|Charles Villiers Stanford|
1852 - 1924
I first started to get to know the compositional style of Stanford in my secondary school choir, when we started learning his Magnificat in G. The Magnificat is mainly a treble solo (often sung by a very red-faced and out of breath 11 year old boy), accompanied by a full choir beneath. This is a good example of the kind of choral music that Stanford wrote for church. In particular, the harmonies and choral textures (frequently homophonic) demonstrate the kind of writing style that became comfortable for Stanford.
The piece that I wanted to post about is in fact very different to the grand, Parry-esque style of Stanford's Magnificat in G. Like all a capella pieces, Charles Stanford's 'The Blue Bird' is extremely difficult to hold in tune, and to balance the dynamics between each of the parts. However, when sung properly - it is one of the most beautiful yet simple choral pieces I have ever come across. One similarity to the Magnificat is the way the piece is structured with the sopranos carrying a sort of solo line, whilst the rest of the choir moves mostly together and as an accompaniment. I always find that the harmonies in this piece are extremely cathartic, and are a perfect representation of the words. The words are taken from a poem written by British poet: Mary Coleridge.
For me, the most striking thing about the piece is the way Stanford writes the soprano part; with occasional notes after the choral phrases simply to enhance the effect of the chords, then following this with a soprano melody that develops the choral accompaniment into so much more. Although repetitive, the serenity of the music is guaranteed to wash away any stress that I may have, and the ambiguous cadence at the end of the piece always leads me to imagine that the listener has fallen asleep, and therefore needs no fancy cadence to signify the end of the piece.