Robert Carrington - Composer

John Cowper Powys


Over the years, I have become fascinated by John Cowper Powys’ philosophy and novels: as a different way of looking and approaching life where a modern composer can somehow reflect in his own idiom how to mirror the work of an author considered to be “unmusical”. Minimalist composers, Erik Satie and Early Music all provide techniques with which to explore states of mind. Likewise, pastiche can be used to set some of these writings in their historical context. Otherwise it is the wide sweep of the prose or individual characters that have fascinated me or the atmosphere of a book. Even John Cowper’s character gives scope for exploration. In the end, it is the personal response of a composer to a writer. It is as a way of drawing more attention to those writings  by using another medium: that of sound.

Robert Carrington
 

Concert Review

John Cowper Powys in Sussex  May 14th 2011

The celebration in words and music of “John Cowper Powys in Sussex” which took place last Saturday, May 14th in Brighton as part of the Brighton Festival Fringe was a memorable event. Attended by an attentive audience of aboutJohn Cowper Powys fifty people, it took place in the lecture room at the Friends Meeting House. The Pastores Ensemble, comprising five dedicated musicians — Domenica Lewkow, Marion Pilbeam, Jacques Ruijterman, Paul Neville and Robert Carrington — played string instruments, Bass and Tenor Viols, Lute and Cello, Mandolins and Guitar as well as the Cornemuse. After a brilliant overture written by Robert, “Mr Culpeper His Praeludium”, Rob Timlin and Kieran McCann in turn read with gusto excerpts from chapters of Autobiography in which Southwick, Court House and Burpham were described. Each reading was followed by a musical interlude including some pieces by 16th century composers such as Antony Holborne, Clement Woodcock, Christopher Tye or Elway Beven, together with pieces composed by Robert Carrington, mostly inspired by JCP and some performed for the first time. The readings offered the pleasure of hearing the characteristic cadences of the Powysian style, enhanced by inspiring musical compositions. One new Carrington piece which the writer of these lines liked very much was To the Ditchling Road (taken from the ‘Court House’ chapter), superbly sung by soprano Sue Mileham. Sue also sang as a homage by Robert to Alfred de Kantzow a setting of one of his poems, ‘The Pantheist’. The evening ended with the bewitching première of Robert’s ‘Mr Culpeper His Goodnight’. The guest readers and musicians were enthusiastically and rightly applauded. It is to be hoped that some at least of the new-comers to Powys in the audience will now be tempted to turn to Autobiography or another of Powys's novels. Who knows?

Jacqueline Peltier
 

Recordings from the Concert

“Shilly Shally”: a children’s opera based on John Cowper Powys’ story

“The Idiot” (JCP adaption, with readers, piano and chamber ensemble) - live Brighton Festival 1991.

Other Powys excerpts: “Christie must Wait”; Powys vignettes (domestic recordings, Kemptown 1991)

29 min 40 sec.

Walking Music for John Cowper Powys for 2 bass viols (portslade 2013)

1 min 59 sec

“Ditchling Road” - Soprano, mandolin, guitar and bass viol.  Live Brighton 2011

Ditchling Road

“Mr Powys and His Delight”  - solo bass viol. Live, Brighton 2011


COMPOSITIONS INSPIRED BY THE WRITER
 JOHN COWPER POWYS

 (1872 - 1963)

3 ORGAN PIECES: “Aubade”; “Ghosta and Lilith”; “Cortege” from “The Brazen Head” (1987/9)

“WHITENESS” (poem by JCP) for soprano, baritone and piano (1988)

“SHILLY SHALLY”- a children’s opera based on the late short story for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1989/1992)

“FOR MYSHKIN” JCP’s dramatisation of “The Idiot” by Dostoievsky: for actors, solo piano and chamber ensemble (1991)

 “WOLF SOLENT SUITE” for 2 flutes/ clarinets and strings (1992):

    1. Christie must wait; 2. Mr Malakite’s Disorder; 3.An Ounce of Civet Good Master Jason*;

    4. The Iniquity of Oblivion;* 5.Elegy for Jimmy Redfern*

THREE POWYS VIGNETTES *for alto and strings: based on “Weymouth Sands”;

 “Maiden Castle” and “A Glastonbury Romance” (1992)

“JOURNEY TO LOST TOWERS ” (The Brazen Head- 1992) for 5 viols (also for chamber orchestra)

  “OUT OF NEVILTON”* + “LACRIMA FOR TRAFFIO”* for 2 clarinets or descant recorder and viols from “Wood and Stone” (1994)

 TWO ORCHESTRAL PIECES : “ The Stone Circle”+ “Sir Mort Abyssum, His Ritual”:  from “The Brazen Head”  (1994)

“POWYS IN AMERICA I” for cornet and piano (1999)*

“POWYS IN AMERICA II” for 2 clarinets, cornet and piano (1999)*

“EIDOLON VULGARIS” for lute, mandolin and 3 viols from “After My Fashion” (2010)

 “MR POWYS HIS DELIGHT” for solo bass viol from “Autobiography “(2010)

“WALKING MUSIC FOR JCP” for 2 bass viols from “Autobiography” (2010)

“DITCHLING ROAD” (unpublished poem) for soprano and chamber ensemble (2010)

*unperformed

 

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