Quickening: new songs to texts by British poets

by Robert Hugill in London, England, United Kingdom

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On 30th March 2017 we successfully raised £1,457 with 41 supporters in 35 days

New classical CD: talented British artists in Robert Hugill's songs to poems by Rowan Williams, Ivor Gurney, AE Housman & Christina Rossetti

by Robert Hugill in London, England, United Kingdom

We are inviting you to enjoy and support a new disc of classical music, with talented up-and-coming British artists performing songs to poems by Rowan Williams, Ivor Gurney, AE Housman and Christina Rossetti, with music by Robert Hugill.

This is a chance for people to get involved more closely in the final recording, with the opportunity to sponsor and dedicate individual tracks on the disc, as well as get early copies of the recording.

'Hugill is clearly a composer of discernment, imagination, and drive' - Jill Barlow, Tempo Magazine

'Hugill’s style is attractive and accessible, though far from anodyne' - William Yeoman, ClassicalSource.com

Quickening: the recording

My name is Robert Hugill. Many of you may know me as a blogger running the classical music blog Planet Hugill. I am also a composer and have written songs all my life. A number have won awards, including coming in the finals of English Poetry and Song Society Competitions.

Our project is recording a disc of my songs to be issued later this year on Navona Records.  Entitled Quickening, the recording will feature songs to texts by English and Welsh poets.

 Dr Rowan WilliamsWe have been very lucky that Dr Rowan Williams (pictured left), the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has given his permission for us to record my setting of his poem Winterreise for Gillian Rose, 9 December 1995.

This will be joined by my song cycles setting texts by Ivor Gurney, AE Housman and Christina Rossetti.

 As a composer I want to present my work to interested and supportive people, and producing a recording is the best way to get the music out there for people to discover. But there are significant costs to bear, and by supporting this project you will help us cross the finishing line and let this music be heard.

 And not only do you support the recording, but there is the chance to have the recording personalised and for 18 people to put a personal dedication on one of the 18 tracks, a lasting Thank You to people who truly support new music projects.

Quickening: the performers

Rosalind Ventris, William Vann, Anna Huntley at Potton Hall, photo Andrew Walton

Rosalind Ventris, William Vann, and Anna Huntley at Potton Hall (Photo: Andrew Walton)

The songs are being performed by an exciting group of young British artists. In November 2016, we had a terrific few days at Potton Hall, the recording studio, where in the peace of the Suffolk countryside we recorded the songs with William Vann (piano), Anna Huntley (mezzo-soprano), Rosalind Ventris (viola), Johnny Herford (baritone) and recording engineer Andrew Walton of K&A Productions.

  • William Vann is the director of music at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and founder & artistic director of the London English Song Festival, and has just recorded a disc of rare Vaughan Williams songs, Purer than Pearl for Albion Records
  •  Mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley was featured as a rising star in the February 2016 issue of BBC Music Magazine. She has been covering a number of roles at English National Opera, and appeared with them in Philip Glass’s Akhnahten, and has appeared in recital at the Wigmore Hall
  •  Viola player Rosalind Ventris, who is a winner of the Making Music Philip & Dorothy Green Awards for Young Concert Artists (AYCA) 2016, is a keen chamber music player and performs in Trio Anima and recently formed the Albion Quartet with violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen
  •  Baritone Johnny Herford is appearing in ENO’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. In 2014 Johnny was chosen by Philip Glass to create the role of Josef K in his opera The Trial, which was premiered at the Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre. In recital, Johnny has performed at the Oxford Lieder, Leeds Lieder and Machynlleth Festivals,  and made his solo recital debut at the Wigmore Hall in 2016, as well as performing regularly with William Vann.

Quickening: the poems

Four Songs to Texts by AE Housman, for baritone and piano, sets late poems by AE Housman, taken from his More Poems (1936) and Additional Poems (1939), books which were published by Housman’s brother after the poet’s death. The poems continue the typical Housman themes of love of comrades and love of the countryside, seen in the aftermath of the First World War.

  • He looked at me - 'He looked at me with eyes I thought / I was not like to find'
  • He would not stay - 'He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?'
  • Because I liked you better - 'Because I liked you better / Than suits a man to say,'
  • A.J.J. - When he's returned - 'When he's returned I'll tell him -- oh, Dear fellow, I forgot'

The disc also includes a setting of Housman's late poem When Summer's end is nighing.

The First World War also forms the backdrop to Four Songs to Texts by Ivor Gurney, but here Gurney's poems treat the more general themes of love, loss and pain.

  • Song - 'My heart makes songs on lonely roads'
  • Requiem - 'Requiem, Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold'
  • To his love - 'He's gone and all our plans are useless indeed'
  • Song and Pain - 'Out of my sorrow have I made these songs'

Quickening for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano, sets six poems by Christina Rossetti, interleaving poems about the onset of Winter and the coming of Spring, with her more serious poems on death and the life to come, the two cycles of regeneration forming an ultimately positive theme.

  • Song - 'When I am dead, my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me'
  • Bitter for sweet - 'Summer is gone with all its roses'
  • Two pursuits - 'A voice said, "Follow, follow": and I rose /  And followed far into the dreamy night'
  • Remember me - 'Remember me when I am gone away / Gone far away into the silent land'
  • Withering - 'Fade, tender lily, Fade, O crimson rose'
  • The first day of Spring - 'I wonder if the sap is stirring yet, If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate'

 Winter Journey sets Rowan William’s poem Winterreise for Gillian Rose, 9 December 1995,  from The Poems of Rowan Williams (Carcanet Press). This is a three-part poem (divided into Morning, Afternoon and Evening) in which Williams uses a real train journey on a very foggy winter morning up through Gloucester in the Midlands towards Coventry, and an extremely disruptive journey back, as the basis for a thoughtful and highly allusive poem.

  • Morning - 'The flat fields tramp towards the Severn'
  • Afternoon - 'Still, where you were concerned, we always arrived /  too late; [...]'
  • Evening - 'Dying by degrees, perhaps, is a winter journey'

Quickening: songs by Robert Hugill

'Robert Hugill's Videte Miraculum soared too, especially at its ending' - Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph

'Hugill made atmospheric use of his four musicians, opening almost tentatively with disjoined notes on the cello, soon joined by the piano, and bringing in the violin and clarinet to create a substantial orchestral texture as the tension increased, only to end with the final not on the solo cello' - Margaret Davies, Opera Magazine

'The Testament of Dr Cranmer, an interestingly made musical account of the close of Dr Cranmer's life… contains some beautifully taut harmonic pungency.' - Patric Stanford, Music and Vision

My settings of AE Housman and Ivor Gurney arose out of songs written for the English Poetry and Song Society’s AE Housman and Ivor Gurney competitions, with my AE Housman setting taking third place, and my Gurney settings taking second and fourth place.

 Supporting the disc will not only enable people to be involved in the production of a recording of wonderfully lyrical songs, but will support the work of the young artists performing them and help get their names further known.

 We are hoping that people will want to sponsor individual tracks on the disc and dedicate them, and there is also the possibility of getting a personalised manuscript copy of the individual song as well, not to mention signed copies of the CD.

 I am sure that you will enjoy listening to the songs as much as we enjoyed recording them.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£30 or more

£30 Reward

A copy of the CD in advance of the release date, signed by the composer

£60 or more

£60 Reward

Acknowledgement in the CD booklet and a copy of the CD in advance of the release date, signed by the composer

£100 or more

1 of 18 claimed

£100 Reward

Unique hand-written manuscript copy of a selected song on the disc (one per song, matches well with dedicating a particular track)

£150 or more

1 of 18 claimed

£150 Reward

Exclusive dedication of an individual CD track, your personal message in the CD booklet, and a signed copy of the CD in advance of the release date

£500 or more

0 of 1 claimed

£500 Reward

Lead sponsor on the disc, credited in the CD booklet, and a copy of the CD in advance of the release date, signed by the composer.

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