Richard Blackford: Within the Seed [Printed Music]

Richard Blackford
Within the Seed (2015)
for SATB chorus
Duration: c.14 minutes
40-page A4 saddle stitched sheet music
Catalogue number: NMP 1013
ISMN: 979-0-708129-22-6

In 2006 I set Kathleen Raine’s poem Amo Ergo Sum for Sarah Connolly, who performed it at the Cheltenham Festival. I returned many times to her poems, with their ecstatic spirituality and mysticism, and when the BBC Singers commissioned me to write a set of choruses I was glad to continue my exploration of her unique poetic world. Both ‘Let in the wind, Let in the rain’ and Spell of Creation have an innate musicality with their irregular repetition patterns, beautiful and spellbinding in themselves, but also lending themselves to musical setting.

Richard Blackford

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This work by Richard Blackford has not yet been recorded, which makes discovering it an enthralling experience. As the Music Director of several amateur choral societies, it is always interesting to come across contemporary choral music, especially when the chosen text of the composer has a dramatic element to it. This is certainly the case with this piece.

The opening movement, 'Let in the wind, Let in the rain' is rhythmically driven, with much use of syncopation, further enhanced by accents to bring the text to life. Right from the opening, the music makes an impact on the listener, with the use of contrasting dynamics and unison singing. As it progresses, it makes good use of echo effects, contrasting with more polyphonic sections. 

The second movement, 'Him I Praise', is a more lyrical composition, and creates a much calmer atmosphere. Much of the writing here is homophonic, and it has some effective climactic moments. 

The final movement, 'Spell of Creation' is a return to the more rhythmic writing of the first movement. Again, it contrasts unison and echo effects with sections of homophonic writing. The music is well written to portray the text and it is certainly and exciting and effective composition.

This work was commissioned by the BBC Singers, and this is evident from the choral writing. The work relies heavily on the use of minor seconds both within and between parts, and the choral sections are frequently split into two, occasionally three parts. Some of the intervals within the musical lines are awkward to pitch - especially at speed, and a successful performance would certainly need a group of assured singers. That being said, I'm sure that this would be an exciting work to perform.

The score itself is well laid out and clearly printed, and the composer's note at the beginning is appreciated. The cover is attractive and the book feels sturdy to hold. There is no keyboard reduction of the choral parts, which due to the complicated writing, may cause difficulty for a rehearsal pianist who is not adept at reading an open score.

Simon Callaghan

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