On a number of occasions, the Company has commissioned a new carol for its annual Carol Service at St Michael Cornhill. The 2020 Carol Service (which due to the pandemic had to be streamed) featured the world premiere of the carol Rejoice! for unaccompanied SATB, commissioned with generous funding from the Catherine Butcher Memorial Fund from one of the country’s emerging choral composers Rhiannon Randle, who is in her fourth year as Composer-in-Residence at St Michael’s and has had many pieces premiered by its choir, including her collaboration with poet Malcolm Guite, Our Burning World (Stainer & Bell), an anthem addressing the urgent need to act upon the climate crisis. The choir’s Cornhill Visions: A century of musical innovation released on Regent Records in 1990 included her Da Pacem Domine (Boosey & Hawkes) and memoria for choir and erhu (Chinese fiddle), described as ‘haunting’ by BBC Music Magazine; click here for further details.
Rhiannon Randle is an award-winning composer, violinist, soprano, academic and emerging conductor, with an expanding list of works, publications, broadcasts and recordings to her name. Her choral composing career was kick-started by a BBC Radio 3 commission for International Women’s Day 2015, Like A Singing Bird (Stainer & Bell), premiered and broadcast live on The Choir with Sarah Connolly and the Girls’ Choir of St. Catharine’s Cambridge. Her music continues to make a strong impact on the choral scene in the UK and internationally: in 2021, she will be published in the contemporary choral series of two leading choral publishers, Stainer & Bell and Boosey & Hawkes. Her collaborations include the BBC Singers, whose recording of On Life’s Dividing Sea (Stainer & Bell) was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Zurich Chamber singers whose release of O Nata Lux (Boosey & Hawkes) on Berlin Classics in 2020 featured in the Spotify Official Classical Christmas playlist, achieving an international reach of 100,000 monthly listeners and Sansara, who recorded O Magnum Mysterium on Resonus Records in 2019 (originally commissioned for Choir & Organ’s Contemporary Music Series 2016).
She enjoys pairing voices with unconventional instruments as in her carol A Winter Rose for choir and two alphorns and an upcoming Arts Council England funded commission for vocal duo and theorbo. Her connection to the Cambridge choral scene is evidenced through many performances of her works by Cambridge college choirs including Trinity (where she also sang), Selwyn, St Catharine’s, Gonville & Caius and Girton. She has also been commissioned by The King’s Men and the Choral Scholars of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford and had choral works performed by Cambridge Chorale, New London Children’s Choir, Choir of Royal Holloway, the York-based Ebor Singers (Women Of Note series, 2017) and The Invicta Choir, who featured her music as part of the EQUATOR Women of the World Festival at King’s Place, London (2016). Her Ave Regina appeared in the final of National Centre of Early Music Composer Award (2017). She has written three substantial one-act chamber operas, including one in association with the Royal Opera House, and a wide range of chamber works for artists such as Britten Sinfonia, The Heath Quartet and Psappha. Her chamber series for Jumis Ensemble, supported by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust, will culminate in a piano quartet in 2021. A recent orchestral piece Thy Presence My Light for the St Endellion Festival (2021) transformed the well-known hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’ into a fantasia, performed at home by musicians brought together by technology during lockdown. She combines her busy composition schedule with teaching undergraduates at her alma mater Cambridge University and at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she graduated with distinction under Julian Anderson and Julian Philips on the MA in Opera Making & Writing course in 2016. She is now a member of the GSMD Academic Studies Department and also mentors young composers at Junior Guildhall and Guildhall Young Artists. Click on the photo to see Rhiannon’s website.
Pastmaster Jonathan Rennert, Director of Music at St Michael’s Cornhill, describes Rejoice! as incisive, energetic and tuneful, beautifully written with dramatic dynamic characterisation and an irresistible momentum. The composer explains ‘Rejoice! is a carol filled with pure, unbridled joy and celebration, with peals of bells ringing out with sharply accented resonant chords, richly crafted contrapuntal sections reminiscent of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and modal twists inspired by Howells: in many ways, the carol can be seen as a longstanding chorister’s homage to the joys of singing praises at Christmastide through a wealth of seasonal classics, something that in the time of COVID is all too important to cherish and recall. The main melodic material is derived from the Christmas Day plainchant Viderunt Omnes, transforming it into an unabashed declamation of rejoicing with a contrasting central section that reflects more intimately and soulfully upon the idea of the Christmas mystery: the righteousness and salvation of God being revealed to mankind through Christ.'
A link to the study score on the Boosey & Hawkes website will be provided in due course.