A large proportion of Elizabeth Poston’s music, though often performed soon after it had been written, has since been largely lost to us, simply because it has not been published. Some hitherto unpublished works were heard in 2005, as part of the celebration of the centenary of her birth – Fanfare for Hallé, Harlow Concertante for string orchestra and string quartet, and the Sei Canzoni for soprano, clarinet and piano – but of her total output of nearly 300 compositions more than 80% still remain unpublished and largely forgotten.
Now, An English Day-Book for girls’ choir and harp has been published by Campion Press for performance by the National Girls’ Choir of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, with Claire Jones (harpist to HRH, The Prince of Wales) and Christopher Bell (conductor). The concert took place on Saturday 17 April at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh and a recording was released by Signum Records in September.
Elizabeth accepted a commission for this work in 1966, for first performance at the Festival at Farnham, Kent by the Aldershot County High School Girls’ Choir, directed by her friend Pamela Verrall, with David Watkins on the harp. She had been pressed for some time to compose something for girls’ choir comparable to Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols for boys and so it is fitting that Britten’s work is included on the present recording.
Elizabeth Poston & David Watkins
The idea for the work had been at the back of her mind for some time using the harp which she clearly loved, and we find it included in about half her compositions – it occurs in several as a principal instrument, notably the Trio for flute, clarinet/viola and harp/piano (1959) which was performed during the centenary celebration year. She worked very closely with harpist, David Watkins, at Rooks Nest House and elsewhere, to achieve the precise effects she sought, including the buzzing of bees for one of the songs in the Day-Book, A Charm against the Bumble Bee.
Elizabeth envisaged An English Day-Book as a collection of pieces to be played, either separately or together, as required, and set in a sequence within the framework of The Bellman’s Song. Altogether it includes settings of nine 17th and 18th century poems, collectively evoking the moods and times of an English day, with the clock striking as time passes, and linked to the annual cycle of the seasons and to the cycle of life itself.