Even You Song
For Tr/ATB Choir, Children's Choir and Organ
(2016) 50 minutes
Libretto by Lucy Sheerman
Commissioned by Lucy Sheerman and Bettina Furnée with funds from Arts Council England. Premiered on 16th February 2017 at Peterborough Cathedral by Peterborough Cathedral Choir and schoolchildren from St. Augustine’s CE (VA) Junior School, Bishop Creighton Academy, West Town Primary Academy and William Law CE Primary School. Conducted by Steven Grahl, with David Humphreys, Organ.
N.B. The Two Organs Voluntaries that feature at the beginning and end of Even You Song are not included in this score: they can be purchased additionally here.
When the Mars Foundation invited mature couples to apply for a journey to Mars it was, apparently, based on the principle that a longstanding couple would be ideally placed to face the challenges of living and working together in a very small environment. A journey to Mars will take twelve months, a return journey two years, although there is, as yet, no way of returning from such a trip. It is, effectively, a one way journey. This call-out, which had many respondents, planted the seed of the idea for this project. It offered a way to explore the two sides innate in such a proposition – the unthinkable and even unimaginable vastness and abstraction of space combined with the minute and sometimes tedious detail of domestic life with all its tasks and to do lists. Very few people have travelled into space, but almost everyone has imagined doing so. Whether they can conceive of doing so in the company of someone with whom they have promised to spend the rest of their lives is another matter again. Even You Song gives an insight in what others would make of such an undertaking and asks how you yourself might endure it.
Even You Song is an artwork based on the structure and themes of Evensong, a service that goes back to the earliest days of the Church, and which is performed every night at Peterborough Cathedral and churches across the land. The project was influenced by the cathedral’s invocation of a heavenly sphere through its otherworldly evensong service, soaring pillars and the sheer force and power of the organ, which figures as a kind of ‘lift off ’. It also invites the city into the Cathedral with sections written for and performed by community choirs.
As part of their residency at Metal Peterborough artist Bettina Furnée and writer Lucy Sheerman created this choral work based on candid responses from a series of interviews with twelve Peterborough couples asked whether they could travel on an extended trip to the Moon together. They were given questions such as ‘Why do you want to go?’, ‘How would it feel to go to the Moon?’ and ‘What one object would you take with you?’. Their answers were excised, edited and rearranged to form the basis of a new libretto that echoes and responds to the Evensong words. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis texts have been retained intact in order to ensure that their settings, along with the Anthem where suitable, will be absorbed into the Church repertoire. Cheryl Frances-Hoad has integrated these diverse elements into this new composition for choir and organ.
The première of Even You Song, directed by Director of Music Steven Grahl, and performed by cathedral and community choirs, took place at Peterborough Cathedral on 16 February 2017, following the return of its organ, re-pitched from ‘Old Philharmonic’ to ‘Standard’ concert pitch. The full production incorporates moonlight lighting, a printed libretto and digital film projections with selected texts and imagery of domestic interiors captured during the interviews.
'In July 2015, Peterborough Cathedral’s 1894 Hill and Son organ was dismantled and taken to workshop to be re-pitched from ‘Old Philharmonic’ to ‘Standard’ concert pitch. This complex operation took 18 months. By February 2017 the old instrument was back in situ. To mark its return, artist Bettina Furnée and writer Lucy Sheerman devised an extraordinary multi-disciplinary collaboration with the composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad based on those two naturally overlapping (?) phenomena Evensong and space travel. The present disc incorporates Frances-Hoad’s 52 minute musical contribution to this event, the oddly but appropriately titled Even You Song.
The word ‘Anthem’ scarcely does justice to this extraordinary movement. Let me quote Ateş Orga’s pithy description from the notes, which gives something of its flavour (and is worthy of a setting for unaccompanied choir in itself): “…a dramatized aggregation of solo star-glints, mass tuttis, homophonic fields, pianistic organ figurations, dissonances, Lydian tones, unpitched sounds, rhythmic mischief, the aleatorically unpredictable, Schumannesque fade-outs” Ultimately this melange convincingly evokes the silence of space, the sound of one’s heart-beating (most tellingly in the weird organ-pedal accompaniment), running water and radio-waves; there is blowing, tongue-clicking; whistling and lots of whooshing. It shouldn’t work, but it certainly does in this context. It must have been incredibly challenging but great fun to perform.
Listening to this for a third time I really wanted to applaud. It must have been a pretty unforgettable experience to have been in the audience, even more so to have been among the performers, who excel. As ever, Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s music is frequently challenging, always original and sometimes deeply moving. The whole undertaking seems to have been an unqualified success, and I wholeheartedly commend this disc to one and all.'
Richard Hanlon, MusicWeb International
'Where does your faith lie?, the organ voluntary at the outset, immediately sets a brooding atmosphere of questioning and mystery. The Preces and Responses give the children's choirs participating in the project responses which are eminently singable wihtout being vapid. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, mainly unaccompanied, are vivid, memorable settings, and could easily be excised from Even You Song for use in the conventional evensong service. Musically and dramatically the high point of the work is Anthem, where Frances-Hoad marshals an imaginative clutch of vocal effects to evoke the weightless sounds and sensations of the outer space environment.'
Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine
'Frances Hoad's score was large scale, she had set the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, along with the Preces and Responses, created psalms and settings for the new collects, plus a long anthem, a hymn along with organ voluntaries. A striking and substantial achievement, Even You Song is sui generis, and a description hardly does it justice. All at Peterborough Cathedral music be congratulated on having the vision to take part.'
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
'The assembled choirs all acquit themsleves with honour under the leadership of Steven Grahl.'
Choir and Organ Magazine
Performance history (post-premiere)
29th November 2019 - The London Oriana Choir conducted by Dominic Ellis-Peckham at St. James’ Piccadilly, London
2nd November 2019 - Cambridge Chorale conducted by Owain Park at Trinity College, Cambridge, UK
13th October 2019 - Cambridge Chorale conducted by Owain Park at All Saints St. Andrew, Kingston, Cambridgeshire
15 July 2019 - Even You Song Project Choir conducted by Jane Wells at The King’s Lynn Minster, UK. Part of the King’s Lynn Festival