Music was Given was commissioned by DCINY to mark the occasion of the organisation’s 10th anniversary in 2018. The co-founders, Jonathan Griffith and Iris Derke, have been hugely supportive of my music over these ten years, and a programme of my works has been performed on or around every Martin Luther King Jr. holiday since the inaugural concert.
To celebrate the anniversary, I decided to go to the core of what DCINY is, their raison d’être: music and singing. I therefore selected or commissioned text that was about music. The words ‘Sing – sing – Music was given’ are an exhortation from me to them to sing the music I have given, while forming the opening line of the rousing first movement, a setting of the poem by Thomas Moore (1779–1852).
There follow two movements with text by Carol Barratt (aka Lady Jenkins!) who has contributed a great deal of text to my work over the years. The first is structured in the form of an acrostic poem, where the first letter of each line spells another word, in this instance ‘M-U-S-I-C’.
The second with text by Carol is ‘Music Matters!’, which can be read in two ways: the fact that music is important but also that this movement presents facts about, and facets of, music. For example counter-melodies: do, re, me together with hand signals, and taa, taa-tay, ta-fa-te-fee (French rhythm names). Also ‘music counts’, both in the sense that it is important but also in terms of pulse: 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4 etc.
‘Waterfall Music’ has haiku text dating from 1688 by Basho Matsuo and is sung in both Japanese and English.
The fifth movement, ‘That Music Always Round Me’, sets words by Walt Whitman (1819–1892), a vivid text pointedly highlighted in the orchestration.
An option available for performances of this work is to include at this point two movements borrowed from my Gloria, also a celebration of music. The first is a setting of ‘Tehillim – Psalm 150’ (sung in Latin or Hebrew), followed by ‘I’ll Make Music’, with text from Deuteronomy 32:2, Psalm 144:9 and 1 Chronicles 13:8.
The work ends with a movement in Adiemus ‘tribal’ style and quasi-African feel. The text is based on the deconstruction of two Zulu words, ukukula (sing) umcolo (music). The opening movement is referenced before the tribal feel resumes, bringing the work to a jubilant close.
Sir Karl Jenkins CBE, November 2017
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer.