Ronald Corp

Conductor & Composer


A Life-ling ComposerA life-long Composer

Ronald Corp began writing music even before he was taught to play the piano. There were frequent opportunities for performances at school and University where the art of planning and directing concerts quickly became second nature. His compositions fall into various categories: choir with orchestra, choral (SATB) with or without piano/organ accompaniment, choral for upper voices or children, again with or without accompaniment, larger scale works for children, solo songs and song-cycles, orchestral works, chamber music and community projects.

Works for Choir and Orchestra

It so happens that the piece Corp acknowledges today as being his first important work is a choral one: And All the Trumpets Sounded (1988) – a commission of Highgate Choral Society who gave the first performance in 1989 (published by Stainer and Bell in 2011) and performed most recently in 2011 at the composer’s 60th Birthday Concert. Other substantial choral works with orchestra followed. Laudamus (1994) was performed to great critical acclaim at St. John’s, Smith Square by the London Chorus leading to a third performance at a Royal Festival Hall Gala Concert. Then came A New Song (1999, OUP), a cantata setting Psalms praising God for singers and singing; Adonai Echad (‘The Lord is One’, 2000) with its mixing of texts from the Jewish and Christian faiths and premiered at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival in 2001; Mary’s Song (2001), Jubilate Deo (2008) and The Hound of Heaven (2009) after Francis Thompson’s mystical poem. In 2012, This Sceptr’d Isle was written for a celebration concert of the Queen’s Jubilee, performed by the Highgate Choral Society and the New London Orchestra.ches to settings of the Mass.  In the first year of the new millenium Christ our Future (1999, OUP) was premiered at the Greenwich Arena with the New London Orchestra before an audience of 10,000; the Missa San Marco (2002, Stainer and Bell) was written for a cappella choir and given its second performance by Highgate Choral Society at St. Mark’s, Venice in 2003; and A Christmas Mass (Stainer and Bell) for choir and organ was released on an EMI CD entitled Hark! Chantage at Christmas in 2008.  Prior to this, Chantage had given the first performance and been voted the BBC Choir of the Year in 2007.  This is not forgetting a Missa Brevis and, more significantly, an unaccompanied cycle of seven songs taking the form of a Requiem, Forever Child (OUP), first sung by Voces Cantabile and lending its name to the title of their CD, Forever Child and Other Choral Works

Settings of the Mass

The catalogue includes many diverse approaches to settings of the Mass. In the first year of the new millenium Christ our Future (1999, OUP) was premiered at the Greenwich Arena with the New London Orchestra before an audience of 10,000; the Missa San Marco (2002, Stainer and Bell) was written for a cappella choir and given its second performance by Highgate Choral Society at St. Mark’s, Venice in 2003; and A Christmas Mass (Stainer and Bell) for choir and organ was released on an EMI CD entitled Hark! Chantage at Christmas in 2008. Prior to this, Chantage had given the first performance and been voted the BBC Choir of the Year in 2007. This is not forgetting a Missa Brevis and, more significantly, an unaccompanied cycle of seven songs taking the form of a Requiem, Forever Child (OUP), first sung by Voces Cantabile and lending its name to the title of their CD, Forever Child and Other Choral Works.

Choral Music

In 2003 BBC Radio 3 commissioned a major work for the BBC Singers – a setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, with its atmospheric opening of wordless chanting, subsequently recorded on the Forever Child CD.

Smaller works include a hushed setting in Latin and English of Psalm 23 and Laurence Binyon for choir and organ, We will remember Them; Verbum Patris umanatur (‘Word of God now made incarnate’, OUP) for a capella choir with its springing metrical changes; and There is no Rose (Novello). Somewhat better-known may be Give to my eyes, Lord as it is published in various vocal/choral versions by OUP and appears on no less than three recordings (Pigs Could Fly, Forever Child, The Songs of Ronald Corp).

An interest in Buddhist literature is reflected in his setting of parts of the Dhammapada (2010) for eight solo singers (or SATB choir) interspersed with recordings of bells at temples sacred to the Buddha; and the cycle, Songs of the Elder Sisters (from the Therigatha) for mezzo-soprano, baritone, alto flute, clarinet and viola. The latter was recorded in February 2012 with Sarah Castle (mezzo-soprano) and Sam Evans (baritone). Dhammapada is essentially a cycle of verses, thought to be by Buddha, on finding happiness and fulfilment in daily life. Andrew Stewart writes: ‘Dhammapada contemplates the corrupting force of material things and the transience of wealth, beauty and power.’ (See the full article)

A new anthem, Laudate Dominum, commissioned by The Musicians Benevolent Fund, was performed at the St. Cecilia Service on 23 November, 2011. The massed choirs of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral were directed by Martin Baker in Westminster Cathedral.

A Life-ling Composer_note_02Music for Children

An expert in working with children’s choirs, Ronald Corp has a large output of upper-voice music. Works published by OUP include Four Elizabethan Lyrics (1994), a commission for the Farnham Youth Choir enabled by the choir’s success in the prestigious Sainsbury Choir of the Year competition; and Cornucopia, premiered in 1997 by a number of choirs affiliated to the British Federation of Young Choirs and scored for upper voices and orchestra. The work consists of twelve songs divided between three sections: Seasonal Songs, Sad Songs and Sillier Songs. In 2002 he wrote a second work in this format, Kaleidoscope, now with fourteen songs. For SA choir and thirteen instruments, its gala première at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall was voted a huge success by both its young performers and audience. Both these works have had a number of performances, while individual songs have occasionally been show-cased alone or in new arrangements, such as Mark Stone’s solo rendition of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat‘ (from Kaleidoscope) and ‘Weep Ye no more, Sad Fountains’ and ‘The Irish Pig’ (Cornucopia) on his CD of The Songs of Ronald Corp.

Of his numerous part-songs and carols for children’s choir, perhaps the most notable are A Cradle Song (Novello) and Five Flower Songs, settings of Robert Herrick with an immediacy yet wistfulness that match the poetry’s playful and buoyant imagery of transience and loss (on the Pigs Could Fly CD). Two other works in this category, For a Child and All Ye Works of the Lord, replace the usual piano accompaniment with a chamber ensemble.

His Christmas opera for children’s voices, Wenceslas, was premiered in 1982 and staged again in 2008. A more recent opera, The Ice Mountain (2010), with libretto by Emma Hill on a dark tale from Swiss folklore, has been recorded by the New London Children’s Choir with accompanying chamber ensemble, and was released on the Naxos label in May, 2011.

Large-scale children’s and community cantatas include Playing with the Sun (2002), Urban Voices (Gospel Oak, London, 2003-4), One World (Bracknell), The Waters of Time (Wells Cathedral, 2006), The Journey Begins (Newham, 2007) and In Training (2009).

Songs and Song-cycles

Besides solo songs like Break, break break (1966), O admirabile and The Bargain (both 1972), Toward the Unknown Region, the tongue-in-cheek The Bath and the darkly humorous He Kicked the Chair, Corp has written several sets of songs which may form smaller groupings (eg. Three Elizabethan Songs) or fully-fledged song-cycles like Miscellanie, Down in a Valley and Flower of Cities – a celebration of London through various poets’ eyes. His love of literature is strikingly evident in the numerous sets of songs devoted to a single poet: Blake, Browning, Catullus, Clare, Donne, Drayton, Emily Dickinson, Fletcher, Hardy, Landor, Larkin, Rossetti, Tennyson, Francis Thompson, Wilde and Wordsworth – mostly dating from the early to mid-70s. The Music of Housman, The Music of Whitman and Flower of Cities form the bulk of the disc recorded by baritone Mark Stone in 2010, and represent the first commercial recording of The Songs of Ronald Corp. Unusual among the cycles is the satirical Country Matters calling, as it does, for accompaniment by string trio (featured on a Naxos disc ) and whose poems by Steven Mainwaring are described by the composer as ‘variously poignant and riotously outrageous’. (The Music of Drayton exists in versions for tenor with either string quartet or mixed quartet of oboe, bassoon, violin and cello.)

Orchestral Music

A Life-ling Composer_not_1In the orchestral catalogue are a Concerto Grosso, Guernsey Postcards (2004), Symphony No. 1 (2009) and Piano Concerto No. 1: the latter’s première was given by Julian Evans in a New London Orchestra concert in 1997 at St. John’s, Smith Square, with a second performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall five years later and a third rendition at Cadogan Hall in 2009, this time with Leon McCawley as soloist. The work, together with Guernsey Postcards and Symphony No.1 has been recorded by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp, again with McCawley as soloist. Details of the CD are under Recordings. He has also worked as an arranger: for example, his orchestrations of Satie’s Trois Gnossiennes are featured in the film, Chocolat (2000), directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Juliet Binoche; and a suite of Purcell pieces arranged for violin and string orchestra was performed in 2003 with a revised version being aired in 2008.

Chamber Music

His chamber compositions embrace pieces for various solo instruments plus piano, notably the Rhapsody for Bassoon and Piano – Notes from ‘The Egoist’, the Rhapsody for Double Bass and Piano, and the Homage to Martinů for flute and piano which was performed at a recital at Covent Garden in 2003. Exploration of the soundworlds of bigger chamber structures resulted in two String Quartets (2008 and 2010) championed by the Maggini Quartet. No. 1, subtitled ‘The Bustard’, had its première at the Wigmore Hall, and a Naxos CD featuring both works came out in early 2011, coupled with the song-cycle, Country Matters, for tenor and string trio. Quartet No. 2 celebrates the birth of a baby boy and is essentially a life-affirming piece, despite a slow movement that is more dark and astringent. String Quartet No. 3 was premiered in June 2011 by the Wihan Quartet and is lighter in mood and shorter in span than the first two. 2011 also saw the production of the Clarinet Quintet ‘Crawhall’ (see below).

Also recorded in May 2012 were the String Quartet No. 3, the Clarinet Quintet ‘Crawhall’ and The Yellow Wallpaper for mezzo-soprano and string quintet, all composed in 2011. In these, the Maggini String Quartet are joined by Andrew Marriner (clarinet), Rebecca de Pont Davies (mezzo-soprano) and John Tattersdill (double bass). Regarding the subtitle of ‘Crawhall’ for the Quintet, Ronald Corp states:

‘Joseph Crawhall II (1821-1896) was an engraver, writer, businessman, patron of arts, book designer, collector of antiquities, campaigner for the perseveration of architecture and a significant character in the life of Newcastle. His colourful life and wonderful woodblock illustrations have inspired this clarinet quintet which I hope gives some flavour of this most remarkable and likeable man.’

The Yellow Wallpaper is a dramatic scena with text by Francis Booth adapted from the short story of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This work continues the current trend for chamber compositions and unconventional instrumental/vocal groupings: Lullaby for a Lost Soul, recorded in September 2012, features the counter-tenor voice, flute, vibraphone and cello.

Recent Works

Whilst continuing to make important contributions to the choral repertoire, Corp’s catalogue is becoming increasinly diverse, with works such as the Sinfonia 7411 premiered at St John’s Smith Square by the New London Orchestra in its 25th birthday concert, an engaging, rhythmically buoyant orchestral work Commotio, premiered on 3 April, 2014 by the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a Cello Concerto, played by Alice Neary accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of the composer in June 2014, and an opera The Pelican based on the play by Strindberg. A recording of the Cello Concerto is available from Dutton Records.

Recent Works

Whilst continuing to make important contributions to the choral repertoire, Corp’s catalogue is becoming increasinly diverse, with works such as the Sinfonia 7411 premiered at St John’s Smith Square by the New London Orchestra in its 25th birthday concert, an engaging, rhythmically buoyant orchestral work Commotio, premiered on 3 April, 2014 by the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a Cello Concerto, played by Alice Neary accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of the composer in June 2014, and an opera The Pelican based on the play by Strindberg. A recording of the Cello Concerto is available from Dutton Records.

This was a year of astonishing diversity, from FAQsimile – charming miniatures for piano duet – to deeply felt tributes to those who fell in WW1 – An den Tod and For the Fallen.
The Buddhist-inspired work, Songs of the Elder Sisters, was recorded in March 2012. Lullaby for a Lost Soul was recorded in September 2012.

In 2014, Alice Neary, under the baton of the composer, premiered and recorded the Cello Concerto accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for Dutton records, available here.

 Listen to excerpts:

Dhammapada

Guernsey Postcards

The Music of Whitman

Piano Concerto No. 1

String Quartet No. 1

Symphony No. 1

Recordings

Annual Overviews

Biographies

List of Works and Sales Pages

Composer_notess

 

Vocal score of May the Lord Bless You and Keep You from Adonai Echad for tenor, baritone, chorus, children’s chorus and orchestra

 

 

Music by Ronald Corp on CD includes:

A Christmas Mass on the EMI disc, Hark! Chantage at Christmas

Five Flower Songs and other children’s choir works, with the New London Children’s Choir on the Naxos disc, Pigs Could Fly

Forever Child and other choral music with Voces Cantablles on Dutton Epoch – which was released to great critical acclaim in 2006

Symphony No. 1, Piano Concerto No. 1>, Guernsey Postcards with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on Dutton Epoch

The Songs of Ronald Corp – song-cycles and individual songs in première recordings on Stone Records

RELEASES IN 2011-2012:

Dhammapada sung by Apsara on Stone Records

String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 played by the Maggini Quartet coupled with the song-cycle, Country Matters (Naxos)

The Ice Mountain sung by the New London Children’s Chorus with members of the New London Orchestra (Naxos)

And All the Trumpets Sounded sung by The London Chorus with members of Highgate Choral Society and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Dutton Epoch)

Choral album Things I didn’t say, including five anthems with organ, such as We Will Remember Them and The Pilgrim, plus Three Medieval Carols and other a cappella works recorded by Apsara (Stone Records)

The Yellow Wallpaper, String Quartet No. 3 and Clarinet Quintet ‘Crawhall’. Maggini Quartet with Rebecca de Pont Davies (mezzo-sop.), Andrew Marriner (clarinet) and John Tattersdill (double bass)

RELEASES IN 2013-2014:

Songs of the Elder Sisters , for mezzo-soprano, alto flute, clarinet and viola.

Lullaby for a Lost Soul , for countertenor, flute, vibraphone and cello

FORTHCOMING RELEASES IN 2015:

Music by Ronald Corp is published by:

Novello

Faber Music

Oxford University Press

Stainer and Bell

The Royal School of Church Music

Trinity Guildhall

Colla Voce

www.ronaldcorp.com

Choral Connections

Choral Connections