Songs for Symphony Hall:
for children and/or community choir voices with instrumental ensemble or backing track

Symphony Hall Birmingham, where Songs of Autumn and Songs of the Skies were premiered


PREMIERES:


Songs of Autumn
13th October 2003
1200 children from Birmingham schools
Instrumentalists from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Conductor Jeffrey Skidmore
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Songs of the Skies
3rd October 2005
1200 children from Birmingham schools
Instrumentalists from the Central England Ensemble led by Anna Downes
Conductor Andrew Downes
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Songs for the Planet
28th March 2020
Multimedia performance cancelled due to Coronavirus
Meridian Singers, Over Community Choir, St Helen's Primary School Choir, Thordown School choir, Bluntisham
Local Instrumentalists
Conductors Paula Downes and Aggie Peach
Bluntisham Baptist Church, Cambridgeshire

More information and sheet music

Have you performed in this work or come to watch? Please share below!


An account by Andrew's wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on June 10th, 2021

SONGS OF AUTUMN
More info and sheet music

Front cover of the score with illustration by Cynthia Downes

In 2003 Andrew was approached by Nia Derry Head of Educational projects at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, to compose songs for a special singing day for 1000 plus children from schools around Birmingham to take place in October. Andrew was over the moon to have such a commission fall into his lap. The choirs were to be accompanied by players from the CBSO and be conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore. The whole project tied in perfectly with Andrew's World Music philosophy and the multicultural character of Birmingham. Andrew chose to set poems from Trinidad, China, India and Ireland as well as ones closer to home.

The songs:-
1. Autumn: setting of poem by Florence Hoatson (the arrival of Autumn)
2. Carnival: setting of traditional poem from Trinidad (tropical weather, monsoon, hurricanes, general excitement, World Beat and Sea Festivals)
3. The Mid Autumn Moon: setting of poem (adapted) by Li Qiao (China: Moon Festival)
4. The Cottager and her Infant: setting of poem by Dorothy Wordsworth (Celtic Europe: ‘Samhain’ - Hallowe’en, damp and misty, darkness coming)
5. Feast of Lights: setting of poem by Gouri V. Kalambi (India: ‘Navratri - festival time - ‘Diwali’)
6. Autumn Song: setting of poem by Margaret Rose (the end of Autumn)

Andrew made a backing track of synthesized sounds with Paula singing the vocal lines, which we sent around the schools so that the children could learn their parts. 

The songs were first performed on 13th October 2003 by 1200 children from Birmingham schools, with instrumentalists from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore.

Symphony Hall brochure


Email from Nia Derry, Head of Educational projects at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, following the premiere


Subsequent performers of the work include children from Lichfield schools, conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore, at the Lichfield Festival in July 2004;

Lichfield Festival programme 2004


choristers and instrumentalists from South Hampstead High School for Girls (London), conducted by Paula, in November 2003 (4 songs) and November 2004 (3 songs);

Programme for South Hampstead High School for girls choral concert, 2003

Birmingham schoolchildren with the Central England Ensemble, conducted by David Gaukroger, in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in November 2004. 

In 2019, the Meridian Singers, directed by Paula gave the following performances:
in June 2019 in St.John the Baptist Church, Holywell, Cambridgeshire (Song 2: Carnival); in July 2019 in Bluntisham Baptist Church, Cambridgeshire (Song 2: Carnival) and a performance of the whole work in October 2019 in Somersham Baptist Church. At the Somersham performance of the whole work, Paula directed from the violin and was accompanied by Joshua Cusworth (trumpet), David Cammish (bass guitar) and Olga Elbourn (keyboard).


The first USA performance was given by children in Cambridge, Massachusetts, directed by Paula.



In June 2016, Paula created six animations based on Songs of Autumn. She then went on to create lesson plans for primary school teachers based on these songs.

During Andrew Downes' 70th birthday year, on 14th November 2020, the Feast of Lights animation was shared online for Diwali.

Instrumental arrangements, by me, of the songs, have been performed on numerous occasions by instrumentalists in Worcestershire. Song no.4, The Cottager and her Infant, in its instrumental arrangement, was performed by the Hagley Community Orchestra, conducted by me, at the Christening of our grandson, Oscar Andrew Leonard Price, in St Saviour's Church, Hagley, on March 18th, 2007.





SONGS OF THE SKIES
More info and sheet music

Songs of the Skies: Celebrating British Airways in Europe.
For children and/or community choir with Chamber Orchestra or backing track.
Poetry by schoolchildren coached by Julie Boden.

Commissioned by Symphony Hall, Birmingham, with financial assistance from British Airways, for first performance on 3rd October 2005, by over a thousand children from Birmingham schools, with Central England Ensemble (Leader Anna Downes), conducted by the composer.

Following the success of his Songs of Autumn, Andrew received another commission from Symphony Hall, Birmingham, this time in collaboration with British Airways in Birmingham, who employed Symphony Hall Poet in Residence, Julie Boden, to coach Birmingham school children to write the words.

Singers from Birmingham schools were to be accompanied by Central England Ensemble, led by our daughter Anna and conducted by Andrew.
Again Andrew made a backing track of synthesized sounds and Paula sang the words on the CD, so that the children had a model to rehearse with.

I led the violas in the concert. During the rehearsal the performers, at Andrew's instigation, all sang Happy Birthday to me. I certainly had a Birthday to remember that year! As with Songs of Autumn, the Songs of the Skies went amazingly well.

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Symphony Hall Programme


Notes by Andrew Downes for his speech before the concert


Paula Downes directed subsequent performances of Songs 1, 2 and 4 at Linnaen Community School, Cambridge, Massachusetts USA, in April 2006, and all 6 songs at Haileybury College, Hertford Heath, UK, in March 2010. 

In May 2016, Paula created six animations based on Songs of the Skies, which she launched on YouTube. She then went on to create lesson plans for primary school teachers based on these songs.

In June and October 2019, she directed The Meridian Singers in a performance of Song 4 at the Patronal Festival in St John the Baptist Church, Holywell, Cambridgeshire, followed by a performance of the whole work in Bluntisham Baptist Church, Cambridge. For this performance, Paula created a multimedia performance with her videos on a big screen behind the choir and accompanying live instrumentalists also played: Paul & Isabelle Galluzzo (violins), Amy Galluzzo (viola), Claire Stevenson (cello), Rhys Wilson (guitar), David Camish (bass guitar), Bradley Galluzzo (drum kit) and Olga Elbourn (keyboard).

Meridian Singers Concert Programme

In 2018/19 she created adaptations of these songs & animations for Dr Hugh Hunt's campaign to warn people of global warming and advocate drastic reduction of travel by air and by car, and also to convey the messages that we should reduce our plastic & food waste. She called these adaptations "Songs for the Planet".

She has also created a series of lesson resources on Climate Change for all ages based on these songs and animations here.
6 songs:-
1. Lift your Eyes up to the Skies (Climate Change version: "We need to stop flying")
2. We are Flying Out to Elmdon (Climate Change version: "Avoiding the car")
3. Ghazal of Italy: Milan and Rome (Climate Change Version: "Zero Waste Shopping") See "The Sacred Influences on the Music of Andrew Downes" at musiceducationwhiz.com regarding this song
4. In Barcelona (Climate Change version: "Reducing Plastic Waste")
5. Où est Lyon? (Climate Change version: "Reducing Food Waste")
6. Questioning the Clouds (Climate Change Version: "We all need to talk")

A backing track with synthesised sounds and vocal parts added by Paula Downes, soprano, was made available for use by schools. 

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SONGS FOR THE PLANET
Songs about Climate Change

More info and sheet music

From the original Songs of the Skies, first shared online in 2018/19, Paula created adaptations of these songs and animations for Dr Hugh Hunt's campaign to warn people of global warming and advocate drastic reduction of travel by air and by car, and also to convey the messages that we should reduce our plastic and food waste and that we should talk about it. View Climate Change videos here. She has also created a series of lesson resources on Climate Change for all ages based on these songs and animations here.

6 songs:-

1. "We need to stop flying"

2. "Avoiding the car"

3. "Zero Waste Shopping"

4. "Reducing Plastic Waste"

5. "Reducing Food Waste"

6. "We all need to talk"

On March 28th, 2020, Paula was going to conduct a live multimedia performance of Songs for the Planet with Meridian Singers in Bluntisham Baptist Church, Cambridgeshire, with the choirs of St Helen's Primary and Thorndown School and Over Community Choir, directed by Aggie Peach. Paula's films were going to be shown on a screen while the singers sang along to the backing track and live instrumentalists. This sadly had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus.

Poster for Meridian Singers' Concert

On 3rd July 2020 Paula shared "We need to stop flying" online during the Coronavirus pandemic and Andrew’s 70th birthday year.

On October 24th 2020, as part of Andrew’s 70th birthday year, she posted online a new multitrack recording of all of the Songs for the Planet, with synthesised sounds by Martin Carman, a member of the Meridian Singers, and string playing and singing by Paula.  

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Have you performed in any of these works or come to watch?

We would love to hear about your experience. Please share it here!


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If you have performed in any of Andrew Downes' works or come to listen, please share your experiences in the Premieres Blog! Also see what others have said. Thank you so much for your contribution.



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