St Bride's: Music - Lunchtime Recitals

Michael Hickman – baritone, Richard Gowers – piano

Tuesday, 6 February at 1:15pm - FREE ADMITTANCE - Retiring Collection

Michael Hickman – baritone, Richard Gowers – piano

R Vaughan Williams

Songs of Travel

    i. The Vagabond

   ii. Let Beauty Awake

  iii. The Roadside Fire

  iv. Youth and Love

   v. In Dreams

  vi. The Infinite Shining Heavens

 vii. Whither Must I Wander

viii. Bright Is the Ring of Words

  ix. I Have Trod the Upward and the Downward Slope

J Ireland

Songs of a Wayfarer

  i. Memory

 ii. When Daffodils Begin to Peer

iii. English May

iv. I Was Not Sorrowful

 v. I Will Walk on the Earth

In the Songs of Travel, Vaughan Williams sets to music the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson. These songs refer to the hardships faced by a traveller in determining which is better: love and a settled existence, or having the freedom to wander but enduring a solitary life on the road. Similarly in Ireland's Songs of a Wayfarer of 1912, a consistent thread running through the texts is the narrator pining for a lover who is abroad, while also extolling the virtues of travelling and experiencing the joys of nature. In the end the narrators of both cycles seem to choose a life of travel over love. The texts of the Ireland come from a number of different poets, including William Blake, Shakespeare and Rossetti. It seems Ireland has chosen to group texts of similar themes together, perhaps in homage to Vaughan Williams' cycle, which was only published a few years earlier in 1904.

Vaughan Williams - Songs of Travel

In the first song, The Vagabond, we are introduced to the traveller, and he is depicted walking through the countryside by the heavy left hand chords in the piano part. Let Beauty Awake evokes images of dawn and dusk and talks about the beauty of nature, over the florid arpeggiaic piano accompaniment. The Roadside Fire refers to the excitement of finding new love, while Youth and Love is arguably the central point of the cycle, as it most clearly refers to the dilemma between wanting to find love and remaining free to wander on the road. In Dreams has a much more melancholic feel, and it seems that the traveller is missing his lover while he is on the road. The offbeat rhythms in the piano part add to the sense of unease in this song. In The Infinite Shining Heavens the high spread chords of the piano part are meant to depict the stars in the night sky, and they seem to provide a form of comfort to the traveller. Whither Must I Wander talks about the comforts of home that he used to enjoy, even though these are now far away. Bright is the Ring of Words and I have trod the upward and the downward slope seem to reaffirm the traveller's belief that he has lived a good life, and looks forward to life after death.

Ireland - Songs of a Wayfarer

Memory opens the cycle with a nostalgic song, appreciating the beauty of the narrator's surroundings. The text for When Daffodils Begin to Peer is drawn from Act IV Scene II of A Winter's Tale by Shakespeare, and this is quite a cheeky song, with several sudden changes in style, led by the piano accompaniment. After this comes English May, which talks about how beautiful England is during the month of May. The narrator is only sad that his lover is not here to share it with him, as she is in Italy, and he pines for her return. The narrator then seems to be in denial during I Was Not Sorrowful, as it is quite a melancholic song, as he is clearly still missing his lover and waiting for her to come back to him. By the time we arrive at the final song in the cycle, I Will Walk on the Earth, it seems that the narrator has decided that he must continue travelling and get over the lover that was missing earlier on. It is quite a heroic finish to the cycle, and the traveller seems to have forgotten his earlier woes.

Michael Hickman began his musical education as a chorister in the Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, and at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, London. Michael read for a BA in Music at Durham University, and subsequently became a Lay Clerk in the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. He is a featured soloist on the choir's series of recordings of music from the Eton Choirbook. Several of these have been nominated for Gramophone Awards. Michael now sings frequently for many ensembles in London, including Westminster Cathedral Choir, St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, the Temple Church Choir, the Choir of St. Brides, Fleet St, the BBC Singers and Armonico Consort.

As a soloist, Michael has performed at venues across the UK, Germany, Australia, the USA and China, including St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing and St.John's, Smith Square. Recent solo highlights have included performances of Pärt Passio in Cologne, Bach St Matthew Passion at St John's, Smith Square and Fauré Requiem for David Hill and the Southern Sinfonia. In opera, Michael has worked with Opera Holland Park and British Youth Opera, and recent roles have included Morales and Dancairo in Carmen (Bizet), Silvano in Un Ballo in Maschera (Verdi) for Windsor and Eton Opera, and Maximillian in Candide (Bernstein) for Kings Opera. Michael continues to study with David Barrell.

Richard Gowers is a pianist, organist and conductor born in Cambridge. He has studied at the Mendelssohn Academy in Leipizg, Royal Academy of Music and King's College, Cambridge, where he was the organ scholar in 2014-2017. His work as a pianist is largely collaborative, with the exception of recent performances of concertos by Ravel and Mozart at Cambridge University. As a song pianist his recent performances include Dichterliebe, Vier ernste Gesänge, Rückert Lieder and Wesendonck Lieder, which reflect a particular interest in German Lieder. He is equally active as a concert organist and continuo player and combines a busy schedule with studies at the RAM, where he is taught by Michael Dussek and Joseph Middleton.

Michael Hickman read for a BA in Music at Durham University, and subsequently spent four years singing as a Lay Clerk in the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Michael now sings frequently for many ensembles in London, including Westminster Cathedral Choir, St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, the Temple Church Choir, the Choir of St. Brides, Fleet St, and the BBC Singers. As a soloist, Michael has performed at venues across the UK, Germany, Australia, the USA and China, including St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing and St. John's, Smith Square. Michael continues to study with David Barrell.