And All the Trumpets Sounded
‘And all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side’ is a sentence from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, giving Ronald Corp his title for a work which ties itself to Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, directed towards Peace, as well as Benjamin Britten’s great War Requiem.
While both the latter provide some degree of dramatic inspiration, the present music is wholly individual, being directed towards war, the dead, and the trumpets associated with the Last Judgement. Corp has found the realism of man’s unremitting need for conflict which is both the essence of the ‘Dies Irae’ and the poignant truth of the Great War poets.
And All the Trumpets Sounded is a major work which should find a place in our great choral repertory.
The Hampstead and Highgate Express
Even after a single hearing there is no doubt that And All the Trumpets Sounded deserves to find a place in the programme of our choral societies, and I recommend it to The Three Choirs Festival.
CD Reviews – Dutton Epoch CDLX7280
Since it freely mingles texts by poets of the First World War with extracts from the Latin mass for the dead, a comparison of the first of two substantial works on this disc with Britten’s War Requiem looks like a statement of the very obvious. Yet the composer has seen that coming and forestalls it in his own disarming booklet note, freely admitting the parallel. One of the five poems he has selected for setting is even by Wilfred Owen, though Ronald Corp specifically avoids any words used by his great predecessor. Instead, And All the Trumpets Sounded ends with Owen’s ‘Asleep’: ‘Under his helmet, up against his pack…..Sleep took him by the brow and had him back….’, Or rather, this 40 minute cantata for baritone, choirs and orchestra which Corp, who celebrated his 60th birthday last year, completed in 1989, does not quite end there. Instead, the mood changes sharply: the chorus intones over and over again ‘Salva’ (‘Save us’) as the opening ‘Dies irae’ makes a thunderous return, dispelling any glimmer of consolation that one might be tempted to draw from the Owen poem. The work thus makes a moving journey from darkness to momentary hope, and briefly back again.
The shadow of Britten may inevitably loom, and with the textures dominated, as you would expect from the title (drawn from john Bunyan, not otherwise set here) by trumpets and bass drum, there is no avoiding the fact. All the same, Corp is his own man, for the most part steering clear, or so it seems to me, of Britten’s sometimes biting astringency. Apart from Owen, the other poets heard are Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Charles Hamilton Sorley and Whitman, whose long narrative poem Vigil Strange occupies a full nine minutes at the centre of the work, so that the other movements seem to revolve around it. It is a blow-by-blow account of the death of a comrade in battle: thankfully not as gory as some of Whitman’s similar texts, instead written this time more out of sad affection and heartfelt grief. Mark Stone, here as elsewhere, is admirably dignified in the solo part, and the setting has many touching moments: to single out just one, the combination of flute and voice at ‘Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet’, halfway through, is most tenderly done. The children’s singing of the ‘Pie Jesu’ is another such episode. The setting of Sorley’s Such, such is death surprised me at first by an apparent jauntiness, until one realizes that this is an anticipation of the poem’s hopeful turn at the end. If it is the nobility of death in battle which seems to appeal to all five poets (and of course the four Britons all died in the First World war), then the predominantly pessimistic note struck by the Latin is surely a necessary corrective.
Corp conducts a sure-footed account of his own work, with secure contributions from the choirs of which he is chorus master, and likewise from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, with which, and with Dutton, he seems to be developing a firm partnership. The recording is spacious and clear throughout.
Piers Burton-Page, International Record Review – April 2012
From the first bar to the last this is a moving, powerful piece in an impassioned performance. Corp is in complete command of his performers; the choral forces could not be better, and his children’s choir in particular truly outdoes itself. Baritone Mark Stone has a voice that is not always ideally supported and his vibrato is sometimes a bit unsteady when pressed, but he is a vivid interpreter of his texts.
James A. Altena, Fanfare – July/August 2012