|One of the
very first people Patricia and I met when we came to Stafford in March 1964 was Reg.
Browning, local solicitor and hugely knowledgeable amateur musician who also wrote arts
criticisms in the Rugeley Times under the nom de plume "Brave Galuppi",
showing even then his Robert Browning colours!
Many years later Reg. asked if I would set some
Browning for him and his wife Veronica and the result was Pippa Passes, premièred
in 2011 at St Marys by Yvonne Howard and the English Piano Trio. Sadly Veronica had
died before the work was finished; but thrilled by Yvonnes performance of Pippa
Reg. then wondered if I might set some of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from
the Portuguese for him. Some years before, Spode House (part of what was then
Hawksyard Priory near Armitage) had run regular arts events, including evenings of music
and poetry recitations, and at one of these the Brownings had recited the opening sonnet
"I thought once how Theocritus had sung" and the penultimate one "How do I
love thee? Let me count the ways."
|In the end I
decided to set a third of the Sonnets, opening and closing with Regs suggestions,
and the result is the present song-cycle, dedicated to Yvonne Howard. Reg. had been
so thrilled to meet her at the Pippa première. Sadly he died before the work was
finished; but it was a great pleasure to welcome his family to St Mary's Collegiate Church
Stafford for the Sonnets premiere on May 18th 2013 - and hopefully also
Reg. and Veronica in spirit.
The première was hugely successful. Yvonne Howard and pianist Roy Wightman gave
a truly memorable and moving first performance and there is a link, top left, celebrating
what was a very special evening. More than that, you can view the whole performance
online: https://vimeo.com/74452615 with our
Then on July 20th 2013 Yvonne Howard and her Scottish pianist Scott Mitchell recorded
the work at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Again, this was a
remarkable occasion, with breath-taking ensemble and empathy and this recording is now
available for purchase, both by download and also as an audio CD.
Follow the links, top left, for the RNCM page and for the CD and Downloads page -
or simply click here to access the Downloads page.
There are also pages setting out the background to the writing of the Sonnets from
the Portuguese and of my settings for them, and a commentary accompanies the text of
the sixteen sonnets selected, ending of course with "How do I love thee? Let me count
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