Ronald Corp

Conductor & Composer


Laudamus

Handwritten vocal score and full score with neatly copied orchestral parts available.

Programme Notes

The composer has written the following note for this second performance.

Laudamus (1994) is a substantial piece lasting about three-quarters of an hour.  Its predecessor, And All the Trumpets Sounded, commissioned by the Highgate Choral Society and first performed in November 1989, was about the same length.  Its theme was war, and I was determined that Laudamus should present a complete contrast.

The theme would be praise, and verses of the Te deum – ‘We praise thee O God’ – provided me with an obvious starting point.  I wanted to set the text of this old hymn in the original Latin, but I did not want to set it all.  I also had the idea of setting stanzas from the first Book (much of which at one time I knew by heart) of Wordsworth’s The Prelude.  But I was worried about finding a musical style to accommodate such Romantic verse, and felt for a while that Wordsworth and the Latin Te deum made improbable bedfellows.

I spent a long time thinking about the problem of texts, and began to look for other poets of praise, such as Milton and George Herbert.  Finally I came back to a poet with whom I had always thought myself out of sympathy – Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I had often found his convoluted word-play too extreme, but now I found several of his poems that were ideal for my purpose.

So I had, rather luckily, found the formula for Laudamus.  The Latin Te deum praises God directly.  Wordsworth praises God implicitly by praising nature, while Hopkins praises God explicitly through nature.  The tenor soloist sings Wordsworth, the soprano Hopkins, and the choir sings the Te deum.  Children’s voices (an optional extra) are heard towards the end of the piece, and the work is scored for a modest orchestra which includes two off-stage trumpets.

Laudamus opens with a section of controlled but seemingly-random cacophony.  This represents the sound of heavenly choirs praising God, and the same choral effect is invoked again at various points throughout the score.  The sound of these passages is intentionally crude and rough, but other sections, where the writing is quite straightforward, also imitate disparate voices singing ‘out of sync’.  The music of ‘Te gloriosus apostolorum chorus’ begins  simply enough, but soon melts into canonic part-writing with the voices successively coming in just a little out of step.  ‘Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum saeculi’ similarly relies on choral entries piling in one on top of another.

Other internal musical references give an overall unity.  Some of these were unconscious, and some are very brief; but others are structurally important.  The opening ‘Te deum laudamus’ music, in which the voice parts enter in turn beginning with the sopranos, returns most obviously in the orchestral interlude after ‘Et laudamus nomen tuum’ (where various other melodies are also quoted).  But it comes again once more, at the end –  ‘Non confundar in aeternum’ – where I also solve the last of the problems I had set myself: how to end, loudly or softly?  The audience must wait to hear the answer in the performance.

The work was commissioned by Rosemary Lewin and dedicated to the memory of Sylvia (Highgate Choral Society’s very first Friend), Ronald and Desmond Lewin.  It was first performed in February 1994 at St John’s, Smith Square by the London Choral Society, with the same soloists, orchestra, children’s choir and conductor as at this evening’s performance.

Copyright © Ronald Corp 1995