Cantatas and Oratorio



Soloists with piano accompaniment


THE DEATH OF GOLIATH Opus 17 (1978) 20' 
Dramatic Cantata for soprano, high counter-tenor/mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with piano.

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The Death of Goliath - Soprano, Alto & Baritone with Piano
Score

Libretto by Cynthia and Andrew Downes.

Wife of Goliath: soprano
David: high counter-tenor/mezzo-soprano
Goliath: baritone

Commissioned for the 200th anniversary of St.Paul's Church, Hockley, Birmingham, in 1979.

First performed by Catherine James as wife of Goliath, Michael Dowding as Goliath, Andrew Downes as David, and Malcolm Wilson, piano, on January 10th 1979 at Birmingham Conservatoire. 

These same artists gave the second performance of the work in St. Paul's Church, Hockley, on June 9th 1979, as part of St Paul's Bicentenary Week. (The Church was consecrated in June 1779). This performance was recorded for BBC Radio Birmingham and broadcast on June 11th 1979 and again on September 3rd 1979.

This work has since been performed by student groups from Birmingham Conservatoire, including the Centurion Opera Group in Redcar, Yorkshire, in September 1981.

'This is a work of consequence, strongly dramatic in content and constructed with an admirable economy which in no way detracts from its emotional impact.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

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Soloists with choir and piano accompaniment


CAIN AND ABEL Opus 21 (1981) 20'
Dramatic Cantata in the style of a Greek tragedy, for treble, alto and bass soloists, SATB chorus and piano.

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Libretto by Cynthia and Andrew Downes.

Conscience of Adam: treble soloist & SATB chorus
Cain: alto
Adam: bass/baritone

To be performed in costume.  Action by the principal characters and chorus should be simple, bold and stylish.

This work was commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Midland Boy Singers in 1981 by Peter and Alvena Grant.
The Midland Boy Singers, with soloists Roy Dickinson, Donald Young and Richard Green, accompanied by Alvena Grant (piano) and conducted by Peter Grant, first performed the cantata on 22nd August 1981 in the Kaiser-Willhelm Gedaechtniskirche, Berlin, on their tour of Germany.  Subsequent performances were given by the Midland Boy Singers in their home-town, Walsall (The Town Hall, September 1981), and in Luton (October 1982), and by students at Birmingham Conservatoire, in the Adrian Boult Hall, as part of the Festival of New Music and Art in December 1989. 

'Like all Downes' music, it was admirably conceived for the medium.'
THE MUSICAL TIMES


A CHILD IS SINGING Opus 24 (1981)
20'   
Dramatic Cantata about the horrors of nuclear war, for baritone soloist, SATB chorus and piano.

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Title and poem 'A Child is Singing' by Adrian Mitchell. Additional words by an anonymous survivor of Hiroshima, and Cynthia and Andrew Downes.

General Giah: baritone
Soldiers and Civilians: SATB chorus

Commissioned by the Clarion Singers for their performances for CND and Amnesty International. First performed by the Clarion Singers, with Michael Dowding as baritone soloist, Peter Dempsey, tenor soloist, and Malcolm Wilson, piano, directed by Aubrey Bowman and produced by Val Stevens, on March 20th 1982 in Carrs Lane Church, Birmingham.

Subsequent performances by the Clarion Singers, with soloists Michael Dowding and Peter Dempsey, include ones at Highgate School, Birmingham, in May 1982, Walsall Town Hall in May 1982, the George Cadbury Hall, Selly Oak, Birmingham, in March 1983, St Martins in the Bullring, Birmingham, in November 1983, Moseley Parish Church in June 1984 and at the Friends Institute for Performing Arts Festival, Highgate, Birmingham, in October 1991. The Clarion Singers have been accompanied by Malcolm Wilson, Tony Cross and Peter Johnson, and conducted by Aubrey Bowman and Andrew Downes in their performances of this Cantata.

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Soloist, narrator, actors and orchestra


THE BALLAD OF ST KENELM Opus 103 (2013)
A setting for solo soprano voice, narratator(s), actors and instrumental ensemble (fl/picc, ob, bsn, tpt, perc, 4 vlns, 2 vlas, 2 vcs, db) of the long poem by FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG.

View clips of performances on youtube

The poem tells the story of the 7 year old King Kenelm who was murdered in a jealous plot by his sister. Pilgrims flocked to the chantry built at the brook where Kenelm was slain, and were healed by the waters. Thus Kenelm was beatified.

This work was commissioned by the Francis Brett Young Society for first performance, in costume, on Wednesday April 22nd 2015, in St John's Church Hagley, Worcestershire, as part of the Hagley Music Festival, with subsequent performances at St Peter's Church, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, on May 22nd 2015, as part of the Winchcombe Festival, St George's Hall, Bewdley, Worcestershire, on October 11th 2015, as part of the Bewdley Festival, and St Kenelm's School, Romsley, Worcestershire, on July 3rd 2016, organised by the Romsley Historical Society.

The performers:-
Paula Downes (soprano)
Haydn Thomas (narrator)
Hagley Community Orchestra with Central England Camerata (leader Anna Downes)
Actors from the Francis Brett Young Society
Director/MD Cynthia Downes

A pre-premiere performance of Hazel, Hazel from the Cantata was given by Paula Downes, with the Central England Camerata, directed by Anthony Bradbury, in a concert in aid of Cancer Research, in the Foleyan Centre, Oldswinford Hospital School, on August 31st 2014.

In September 2017, Central England Camerata, directed by Louis Clark, gave three performances of the Prelude and Postlude from the Cantata in Moseley Park, Birmingham, as part of the Moseley Folk Festival.


'The corner of the Midlands around Hagley has produced a disproportionate amount of words and music: think of William Shenstone, Francis Brett Young, and more recently Simon Holt’s opera Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? Now the list is joined by Andrew Downes’ The Ballad of St Kenelm, commissioned by the Francis Brett Young society and premiered by members of the Central England Ensemble and community members as part of the 2015 Hagley Music Festival.

'It’s a sort of musical mystery-play..

'Downes divided the verse between a narrator (the wonderfully sonorous Haydn Thomas), a small group of amateur actors (Oscar Price deserves special mention as the seven year-old King Kenelm) and a soprano. His daughter Paula sang that role tonight, bringing purity and an affectingly plangent tone to Downes’s lyrical, plainsong-like vocal writing. Conductor Cynthia Downes drew out the colours of the attractively pastoral score; the small orchestra clearly enjoyed Downes’s splashes of polytonality and the imaginative instrumental detailing in the work’s central lament.

'...This was music deeply rooted in its community, and it’s a source of great sadness that ill health prevented Downes from attending. Hopefully he’ll be able to hear repeat performances at the Bewdley and Winchcombe festivals, with the same highly committed performers.'
                                           Richard Bratby for THE BIRMINGHAM POST


'An extended Prelude set the scene with economy and flair, presenting the work's shrewdly selected instrumental group (...) which evoked the shawm and the sackbut, as well as tapping into the biblical associations of the trumpet and the tambourine.  The Prelude also introduced some of the principal motifs, naturally flexible phrases which were logically extended and embellished as the piece unfolded.  Of especial note in a compact and refined score were two instrumental interludes whose tension and dynamism contrasted satisfyingly with the evening's more formal, ritualistic elements and a lament of the purest simplicity for soprano and hushed strings placed at the heart of the piece which was movingly repeated in the closing stages.

'Downes has fashioned an engaging fusion of operatic and dramatic strands for reduced forces... his new composition received a committed and enjoyable first performance.  Narrator Haydn Thomas (wonderfully resonant and entirely distinct) and a small group of local amateur actors depicted various aspects of the story, though such was the power of the musical narrative that the emotional arc of the story was fully etched in the score. Paula Downes brought clarity and dignity to the important soprano role, entirely in keeping with the unvarnished, folk-like vocal writing which incorporated aspects of plain-chant and traditional ballads. ... Cynthia Downes... kept the music flowing, shaping the material with care and sensitivity.  Her players pointed up effectively the various lyrical, pastoral and hieratic facets of the score.

'... a superbly honed and incisive work steeped in local interest.'
                                                         Paul Conway, MUSICAL OPINION


'... the music of The Ballad of St Kenelm ... was magical.

'The eerie medieval sounding music of Andrew Downes, with its dischords and clashes, as well as its meditative passages, was most effective to enable the audience to enter into the drama.

'... Andrew Downes' evocative musical setting of Francis Brett Young's poem. The two concerts already performed in the Hagley and Winchcombe festivals have been received to great acclaim.'

                                          FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG SOCIETY JOURNAL




Soloists, choir and orchestra


THE MARSHES OF GLYNN Opus 33 (1985) 40' 
Cantata for tenor solo, SATB choir and symphony orchestra. 

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Listen to the World Premiere performance on youTube

A setting of the poem by Sydney Lanier.
Commissioned by Birmingham Conservatoire to commemorate the Royal Opening of the Adrian Boult Concert Hall.
First performed in the Adrian Boult Hall on February 20th 1986 by John Mitchinson, tenor, with the Birmingham Conservatoire Choir and Symphony Orchestra conducted by Damian Cranmer, in the presence of HRH the Duchess of Gloucester. A repeat performance of the work, by popular demand, took place within one month. The first performance outside Birmingham Conservatoire was by the Birmingham Festival Choral Society in Birmingham Cathedral in October 1987.

The first performance was recorded on LP, and re-released on CD in 2000. To order CD click here   To order original LP click here.

Extracts from this recording were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 'Woman's Hour'. The recording has also been broadcast many times on Musicians Page Radio, Los Angeles, USA.

'Downes, not frightened by writing melodically, and realising the impact of lush harmonic sound, has created and structured a major choral work of imaginative stature.' THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'What a lovely piece of music that is. A marvellous way to end our programme!' BBC RADIO 4 WOMAN'S HOUR



SONG OF THE PRAIRIES Opus 44 (1988) 35'

Poem by William Cullen Bryant set to music for SATB soloists, semi-choir of high voices, full chorus and orchestra.
Commissioned by the Shrewsbury School Sixth Singing Weekend and first performed in the Alington Hall of Shrewsbury School on 15th April 1989 by soloists, Jacqueline Parker (soprano), Sally Burchell (mezzo soprano), Elfred James (tenor), Darron Moore (bass), Cantamus Girls' Choir (director Pamela Cook), a massed chorus from all over Britain and Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Rutter.
Second performance was given in March 1991 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, by soloists Catherine Mason (soprano), Sarah Mills (soprano), Clare Mason (mezzo-soprano), Richard Owen (tenor) and Wen-Hao Tsai (bass), the Birmingham Polytechnic Chorus, the Birmingham Conservatoire Singers and Sinfonia, conducted by Peter Johnson:

'...the Polytechnic Chorus, Conservatoire Singers and Sinfonia under Peter Johnson performed Andrew Downes's Song of the Prairies with a warmth of sincerity to match that of this popular composer.
'In Downes's typically jazzy/pastoral/reflective style, this major work topically deals with man's destructive influence upon innocent nature, and strikes a chord in us all.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


A SAINT LUKE PASSION Opus 50 (1992) 40'

The story of the death and resurrection of Christ set to music for baritone soloist, SATB choir, piano duet, percussion (2 players) and string orchestra.

Listen to two choral movements

Commissioned by the Wolverhampton Civic Choir, for first performance on 3rd April 1993, with Brian Rayner Cook and the Orchestra da Camera, under the direction of David Hart.

'Two triumphant premieres in three days! After Thursday's success of his eloquent Third Symphony, Andrew Downes heard his deeply affecting St Luke Passion given on Saturday by the Wolverhampton Civic Choir (who commissioned it) in the elegant and accommodating Parish Church.
'Scored for string orchestra, percussion and piano duet, the work also calls for a baritone soloist singing the words of Christ.
'Brian Rayner Cook performed with gentle sincerity, quietly commanding in these grateful melodic lines. Many of Downes' well-loved fingerprints are here, not least the music circling round a note before coming to rest on it, and now, too, his recent, striking discovery of independent multi-tempi.
'... the music's drama as it progressed to a moving sense of exaltation touched us all.' 
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

On 5th November 1993 Andrew Downes was invited by the Crane Concert Choir of the University of New York to conduct them in the first American performance of this work. 
The choir has a tradition for inviting composers to conduct their works with them. 
Composers to be invited in the past have included Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland.

Performed for the 10th anniversary of the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham by Bryan Rayner Cook with the Birmingham Conservatoire Choir and Orchestra, 
conducted by Steven Lloyd, in February 1997

Judas Mercator Pessimus and Tenebrae Factae Sunt from the work were performed at King's Chapel, Boston, Massachusetts, on August 22nd 2006 by the Millennium Scholars directed by Paula Downes. Andrew and Cynthia Downes sang in these performances. Listen to this performance.
 


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Soloist, choir and Brass Band


THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON Opus 19 (1980) 15'

Cantata for baritone solo, SATB choir and brass band.
Sacred text compiled by Cynthia Downes from the First Book of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles describing the building of the first Temple in Jerusalem.

Purchase Downloadable Sheet Music:

The Temple of Solomon - baritone solo, SATB choir and brass band
Score

Commissioned by the Birmingham Festival Choral Society to commemorate the Restoration of Birmingham Cathedral, and first performed by the choir, with John King, baritone soloist, and the Birmingham School of Music (now Birmingham Consertoire) Brass Band, under the direction of Jeremy Patterson, on 29th November 1980.

The Birmingham School of Music Chorus and Brass Band, with baritone soloist, Michael Dowding, directed by Peter James, performed the work in St Augustine's Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham, in November 1982.

The Birmingham Festival Choral Society, performed the work again, with soloist Brian Rayner Cook, and the Birmingham Conservatoire Brass Band, directed by Jeremy Patterson, in June 1990 in Birmingham Cathedral.

'...most impressive...a welcome addition to the repertory.'
THE MUSICAL TIMES

'It was enthusiastically received by the audience and it is hoped that the work can be repeated by other music societies.'
THE BRITISH BANDSMAN

'...music of grand occasion, written with dramatic point and a feeling for rich, near barbaric Old Testament colour.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


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Oratorio 


NEW DAWN An Oratorio in Two Parts Opus 70 (1999) 90'
Oratorio for SATB soloists, SATB chorus and symphony orchestra including guitar ensemble.


View Score 
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Watch clips of the World Premiere on youtube
Purchase Video


Six movements: 
'A Spirit is Departing' 
'Journey' (Orchestral Tone Poem); 
'Awaiting Dawn' (Song for unaccompanied chorus) 
'Summer Dawn' 
'Kitchi-Manitou' (Orchestral Tone Poem) 
'Invocation'.

The texts are 19th century translations of traditional poetry from various tribes of North American Indians, predominantly of the New Mexico area. 
Together, the poems form a story about the life-cycle of the Earth from the death to the re-birth of a soul. 
The Oratorio is a celebration of this natural cycle, and is dedicated to all those societies and individuals who are content to see themselves as part of Mother Earth, rather than seeking to own and, eventually, destroy her.

Commissioned by Birmingham Conservatoire to celebrate the coming of the year 2000. 
First performed on 18th February 2000 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, by soloists Debbie Bennet (soprano), Louise Brownbill (alto), Tom Solomon (tenor), Lawrence Broomfield (baritone), the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra and the University of Central England Chorus conducted by Steven Lloyd.

'Andrew Downes... is a prolific composer as well as a popular Head of the Conservatoire's School of Composition and Creative Studies. His musical style which often embraces traits from non European cultures, has an appealing 
immediacy and considerable attractiveness. "It's very modern, but so beautiful", was a remark I heard during the interval.
'The performance was certainly a triumph...'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

A video recording made of the first performance is available from Lynwood Music.

The second performance of this work took place in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, on 27th October 2001. Soloists Paula Downes, Timothy Mead, Richard Butler and William Gaunt with the Millennium Scholars Chorus and Orchestra and the Birmingham Conservatoire Guitar Ensemble were conducted by Stephen Cleobury.

'...the sounds heard in King's Chapel last Saturday were ... an uplifting fusion of ethnic, jazz and traditional elements.'  Jonathan Styles, CAMBRIDGE VARSITY MAGAZINE

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