Paula Downes in her film adaptation of Andrew Downes' Song Cycle, Old Love's Domain
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Soloists with piano accompaniment
Soloists with instrumental accompaniment (some with piano reduction)
Soprano soloist with symphony orchestra (piano reduction available)
SACRED MASS FOR SOLO VOICE Opus 96 (2007) 20'
This work was composed for Paula Downes (soprano), who gave the first performance in a recital at the Chapel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA on March 6th 2008.
Paula Downes gave the first UK performance of the work on January 24th 2014 at St Martin's in the Bullring, Birmingham, with further performances at Keats House Museum, Hampstead, London, in May 2016 (this performance can be viewed by clicking on the link above), in the Church of St Andrew Chesterton, Cambridge, in October 2016, in Brecon Cathedral, Wales, in August 2017 and in the Chapel of the Grange Wellington Hotel, Westminster, as part of The Brandenburg Choral Festival of London, in January 2018. Paula also sang the work antiphonally with Charlotte Ives in the same Chapel of the Grange Wellington Hotel, Westminster, as part of The Brandenburg Choral Festival of London, in September 2017. In July 2019, Paula sang the work as part of her solo recital in St Andrew's Church, Rugby.
Paula Downes has performed individual movements on 2 occasions in St Saviour's Church, Hagley, Worcestesrshire: the Benedictus and Agnus Dei from the work in July 2010, and the Sanctus and Benedictus at the Christening of her daughter, Emilia Grace Trippett, the composer's granddaughter, on 10th May 2015.
Paula Downes also performed the Kyrie from the Mass outside the BBC Headquarters in London, as part of a concert for Extinction Rebellion, in December 2018.
Soloists with piano accompaniment
CASTERBRIDGE FAIR Opus 1 (1973) 11'
A setting of 5 Thomas Hardy poems for baritone and piano, The poems are: The Ballad Singer; Former Beauties; A Wife Waits; After the Club Dance; After the Fair.
View Score (This link will open a new browser)
Listen on soundcloud
This Song Cycle was first performed by Michael George, accompanied by Ruth Gerald, at the opening concert in the newly built Recital Hall of the Birmingham School of Music (later renamed Birmingham Conservatoire) on June 11th 1973.
Andrew Downes himself performed the songs, with accompanist Angela Sleeman, at Thames Valley College, Twickenham, Middlesex, in October 1974.
The work was a prize winner in the 1980 Stroud Festival International Composers' Competition, and was performed in the Prizewinners' Recital at Wycliffe College, Gloucestershire, by Malcolm Singer (baritone) and Christine Crowshaw (piano), in October 1980, as part of the Stroud Festival.
Several performances of the songs have since been given by students from Birmingham Conservatoire, in particular the prizewinning performance of the 2015 Andrew Downes Performance Prize competition, given by Andrew Randall (baritone) with Tingting Yao (piano), in the Conservatoire Recital Hall. Andrew Randall and Tingting Yao performed the work again in their prizewinners' recital in March 2017, again in the Birmingham Conservatoire Recital Hall. This was one of the last recitals in this hall before Birmingham Conservatoire was demolished and moved to it's newly built premises at Millennium Point, Birmingham.
'...the songs impressed by their expressive and beautifully shaped vocal line and simple though telling accompaniments.'
THE MUSICAL TIMES
OLD LOVE'S DOMAIN Opus 29 (1983) 21'
A setting of 5 Thomas Hardy poems for tenor or soprano and piano. The poems are: The Division; Something Tapp'd; Where the Picnic Was; At Castle Boterel; The Curtains Now Are Drawn.
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Watch Music Video (film adaptation and performance by soprano Paula Downes)
Listen on soundcloud (tenor John Mitchinson)
View educational resources at musiceducationwhiz.com:
Analysis & Performance
This work was commissioned by John Mitchinson and recorded by him, accompanied by pianist Michael Pollock, for BBC Radio 3 on 4th June 1985 at the BBC Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham. This first performance was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 28th October 1985. John Mitchinson, with Michael Pollock, gave subsequent performances on Radio 3, and with Mark Racz he performed the cycle in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, in December 1987.
in December 1999 Songs 2 and 5 from the Cycle were performed by Nicola Ogborn, accompanied by Jane Samuel, in the Sir Geraint Evans Recital Room of the Welsh College of music and Drama
The songs have since been performed on numerous occasions by Paula Downes, accompanied respectively by Verene Rimlinger, Anna Downes, Mark Williams, Andrew Tortise, Heather Fairs, Nicholas Wright, Duncan Honeybourne, Gillian Cracknell and David Trippett. Performances by these artists have taken place at: the Candili Singing Course, Greece (August 1999); St John's Church, Hagley (September 1999); the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge (November 1999); the Bateman Auditorium of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge (January 2000); the Master's Lodge of Trinity College, Cambridge, (February 2000); the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (May 2001); Chateau Impney, Droitwich, Worcestershire (2 songs, July 2001); Birmingham Cathedral (July 2002); Hanley Swan Church, Worcestershire (2 Songs, October 2002); the ‘Festival Musiques en Mer’ Mediterranean Cruise (August 2002); Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth (April 2003); Weymouth Music Club (July 2003); Kidderminster Town Hall (final song, September 2003); the Art Gallery, Wednesbury (April 2004); St Sepulchre's Church, Holborn, London (February 2005); the Church of St John the Evangelist, Bowdain Street, Boston, Massachussets, USA (September 2008); Bristol (UK) Music Club (February 2014); and the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Munster Square, London, as part of the Markson's Pianos Concert Series (September 2017).
Paula Downes recorded the work with David Trippett at Birmingham Conservatoire in July 2000 on a CD of song cycles by Andrew Downes, entitled 'Old Love's Domain', produced by Chris Wilson. See the link above.
In February 2011, Paula Downes with David Trippett (piano) re-recorded the cycle. Using this recording, Paula made a series of 5 films depicting the songs, which she completed in October 2012. View films. These are also on a DVD of short films by Paula Downes, of songs by Andrew Downes, entitled Songs of Love and War. Click on the link above to purchase.
In a concert of music by Andrew Downes on June 21st 2005, in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham (to mark the retirement of the composer from Birmingham Conservatoire), the cycle was performed by tenor Julian Pike with accompanist Simon Nicholls. Julian Pike, accompanied by Duncan Honeybourne, then performed the cycle at the 2006 Thomas Hardy Festival in Dorchester, Dorset.
'...on the words "my weary beloved's face", as tenor Julian Pike quietly created a key change and two sparse chords chimed on the piano, there came that sudden, involuntary rush of emotion that told you this was the real thing.
'This masterly, haunting cycle made a poignant finish to a genuinely affecting evening of Downes' music.' Richard Bratby BIRMINGHAM POST
Articles on Analysis and Performance of Old Love's Domain, accompanied by the films, has been written for www.musiceducationwhiz.com, in articles entitled:
Analysis and Performance through Film: Song No. 2, 'Something Tapped'
Analysis and Performance through Film: Song No. 3, 'Where the Picnic Was'
Analysis and Performance through Film: Song No.4, 'At Castle Boterel'
Analysis and Performance through Film: Song No.5, 'The Curtains Now Are Drawn'
(these links will open new browsers)
These films are also used in a Key Stage 3 lesson on the Music Education Website: www.musiceducationwhiz.com (this link will open a new browser), as part of a cross-curricular lesson on Thomas Hardy.
Paula Downes in her film adaptation of Andrew Downes' Songs from Spoon River, 2008
SONGS FROM SPOON RIVER Opus 39 (1986) 22'
A setting of 5 poems from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology for mezzo soprano and piano. The poems are: Ollie McGee; Russian Sonia; Rebecca Wasson; Dora Williams; Sarah Brown.
View Score (This link will open a new browser)
Watch Music Video
These songs were composed for Sarah Walker and recorded by her, with pianist Roger Vignoles, at St George’s Brandon Hill, Bristol, for BBC Radio 3 on December 8th 1988. This recording was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on July 22nd 1990.
The songs were performed at the Tanglewood Festival in August 1994 by New York Metropolitan Opera Soloist, Stephanie Blythe; and at the University of New Mexico Composers' Symposium in March 1995 by Carin Logue with pianist, Joe McCanna.
This cycle has subsequently been performed on numerous occasions by Paula Downes, accompanied by David Trippett, Ian Palmer, and Laura Temim respectively. Performances by these artists have taken place at: the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge (May 2000); the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (June 2000); the Conservatoire National de Region d'Aubervillers, Paris (April 2001); the ‘Festival Musiques en Mer’ Mediterranean Cruise (August 2002); Kidderminster Town Hall as part of the Kidderminster Music Festival (final song, September 2003); Church Stretton & South Shropshire Arts Festival (July 2004); the National Portrait Gallery, London (August 2004); the Cathedral Church of St Paul, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (songs 4 & 5, November 2007); Taylor House, Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (songs 4 & 5, November 2007); the Church of St John the Evangelist, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, (April 2008); Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, Massachusetts, USA (October 2008); and the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Munster Square, London, as part of the Markson's Pianos Concert Series (September 2017).
Paula recorded the work with David Trippett in July 2000 on a CD of song cycles by Andrew Downes, entitled 'Old Love's Domain'. Songs from Spoon River from this CD has been broadcast on Rhubarbradio.com and many times on Musicians Page Radio, Los Angeles, USA. To purchase the CD, click on the link above.
In November 2008, Paula Downes with David Trippett (piano) re-recorded the cycle. Using this recording, Paula made a series of 5 films depicting the songs, which she completed in December 2009. These films were premiered at Andrew Downes' 60th Birthday Concert at Birmingham Conservatoire on November 29th 2010. View films
In this same concert, the songs were also given a live performance by Rose Mitchell (mezzo-soprano) and David Arthur (piano).
A theatrical production of the songs, directed by Rena Sharon, took place at the Frederick Wood Theatre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada on 24th June 2011.
Paula Downes' films of the songs are now also on her new DVD of short films entitled Songs of Love and War. Click on the link above to purchase.
Paula's films of Songs from Spoon River were showcased in the Spring Selection of the American Online Film Awards 2014, and were chosen as one of the 3 nominees for an award. They were shown at the National Film Theatre, London, on April 17th 2016.
In April 2019, Paula sang 'Sarah Brown' from the cycle in a concert about birds at East Finchley Methodist Church. Paula was accompanied by Richard Black.
On May 26th 2019 the songs were given their Welsh premiere by mezzo-soprano, Rachel Hickman, with her accompanist, Mark Thompson, at The Big Retreat Festival, Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire.
SONGS OF LOVE Opus 91 (2006) 18’
Settings of 4 poems for high soprano and piano.
The poems are: How do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet; One Blessing Had I by Emily Dickinson; and I Love Thee by Eliza Acton. The songs were composed for Paula Downes (soprano) and David Trippett (piano), who gave the first performance at University Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA on Thursday February 1st 2007. The UK premiere was given by Jenny Saunders (soprano) and Julian Hellaby (piano) at the Ellen Terry Building, Coventry University, on February 28th 2009. One Blessing Had I from the cycle was performed by Harrah Friedlander accompanied by Jason Carlson at Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA in June 2012. The whole work was performed in the Recital Hall of Birmingham Conservatoire, in the final of the 2015 Andrew Downes Performance Prize competition, by Eleanor Hodkinson (soprano) with Tingting Yao (piano). Paula Downes performed the cycle with pianist, Tony Bridgewater, in their recitals at the Gateway Arts Centre, Shrewsbury, in October 2017, at St Andrew's Church, Rugby, in July 2018 and at St Alphege Church, Solihull, also in July 2018.
In February 2011, Paula Downes with David Trippett (piano) recorded the cycle. Using this recording, Paula made a series of 4 films depicting the songs, which she completed in August 2011. View films. These are also on the DVD of short films by Paula Downes entitled Songs of Love and War. Click on the link above to purchase.
In October and November 2018, Paula Downes with accompanist, Clare Bullimore, performed I Love Thee from the cycle, as part of concerts and discussions on climate change, led by Dr Hugh Hunt, in St Clement's Church, Cambridge, Trinity College OCR, Cambridge, and Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Cambridge.
In April 2019, Paula sang 'I Love Thee' from the cycle in a concert about birds at East Finchley Methodist Church. Paula was accompanied by Richard Black.
An arrangement by Lee Armstrong for soprano solo and strings was given its world premiere at St George's Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham (UK), on May 10th 2010, by Paula Downes (soprano) and the Central England Ensemble conducted by Lee Armstrong. These same artists gave a second performance of this arrangement on December 8th 2010 in Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery.
FINISHED FIELDS Opus 95 (2007) 20'
A cycle of 4 songs to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the death of Wilfred Owen.
The songs are settings of poems by this great World War 1 poet: 1914; Futility; Asleep; Happiness. The songs were composed for Jonathan Pugsley (baritone) and Duncan Honeybourne (piano), who gave the first performance at St Mary’s Church, Weymouth, Dorset, on Wednesday November 12th 2008, in a concert entitled Finished Fields, marking the 90th anniversary of both the death of Wilfred Owen and the end of World War 1. The concert was repeated on Friday November 14th at Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall, Staffordshire.
Paula Downes (soprano) and David Trippett (piano) gave the USA premiere at the Memorial Church, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 27th 2009, and a subsequent performance at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England, in October 2010.
In February 2011, Paula Downes with David Trippett (piano) recorded the cycle. Using this recording, Paula made a series of 4 films depicting the songs, which she completed in August 2012. View films. These are also on the DVD of short films by Paula Downes entitled Songs of Love and War. Click on the link above to purchase.
In October and November 2018, Paula Downes with accompanist, Clare Bullimore, performed the songs as part of concerts and discussions on climate change, led by Dr Hugh Hunt, in St Clement's Church, Cambridge, Trinity College OCR, Cambridge, and Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Cambridge.
These films are used on the Music Education Website, www.musiceducationwhiz.com (this link will open a new browser) as part of a cross-curricular lesson on the First World War.
CELTIC RHAPSODY FOR SOPRANO AND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (piano reduction available)
THE DOOR OF WINTER (2 songs available with piano reduction)
Soloists with instrumental accompaniment
FIVE HOLY SONGS Opus 11 (1976) 20'
A setting of 5 poems by John Donne for counter-tenor, mezzo-soprano or baritone with 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 'cellos and double bass. The poems are: I Sing the Progress of a Deathless Soul; Spit in my Face Ye Jews; The Virgins; When Senses, Which They Soldiers Are; Hear us, O Hear us, Lord.
First performed on 17th November 1975 in the Recital Hall of the Birmingham School of Music by Andrew Downes, accompanied by Caroline Mounsey, Stephen Muth, Kevin Vaughan (violins), Penny Midmer, Susan Ward (violas), David Thorne, Catherine Clarke (cellos) and Roderick Dunk (double bass). These artists gave subsequent performances of the work at Ripple Church, Upton-on-Severn, as part of the Upton Association of the Arts concert series (April 1976), and at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge (May 1976).
LOST LOVE Opus 15 (1977) 15'
A setting of 4 Thomas Hardy poems for soprano soloist with tenor recorder/flute; viol da gamba/cello; harpsichord/piano.
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Listen to a live performance
Watch Music Video
The poems are: The Walk; Lost Love; A Night in November; Last Love Word.
These songs were commissioned by the Musica Antiqua Soloists and first performed by Catherine James (soprano), Patricia Bird (recorder), Jean Gubbins (viol da Gamba) and David Walters (harpsichord) in St Columbia Church, Moseley, on March 20th 1978. These artists then performed the work again in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in March 1978, and at Aston University Centre for the Arts in October 1978.
Subsequent performances have taken place in Birmingham Cathedral (by the same artists in November 1988 and by Catherine James with the Halcyon Ensemble in January 1987); in the Recital Hall of Birmingham Conservatoire (by Gillian Robinson with Instrumentalists from the 20th Century Workshop in June 1987); in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham; in St.James Church, Wollaston (by Paula Downes, soprano, Eliza Marshall, flute, Yvonne Parsons, cello and Mike Smith, piano, in June 2002); and at Cambridge University at student recitals, given in Trinity College (by Paula Downes, soprano, Kirsten Howie, flute, Tim Rowe, cello and Matthew Price, piano, in November 1998) and Queen's College (by Georgeanna Williams, soprano, Kirsten Howie, flute, Hannah Thomas, cello and James Weeks, piano, in February 1999).
In the USA, notable performances have been given at King's Chapel, Boston, by Paula Downes (soprano), David Trippett (harpsichord), Arielle Hansen (flute) and Elizabeth Main (cello) in October 2006, and at the MIT Chapel, Cambridge, Massachusetts by Paula Downes (soprano), David Trippett (harpsichord), Jen Bliss (recorder) and Hannah Thomas (cello) in February 2009.
In July 2000, Paula Downes with David Trippett (piano), Debbie Martin (flute) and Yvonne Parsons (cello) recorded the work for CD, Produced by Chris Wilson, at Birmingham Conservatoire. To purchase this CD, click on the link above.
In February 2011, Paula Downes with David Trippett (piano), Sarah Mondon (flute) and Joanne Jefferis (cello) recorded the cycle. Using this recording, Paula made a series of 4 films depicting the songs, which she completed in July 2012. View films. These are also on the DVD of short films by Paula Downes entitled Songs of Love and War. Click on the link above to purchase.
DREAM-LAND Opus 42 (1988) 20'
Poem by Edgar Allen Poe set to music for soprano voice, soprano saxophone and piano (the soprano saxophone can be substituted with clarinet in Bb or violin, for which parts are available).
Watch film (with Soprano Saxophone)
Watch live performance (with violin)
Listen to the Soprano Saxophone version
Listen to the Violin version
This work was commissioned by 'Saxtet', with funds from West Midlands Arts, and first performed by Antonietta Pelosi (soprano), Nigel Wood (saxophone) and Caroline Costello (piano) in the Recital Hall of Birmingham Conservatoire on 7th December 1988. Numerous subsequent performances by different artists have taken place in Birmingham, London, other UK venues and the USA.
The USA premiere was given on 2nd November 2003 in New York by New York Metropolitan Opera soprano, Deborah Saverance, with Paul Cohen, saxophone, and David Maiullo, piano, in a concert entitled ‘Poe as Parlor Music’, in honour of the publication of Edgar Allan Poe - Poems and Poetics by the Library of America, produced by the New York Literary Roundtable for the New York Historical Society and presented by TimeOut New York.
‘The most striking examples of otherworldliness were in Andrew Downes’ Dream-Land (US premier), sung by Deborah Saverance with Paul Cohen on saxophone and David Maiullo on piano, and Leonard Bernstein’s Israfel… These two pieces, in their emotionally astute and beautifully sung arrangements, took Poe’s words far into the realm of the spirit.' PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY JOURNAL, FALL 2003 (Volume IV, no 2)
The first performance with clarinet (instead of soprano saxophone) was given by Paula Downes (soprano), Kylie Redman (clarinet) and David Trippett (piano) on August 17 2004 in the Church of St Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall, London.
The first performance with violin (instead of soprano saxophone) was given by Paula Downes (soprano), Anna Downes (violin) and Duncan Honeybourne (piano) on May 11th 2005 at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery. These same artists performed the work again (in this form) in Peterborough Cathedral in August 2014.
The first American performance with violin (instead of soprano saxophone) was given by Paula Downes (soprano), Anna Downes (violin) and David Trippett (piano) on October 26th 2005 at Adams House, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
In September 2016 the work was performed by the Amabile Trio (Paula Downes - soprano, Anna Downes - violin, and Ducan Honeybourne - piano) as part of Andrew Downes' 65th Birthday Concert at Birmingham Cathedral. Read the Birmingham Post Review.
In October 2016 Paula Downes, with Sally MacTaggart (soprano saxophone) and David Trippett (piano), performed the work in their recital in the OCR, Trinity College, Cambridge, and then recorded it in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, for CD and for Paula Downes' online animations.
THE FOUR SONGS OF BLUEBEARD'S WIFE Opus 105 (2014) 20'
A setting of 4 poems by Julie Boden for soprano soloist with violin and piano.
The poems are: Dawn; Noon; Evening; Night.
The story of Bluebeard is said to come from the folklore of Brittany, France. Bluebeard is a wealthy, powerful and ugly nobleman, who has been married several times to beautiful women, who have all mysteriously vanished. When Bluebeard visits his neighbour, he chooses the youngest daughter to be his wife - against her will - and she goes to live with him in his rich and luxurious palace in the countryside, away from her family.
Bluebeard announces that he must leave the country and gives the keys of the château to his wife. She is able to open the door to any room in the house with the keys. Each of the rooms contains some of Bluebeard's riches, except for an underground chamber that he strictly forbids her to enter, lest she suffer his wrath... The songs convey the feeling of foreboding as we fear the fate of this wife.
The songs were first performed by Paula Downes (soprano soloist), Anna Downes (violin) and Tony Bridgewater (piano) in the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery on 12th April 2017. Both Andrew Downes and Julie Boden were present at the premiere.
In April 2019, Paula, Anna and Tony performed 'Noon' from the cycle at Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge.
THE DOOR OF WINTER Opus 108 (2016) 20'
A setting of 5 poems by Bernard Davis for soprano soloist with violin, viola and piano.
The poems are: Man you are dust; Let go; A Canopy of Crows; My Friend the Heron; All Souls Night.
Listen to some of the songs
The poems are: Man you are dust; Let go; A Canopy of Crows; My Friend the Heron; All Souls Night.
As the titles suggest, the songs describe, in words and music, various aspects of autumn. They were first performed on 12th April 2017 in the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery by The Himley Quartet: Paula Downes (soprano soloist), Anna Downes (violin), Cynthia Downes (viola) and Tony Bridgewater (piano). Both Andrew Downes and Bernard Davis were present at the premiere. The Himley Quartet gave a second performance of the cycle in Great St Mary's University Church, Cambridge, in October 2017.
In 2019, Paula Downes created arrangements of Songs 3 and 4, 'A Canopy of Crows' and 'My Friend the Heron' for Soprano & Piano only for a concert about birds at East Finchley Methodist Church, London, in April 2019. Paula sang the songs with accompanist, Richard Black.
'WHAT SHALL I DO TO SHOW HOW MUCH I LOVE HER?'(words by Thomas Betterton)/WIND SONG (same music as 'What shall I do', but with Native American poetry), both for Soprano soloist and String Quartet
CONCERTO FOR NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE arranged for Soprano soloist and String Quartet
AWAITING DAWN, movement 3 of oratorio New Dawn, arranged for Soprano and String Quartet
Soprano Soloist with Symphony Orchestra
Three Celtic Poems: The Land Oversea, poem by unknown author from ancient Irish legend; The Meeting of the Waters by Thomas Moore; and Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats - set to music for Soprano Solo and Symphony Orchestra. Composed especially for Paula Downes, Anthony Bradbury and the Midland Youth Orchestra, who gave the first performance on 8th March 2003 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham.
'That an internationally recognised composer should wish to write a work as a present for his local youth orchestra is indeed an astonishing and deeply gratifying gesture... In fact the connections between the Downes family and the MYO go back to the very beginnings of this orchestra... Frank Downes, father of Andrew.. was the inspiration behind many of the MYO's early horn sections... Frank..taught horn-playing to so many of those players covering, perhaps, the first 20 years of the orchestra's history... Then, some 4 decades later, Frank's two granddaughters Paula and Anna both became violinists in the MYO. Each has had the opportunity to be leader of the orchestra, both very much on merit, and Anna (the current leader) has also been able to make an invaluable contribution to the health and well-being of the orchestra behind the scenes... Andrew, father of Anna and Paula, has been moved to give to the orchestra still more by composing Celtic Rhapsody for Soprano and Orchestra specially for it. His Celtic Rhapsody now links three generations of the Downes family to the Midland Youth Orchestra... It will be a great honour for all involved this evening that, with Paula, the orchestra will bring its own work to life for the very first time. Andrew, on behalf of the MYO, I give you my heartfelt thanks.' - Programme tribute from Stephen Williams, Chairman of the Midland Youth Orchestra.
'Gaelic culture..., pastoralism... and fairy tales... were given an engaging reworking in Saturday's premiere of Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody. Musically, the Celtic influence was most obvious in the high, sustained soprano lines of the three poem settings. Written for the composer's daughter, soloist Paula Downes, the cool beauty of her voice projected the atmospheric phrases... true and clear against the accompaniment. Authoritatively conducted by Anthony Bradbury, a generally confident orchestra was at its best in the first song (a simple, eloquent cello opening and arresting juxtapositions of lyricism with rollicking motifs) and the third's rousing close. This was preceded by a poignant duet which skilfully set Paula's pure timbres against the warm, moving violin playing of her sister (and MYO leader), Anna.' - THE BIRMINGHAM POST
Performances of this work in Bremen, Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven, North Germany, were given in March 2005, by Paula Downes and the Central England Ensemble, conducted by Anthony Bradbury.
'Der Solopart der Keltische Rhapsodie...erwies sich als genau zugeschnitten. Paula Downes...führte mit klarer Stimmführung und makelloser Intonation in eine anrührende vergangene Welt der Poesie. Die sanften Melismen wurden vom Orchester mitatmend begleitet.
'The solo part of the Celtic Rhapsody...proved to be...perfectly tailor made. Paula Downes...led with clear vocal projection and immaculate intonation into a moving bygone world of poetry. The orchestra accompanied as one the gentle melismas.' NORDSEE-ZEITUNG
In 2019, Paula Downes created a version of Celtic Rhapsody for Soprano with Piano Reduction to perform with pianist Tony Bridgewater in recitals. They premiered the arrangement in their recital at St James Church, Wollaston, Stourbridge, as part of the Local and Live concert series, on 4th May 2019. They performed the work again in St Alphege Church, Solihull, in July 2019. The piano reduction can be purchased above.
In May 2019, Paula Downes performed the work in its original form at the Hagley (Worcestershire) Music Festival with the Central England Camerata under Anthony Bradbury with leader Anna Downes. The same artists recorded the work the following day at the Foleyan Centre, Oldswinford Hospital School, with recording Engineer Paul Baker. Listen to the recording.