This seemed such a great idea, and it was, indeed, great fun! It was also really hard. I don’t know about others, but my instinct was to start sifting through CDs to pick out my favourite tracks, but really, it would never be possible to do that in an hour of music (and yes, apologies…mine is an hour and nine minutes). So, the intention of my mixtape is to say something about me and the music I play, enjoy and listen to.
I guess that my first love has, and probably always will be, choral music. I was lucky enough to go to a secondary school which was very musical. We had a SATB school choir, often with over 100 members (though I think having a pass to be first in the dinner queue was perhaps more of a draw for some!). My first selection is John Joubert’s O Lorde, the Maker of Al Thing which was one of the first pieces we sang in that choir. Some might say it’s a bit of a baptism of fire, but once sung, I was hooked. This particular recording with the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, directed by Paul Spicer, is special to me as I was present at the pre-recording performance a couple of years ago.
John Rutter’s music has been much maligned over the years, often unfairly. Yes, we might argue it’s a formulaic, but my goodness, it works and it’s popular. I can’t help but feel that an awful lot of the disdain for his music comes purely from jealousy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it all, and I wouldn’t want to listen to it all the time, but it’s played a big part in my life. His setting of All Things Bright and Beautiful was one of my early introductions to it.
I’ve included Douglas Guest’s For the Fallen as an example of what I might call exquisite choral writing. To me, this short anthem captures everything about what can be achieved with human voices in harmony.
I’m afraid to say, I’ve never had much time for music from the classical period, and I’m only just coming around to baroque, but I have always found enjoyment in early music, whether that be plainsong, or works such as Josquin’s Missa pange lingua.
I couldn’t possibly create this list without including something by Herbert Howells. Howells’ music is perhaps the music which speaks to me most closely and spiritually. I don’t think this is something we can explain, but I’m sure we’ve all come across pieces and composers like that. There is something about the harmony and rhythm of Howells’ writing which tugs at me deep inside. Even in this short extract, the Nunc Dimittis from his Collegium Regale setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, there is so much to explore and enjoy.
Gavin Bryars’ work Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet was perhaps my first introduction to what then, we’d have called ‘contemporary music’. There is something quite magical in this work which makes for an almost hypnotic listening experience.
If you thought I was all about so-called ‘classical music’, you’d be wrong. I have always been interested in music for television, and in particular, ‘library music’. Keith Mansfield’s Superstar on the KPM LP Lifeforce is a fabulous example – pure 1970s. Over the years, I have collected hundreds of library LPs and CDs, all sadly being disposed of around the country as broadcasters go digital.
Then there’s pop music too…although my pop music knowledge probably ceases around 1989. Spandau Ballet’s True has always had a hold on my ears, and my only explanation is that it came out at about the exact time I was born. Spooky?!
I’ve always enjoyed musicals (apparently, we’re to call it ‘musical theatre’ now), but no surprise that I’m a fan of the musicals which no one really knows and didn’t catch on. So, I doubt anyone’s heard of The Goodbye Girl!
Of course, the precursor to musicals was operetta, and I couldn’t resist but to include some G&S. No surprises that it’s from Princess Ida which although my favourite, is not one of the popular ones! (Why not?! It’s very topical…)
Then there’s folk music too: here’s an Irish folk-song The Butcher Boy, but there are so many others I could have included. It’s perhaps the folk idiom which influences my choice of orchestral music. Here I’ve included an extract from Stanford’s Symphony No. 6 and Armstrong Gibbs’ Symphony No. 1. These, in my view are two totally underrated composers, and I guess, that’s always been part of me too…I like the things no one else has discovered!
Finally, just like Howells, I couldn’t leave this without including some Vaughan Williams, and it’s not one of the popular pieces, but instead, the first movement from his Symphony No. 6.
David Barton is a piano, flute and voice teacher, composer, mentor and writer based in Lichfield