I spent the weekend working with the Golden Bridge Choir in Los Angeles; a new choir formed by Suzi Digby (Lady Eatwell, and a choral goddess in the UK) to explore the musical links between the Golden Age of the Tudor/Elizabethan composers and the current choral Renaissance that Southern California is experiencing. The choir performance is timed with her visiting professorship at USC. I met her three years ago, randomly, via twitter, when we were both tweeting about being at the Hollywood Bowl. We met, recognized a kindred spirit in each other, and have stayed in contact since. I helped her this past weekend as an usher, and general errand-runner, and in return I was treated to the best choral concert I have ever heard in the US. The program was exquisite, the singing was amazing, and all of it was just perfection. The Eric Whitacre setting of When David Heard literally had me in tears on Saturday – how he could write such anguish at such a young age is unbelievable – it was such a profound experience, especially having had the experience of losing a son.
The program notes were written by both Dr. David Skinner, a musicologist at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, and Dr. Nick Strimple, a composer, conductor, professor, all-around-genius, based at USC. Skinner wrote the notes on the Tudor pieces while Strimple wrote about the contemporary ones.
To my own ignorance, sadly I had never heard of David Skinner, but I received a crash course on him the past few days. He was born in California, and then studied at Edinburgh and Christ Church, Oxford. He has founded several music groups, one of which, Alamire, is on current rotation on Spotify now. Alamire was formed, in part, to illustrate musical and historical themes, and in 2011 they began a ten-year 30 CD program to explore English choral music between c.1400-mid 17th century. I’m currently listening to Henry’s Music, which records some of the better known music that was composed both by, and for, Henry VIII. Though most people remember Henry VIII now as a tyrant (he might have had a blood disease, McLeod syndrome), young Henry was a great scholar and patron of the arts, having been originally destined for a life in the church before his older brother, Arthur, died. In fact, some of the music attributed to Henry VIII is stunning in its simplicity and poetry. “O my hart and O my hart,” is a wonderful example of what this wonderfully creative King was capable of, when he wasn’t distracted by the need for a male heir, or his bad luck with marriages.
I highly recommend that you check this group out. They are a bit tough to find on Spotify (not surprising as Spotify is notoriously awful for classical music searches), but they’re worth the effort. I’ve also made a playlist of the albums I could find easily on Spotify.
Unlike a lot of the musicians I love, David Skinner is all over the interwebs.