The Pie Jesu text is well known as being a liturgical movement of the Requiem mass for the dead and alongside Duruflé, Fauré, Rutter and Lloyd Webber, John Brunning’s setting deserves a rightful place. In this arrangement for duet and piano, the text is shared between the voices over the top of a guitar-like piano accompaniment referencing Brunning’s career as a professional guitarist. In a nod to Duruflé, the plainsong from In Paradisum finds its way into the ending of the piece, firstly sung by Kate, like Angel song – over the top of the melody, and then in the piano accompaniment.
Ivor Gurney was a poet and musician who served in the trenches during WWI and, suffering from the effects of PTSD, was admitted to a Mental Health hospital in Dartford, Kent, at the end of the war. Sleep is considered to be one of the finest examples of English song with a restless accompaniment that finally finds rest at the very end of the piece.
Angels is one of the most enduring ballads of the 1990s, appearing on the album Life thru a Lens by former Take That member, Robbie Williams. It was written by Williams and Guy Chambers and has been covered many times. This version for piano and vocal duet keeps the essence of the original but explores some of the possibilities of the young voices with splashes of harmony and high floating clouds of melody.
Schubert was a master composer of German song and Rückert’s poem Du bist die Ruh (You are repose) is one of the most celebrated. Despite the slow-moving, simply shaped melody, this piece requires huge control from the singer to convey the peaceful meaning of the text.
Were you there? is a spiritual recalling of the Easter story, first published in 1899. In this new arrangement for treble and soprano, the use of echoes is explored to create a sense of a longing. The empty and sparse mood of the penultimate verse is contrasted with the jubilant bells of Easter morning in the final verse, recalling the joyful ‘bursting from the tomb’.
John Rutter is one of the most celebrated choral composers in the world today. Due in part to Carols from King’s, John Rutter’s music is especially synonymous with Christmas. This simple and beautiful piece, Christmas Lullaby, interpolates words by the composer and the refrain, Ave Maria.
After George Gershwin’s Summertime, Harold Arlen’s Over the Rainbow is one of the most covered songs of recent times and has had a resurgence in popularity as a song of hope during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. The song (words by Yip Harburg) first appeared in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, and became Judy Garland’s signature song. This special arrangement for Will and Kate features the ‘cello alongside piano accompaniment and is dedicated to all the key workers in the fight against Covid-19.
Flow, my tears was originally a lute-song by 16th century English composer John Dowland. These lute-songs were very much the popular music of the day and Dowland brought European influences to bear on his music from his time in Paris, and later Denmark. The falling motif at the opening signifies the falling tears from eyes and was a popular Elizabethan technique of text-setting. It was the composer’s most famous song in his lifetime.
There are a number of different melodies associated with the text O Little Town of Bethlehem, although the original American tune St Louis is rarely sung in England. Ralph Vaughan Williams paired a collected folk-song The Ploughboy’s Dream (known as Forest Green) with the text by American Pastor, Phillip Brooks and this endures as the most popular version in the UK today. Former King’s Singer and OUP Composer Bob Chilcott brings together a new melody for Brooks’ text and later combines this with the more well-known melody in a beautiful, interwoven dialogue.
The Turtle Dove is a further example of Vaughan Williams’ folk-song collections. At the beginning of the 20th century Vaughan Williams made it his mission to capture as many of the native folksongs of the British Isles as possible, lest they disappear to obscurity. This particular example was sung by David Penfold (a pub landlord from Rusper in West Sussex) and Vaughan Williams recorded this onto wax cylinder. This version has a piano accompaniment added later by the composer and it supports a beautiful text of love and loss.
The folk influences in You Raise Me Up, are obvious from the very start. Secret Garden is a Norwegian- Irish duo and this version is arranged by Simon Lole to great effect. The popularity of this song has seen over 100 covers since its release in 2002, including by Westlife and Aled Jones. It is one of Will and Kate’s favourite tracks on this album.
Californian composer Morten Lauridsen shot to international fame after his choral setting of O Magnum Mysterium was widely adopted at Christmas services and concerts. Writer James Agee is most famous for his novel A Death in the Family, and Samuel Barber famously set his poem Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Lauridsen responds with great imagination and sensitivity to Agee’s text Sure on This Shining Night which comes from the collection Permit me voyage, published in 1934. Lauridsen writes long and often athletic melodies and requires a very legato technique to create an effortlessly lyrical line of music. There are moments of both power and carefully crafted introspection.
Disney has an enormous legacy of commissioning the best writers for its animated films. Randy Newman has written numerous songs for movies and When She Loved Me features on the Disney Pixar animation Toy Story 2. Sung here by Kate, it’s a deeply moving ballad of Jesse (a toy cow-girl) as she remembers her previous owners.
Lord of all hopefulness is a favourite hymn of the church with text by English writer Jan Struther. It maps the break, noon, eve and end of the day and so mirrors the stages of life, accounting for the popularity of this piece as a funeral hymn. This setting was commissioned for a Songs of Praise broadcast from Romsey Abbey in 2016 and has a subtle change of rhythmic emphasis underneath the well-known (possibly Irish) melody. The arrangement ends with the voices alone.