for solo soprano, SATB, and orchestra
Described by Latvian newspaper Diena as 'the most carefully developed orchestral party', Spring Rounds is a significant work that is rich in variety and orchestral colours. Jackson has selected texts by a multiplicity of authors, from the seventeenth-century poet Thomas Carew to contemporary writer Billy Collins, to create a profound and interesting reflection on the titular season.
The work was commissioned by Youth Choir Kamer.
An orchestral accompaniment is available on hire/rental.
I first heard Kamer... in the flesh in Copenhagen in 2008. Those two World Sun Songs performances were two of the greatest concerts I had ever heard. The virtuosity, the beautiful sound, the flawless balance and blend, the perfect intonation were remarkable, of course, but it was the intensity, the emotional engagement and the communicative power of the singing that was quite extraordinary. And those qualities still characterise the choir today. When I was asked to take part in Amber Songs last year I was absolutely delighted. It was such a joy working with the choir and getting to know them. The singers of Kamer... â intelligent, hard-working, open, generous, imaginative and intensely committed to what they do â represent, for me, everything that is good about young Latvia, a country I have come to love very much over the last twelve years. As a non-Latvian, I feel deeply honoured to have been invited to contribute to this 25th-anniversary festivities of such a dazzling jewel in Latviaâs musical crown.
Last summer, at Kanepes Kulturas centrs, I talked with many members of the choir about possible subjects for this celebratory piece. There were lots of very interesting ideas and the sequence of poems I have chosen brings many of those ideas together into a coherent narrative. So, Spring Rounds (a title also used by those 20th-century masters Debussy and Stravinsky) is about rebirth and renewal, new life, new love, young love, young lust; it is a celebration of youth with all its energy, optimism and promise.
The first movement begins with a bang, literally, with (at first) sopranos telling of the end of winter and of the earth coming back to life, echoed by folky violins with all their glissandos and ornaments. The music is mostly full of energy and colour but with a dark turn at the very end. The second movement, for the tenors and basses only, is a mystical nature-vision, with rapturous woodwind arabesques and golden horn calls. The ecstatic climax is crowned with clanging bell-chords. The third movement is for sopranos and altos. I like the fact that, in a reversal of the norm perhaps, the boys are very chaste and respectful, singing of 'a Goddess standing in a world of fire' whereas the girls describe in loving detail just how handsome the object of their affection is, shadowed by a vibraphone and lazy trumpet arabesques. One of the members of Kamer... wanted stars in this piece, and I like stars too, so here they are in the fourth movement, illustrated by staccato high woodwinds and glockenspiel. While not fast, this movement is a kind of scherzo, quite light and aerated.
The fifth movement is a quiet nocturnal interlude (with more stars). I wanted a complete contrast to everything that had gone before â in instrumentation, in mood, in language and literary style and Valdis Muktapavels kindly found this little folk poem for me. Over gently pulsing strings and duetting with a muted trumpet, the soprano soloist tells us the story of Auseklis, who is obviously a bit of a bad boy (and everyone loves a bad boy...). The author of the first poem of the last movement, Gerald Manley Hopkins (who was also a Jesuit priest), is noted for his daringly long lines with their complex, dancing rhythm, and his exuberant word-play. The subject is again the exhilaration and beauty of a new spring, though a line like 'What is all this juice and all this joy?' has an obvious double meaning. The final text in the piece by Billy Collins, Americaâs Poet Laureate, is the only modern poem. Anchored by long pedal notes and energising ostinati the momentum builds and builds to a final celebratory shout that, yes, this really is 'that kind of day'. Â© Gabriel Jackson