Cantamus Girls' Choir LP, 1982, which includes Andrew Downes' O Vos Omnes for unaccompanied high voices. The butterfly emblem is important for Downes' Butterfly, explained below.
September 14th 1985
St John's, Smith Square, London
DH Lawrence Centenary Festival Concert
Cantamus Girls' Choir
Pamela Cook Director
Michael Neaum Piano
July 5th 2014
Pamela Cook Memorial Concert
St Mary's Church, High Pavement, Nottingham
Cantamus Girls' Choir
Ann Irons Director
Pianists Philip Robinson and Michael Neaum
More information and sheet music
An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on May 16th, 2022
PIANO Opus 32 (1985)
Setting of the poem by DH Lawrence for high voices (SSSA with divisions) with piano accompaniment.
The late Pamela Cook CBE, who taught singing at Birmingham Conservatoire, had become a great friend of Andrew’s following the success of Andrew’s Latin motet, O Vos Omnes, which Andrew composed for Pamela’s prestigious, international prize-winning girls’ choir, Cantamus, in 1981. Cantamus won the Vienna Youth and Music Festival prize and also the City of Vienna prize including O Vos Omnes in their programme. The choir continued to give many performances of the motet and included it on their commercial LP record in 1982.
Cantamus LP back cover (front cover above):
My blog post entitled ‘Choral Works for Unaccompanied High Voices’ gives a full account of O Vos Omnes.
Pamela Cook went on to ask Andrew for another work, this time to celebrate the birth centenary of DH Lawrence. Cantamus is based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, where Pam lived. Nottinghamshire is rightly proud of its poet. Andrew and I enjoyed ourselves reading through the poetry of DH Lawrence and found a perfect poem in Piano. Andrew composed a wonderful setting, which the choir loved. The choir was awarded funds from East Midlands Arts for the commission. The first performance took place in St John's, Smith Square, London, on September 14th 1985 in the choir’s DH Lawrence Centenary Festival Concert entitled "Shall We Sing Thee Summat?" Cantamus were accompanied by pianist Michael Neaum, and conducted by Pamela Cook, of course.
Correspondence, advertising, programme:
After the premiere we were delighted to read the following comment in the Guardian newspaper:
'Andrew Downes' treatment of the poem was carefully crafted so as to echo musically the atmosphere of nostalgia and reminiscence bordering on strong passion, contained within the text.' THE GUARDIAN
Cantamus gave 2 further performances that year in Mansfield and Nottingham.
Not long afterwards, Cantamus recorded Piano for two BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, which went out in August 1987 and February 1988. Andrew was thrilled!
Pam regularly performed the song in her concerts with Cantamus, throughout the UK and on tours in the USA, Japan, Germany, Finland and Australia. In 2012, for example, they gave three performances, at the Oundle International Festival and venues in Worksop and Nottingham. The following email exchange with Pam was only shortly before Pam died. She in fact worked until 4 days before her death in 2013, fully intending to go on the choir’s tour to Austria.
Alongside Andrew’s work, Butterfly, composed for the memorial concert for Pamela Cook in 2014, Piano was performed by Cantamus, conducted by Ann Irons and accompanied by Stefan Reid, in St Mary's Church, Greasley, in June 2016, and both works were included in the Choir's repertoire for their tour of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide at the end of July 2016.
Pamela had also directed the Birmingham Conservatoire Singers, with accompanist Joyce Woodhead, and gave another beautiful performance of the work in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, in May 1991.
Piano has been performed by a number of other choirs on numerous occasions and has always proved popular with performers and audiences alike:
The Halesowen Girls' Choir, with accompanist Keith Bradley, conducted by Margaret Pickford, have performed Piano on many occasions. They were first prize winners at the Catshill Festival, Worcestershire (June 1992) and the Dudley Festival (March 1996) singing the work, and also included it in their programme for the 1994 Sainsbury's Choir of the Year Competition. Our daughters, Anna and Paula, sang in Margaret’s choir throughout their teens and took part in many concerts with them.
Halesowen Girls' Choir details, programmes, photo:
Halesowen Girls' Choir at Sainsbury's Choir of the Year, Andrew Downes back left
Cheltenham Ladies College, directed by John Wright, included the work in their programme for the Cheltenham Competitive Festival 1995, and in concerts at the College.
Cheltenham Ladies' College Correspondence and programme:
Our daughters, Anna and Paula, sang in the Haybridge High School Choir throughout their time at the school, and introduced Piano to their Head of Music, Heather Fairs, with the result that Heather conducted the choir in performances of the work in St Saviour's Church, Hagley, in March 1995, and at Haybridge High School, Hagley, in May 1995. When Anna was a Year 13 A level Music student, she conducted the choir in a performance of the work at the Worcester Music Festival in March 2000. At each of these performances the accompanist was their other well-loved music teacher and fine pianist, the late Maureen Lloyd Jones.
Haybridge High School Programmes:
South Hampstead High School for Girls Singers, and Sine Nomine Youth Choir, both choirs conducted by our daughter Paula, have also performed the song.
In March 2013, Paula, with accompanist David Trippett, recorded all the voice parts of this work for Soundcloud and created an animation/music video in 2016. The recording took place in the Studio of Birmingham Conservatoire. Matthew O'Malley was the recording engineer. Paula’s animation can be viewed below.
In February and June 2017 and in January 2018 the work was performed in Cambridge, in the Chapels of Christ's College, Jesus College and Trinity College respectively, by the Cantabrigians, directed by Paula.
Posters, programmes and thanks:
BUTTERFLY Opus 104 (2013)
Setting of the poem by DH Lawrence for high voices (SSAA) with piano accompaniment.
Pamela Cook, founder and director of the famous Cantamus Girls’ choir, sadly died in 2013. Her choir, with their new director, Ann Irons (trained by Pam), immediately set about organising a Memorial concert in her name. Ann Irons contacted Andrew to ask for a new work for this sad and special occasion. Andrew was very pleased to be asked, particularly when Ann told him that out of all the composers who had written for them, the girls unanimously voted him as their preferred composer for the commission!
This is Andrew’s email to Ann:
5th October 2013:
Thank you so much for your lovely letter. Pam was a wonderful
woman and a very lovely and special person, and I am honoured to write a
new work in memory of her. I have, actually, made a start on the new
piece as I am slower these days, and need the time bearing in mind the
deadline. Would you be wanting the completed work around April to allow
for sufficient learning time?
The poem I have chosen is beautiful I
think, and more suitable than any other DH Lawrence poem (I have the
complete poems). It's called 'Butterfly'. The problem is, it will be a
through composed piece (not in sections which can be used separately)
and will need a fairly difficult piano part. Will that be OK?
Ann sent this amazing reply:
It's wonderful that you have started work on the piece already, and it is no problem that it will be through composed. The difficulty of the piano part will not be problematic.
The poem you have chosen is perfect. I wonder, did you know the significance of the butterfly to Cantamus or is the choice of 'Butterfly' coincidental? It's just that the choir's emblem is a butterfly and whenever we travel abroad, the girls take butterfly pins to give to other choirs that we meet.
This year in Graz, the butterfly took on a whole new significance. As you know, Pamela died on the Thursday before we travelled to Austria on the Sunday. Wherever we went, the girls saw a butterfly, even in the changing room before they competed. It was as if Pamela was with us, and we all felt it. So perhaps it was butterfly time in Graz, but it was truly uncanny.
When your email arrived I was thrilled and very moved by your choice of poem which is so beautiful but also quite perfect.
It would indeed be very helpful if you could let us have the piece in April as you suggest.
Many thanks again.
With best wishes,
Andrew composed a most beautiful setting of DH Lawrence’s poem. Ann wrote back:
'Butterfly' is perfect! I can't wait to start it with the girls. Thank you so much for all your hard work. I think it would be good to have the poem printed on the inside cover.
I can only begin to attempt the piano accompaniment but it is easy to see it will be exquisite.
Thank you so very much again.
Best wishes for a lovely Christmas.
Thank you for your email. I'm so thrilled that you like Butterfly
so much. I can't wait to hear you do it with the choir! We'll get 45
copies to you with the poem in the front in the new year. In the
meantime, Cynthia and I wish you and Cantamus a very happy Christmas and
Front page of the score, including the butterfly drawing, created by Cynthia Downes.
So the world premiere of this work, commissioned by Ann Irons and Cantamus Girls' Choir, in memory of their late founder and conductor, Pamela Cook, with funds provided by donations, took place at the Pamela Cook Memorial Concert in St Mary's Church, High Pavement, Nottingham, on 5th July 2014. The huge church was packed with a capacity audience. Pianists Philip Robinson and Michael Neaum accompanied the choir. Ann Irons directed the performance.
Andrew’s thank you email to Ann
Cynthia and I would just like to express our gratitude for a fantastic, moving and highly evocative interpretation and first performance of 'Butterfly'! It was truly wonderful for us to be able to attend the premiere, and if you decide to do more performances of it, please let us know.
Please thank the two pianists for their inspiring playing, and also Sheila for her kindness when we arrived.
If and when you're next in touch with Jeff*, would you mind telling him how sorry we were not to have seen him yesterday. At the end of the first half, he was surrounded by people, and we really had to get home.
Once again, Ann, yesterday evening was amazing for us, and thank you, and a very, very special thanks to all the girls who took part.
With very best wishes,
Andrew and Cynthia (* Jeff was Pam’s husband)
The same musicians gave their second performance of the work in their concert at the Mansfield Palace Theatre on 22nd February 2015. Their concert followed the unveiling of a bronze bust of Pamela Cook, which stands in the theatre foyer alongside the bust of John Ogdon.
Happy new year!
I promised to let you know when we would be performing Butterfly next. It will be at the Mansfield Palace Theatre on Sun. 22nd Feb at 3.00.
This concert will follow the unveiling of a bronze bust of Pamela which will live in the Theatre foyer alongside the bust of John Ogden.
If you are interested in attending the occasion, please let me know and I will organise tickets for you.
With best wishes,
The work was then performed by the choir, accompanied by Stefan Reid, alongside Andrew’s other work for Cantamus, Piano, in St Mary's Church, Greasley, in June 2016, and both works were included in the choir's repertoire for their tour of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide at the end of July 2016.
Cantamus performed the work in the Albert Hall, Nottingham, in October 2018.
In February and June 2017 and in January 2018 the work was performed in Cambridge, in the Chapels of Christ's College, Jesus College and Trinity College respectively, by The Cantabrigians, directed by our daughter Paula. They sang Piano in the same concerts, as can be seen from the programme above in the history of Piano account.
Further Cantabrigians posters:
In 2020 Paula created a multitrack recording of Butterfly, singing all the parts herself and accompanied by David Trippett. To go with the recording, she made a film of butterflies in Cambridgeshire. The film was first shared online on August 26th 2020, for Andrew's 70th birthday celebrations. Here is the film:
Two other works by Andrew fall into the SSA with piano category:
MARCH: "COME, LET US ADORE HIM." from Christmas Cantata
Arrangement of Movement 5 for SA and optional TB Choir with Piano and Side Drum. Listen to original version with orchestra.
INTERLUDE 1 from Andrew Downes’ children's opera, Odysseus and the Cyclops - SSA & piano
We would love to hear about your experience. Please share it here!
Follow Cynthia Downes on Instagram to keep up-to-date with her blog posts: