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This wordless diatonic lament is dedicated to the people of Aleppo, a once great city now in large part devastated by the war in Syria. The piece is modelled partly on traditional Syrian singing, which often uses the rather doleful sequence la so fa mi (though with a rather sharp fa), giving the music a Phrygian flavour.
The piece includes aleatoric sections in which certain elements are sung by each singer independently, evoking a multiplicity of voices. The 'box and line notation' used for creating these effects is fully explained in notes accompanying the edition. It takes a little getting used to for a choir that has never used it, but is not hard. The music also calls for a vocal tremolo, in echo of traditional Syrian ornamentation. Again, this is explained in the notes.
Songs of sorrow was composed in 2016 for the Portugese choir Voz Nua, dir. Aoife Hiney. The recording is by Icosa Choir, dir. Luke Mather, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
None (The piece is sung to vocables such as o, i, lo, ro. Pronunciation notes are included in the score, although they do not appear in the on-line perusal copy.)
Purchase – 3053: Songs of sorrow
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