(1932) SATB and Piano, Complete Edition. Composed by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). BH Secular Choral. Boosey & Hawkes #M051481941. Published by Boosey & Hawkes (HL.48022504).
Item Number: HL.48022504
ISBN 1480329908. 6.75x10.5 inches.
Texts: George Wither (I Lov'd a Lass) and Robert Graves (Lift Boy)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Difficulty level: 2
These are two delightful and contrasted part-songs for choir and piano which ought to be a gift to choirs looking for rare secular repertoire for their concert programmes. I lov'd a lass is full of fun, while the challenge lies in the regularly changing metre. The choir's first bar is in 7/8 and is followed by 5/4 and then 3/4. Later on Britten gives us 3/4, 7/8, 11/8, 4/4, 5/4, 7/8, 4/4 in successive bars but this all adds to the entertainment. There are lots of portamenti too in what adds up to a passionate little piece.
Lift Boy sets a nonsense poem by Robert Graves about a boy who starts life as a knife-boy, moves on to become a lift boy and then a lift man. Preached damnation by 'Old Eagle' one day, he cuts the lift cables and down they all go. But Graves ends by saying: 'Can a phonograph lie? A song very neatly contriv'd to make you and me laugh'. Curious indeed. But Britten obviously sees the humour in it with a busy piano part accompanying straightforward choral passages which have nothing of the complexity of metre of the previous song. The message of damnation is delivered in suitably solemn tones before the piece dances off to its laughing ending.
Duration: 5 minutes total (Lass=2; Lift=3)
Paul Spicer, Lichfield, 2011.