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John Bevan Baker (1926-1994)
Songs of Courtship & Other Works

Hebrides Ensemble
Consort of Voices



Linn Records is delighted to present the world premiere recording of John Bevan Baker's Songs of Courtship, performed by the renowned Hebrides Ensemble and Consort of Voices.   The disc represents a unique opportunity for listeners to explore fascinating and uncharted waters of twentieth-century British music.

Songs of Courtship were set to music by Bevan Baker in 1992 for the Black Isle Singers.   The poems, written by Mao Shih in the 7th century BC, were translated from the Ancient Chinese in 1946 by Arthur Waley.   John loved them and maintained that they had “a simple directness which could have been written yesterday.”   He wrote them as a contrasting, companion piece to the Brahms Lieberslieder Waltzern in a programme first performed by the Black Isle Singers in May 1992 in Fortrose Academy.   The courtship songs, richly imaginative, vary greatly in metre and in their treatment of the enigmatic oriental lyrics, some being lightfooted, some more robust, always rhythmically challenging.   The “Wedding Song” is a triumphant, rejoicing finale.

John Bevan Baker
Born in Staines, Middlesex, Bevan Baker drew his musical influences from a lifetime of music, starting at the Royal College of Music where he studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob.   He was also assistant organist at Westminster Abbey and a teacher at the Abbey's Choir School, before moving to Aberdeen, where he taught at Robert Gordon's College, and Glasgow, where he spent a number of years before moving to Fortrose.   Alongside his strong commitment to community arts and education, he wrote music for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Hebrides Ensemble and his son-in-law, the cellist William Conway.   His last work, an opera entitled The Seer, was given its posthumous premiere in 1996.

Hebrides Ensemble
Hebrides Ensemble has built a reputation as Scotland's foremost chamber group, touring frequently throughout Scotland, appearing at international music festivals and broadcasting regularly on BBC Radio 3.   The Ensemble has commissioned and premiered new works by more than forty composers including Nigel Osborne, Sally Beamish, Stuart MacRae and Gordon Mcpherson and performs a celebrated series of concerts each year at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

    “… beautifully crafted, transparently honest music, of great warmth and melodic fecundity.” - Peter Maxwell Davies

    “Here was a lyricist of a special sort, who could convey his ideas with simplicity of utterance, in tones that were limpid, concise, but never cramped.” - Conrad Wilson, The Herald

    “Bevan Baker's music glistens with excitement and vitality, refreshing in its originality…” - Opera Magazine

Songs of Courtship (1988)
  1 Out in the bushlands       1.53
  2 In the lowlands       1.22
  3 Plop fall the plums       0.51
  4 A very handsome gentleman       1.26
  5 Of fair girls the loveliest       1.12
  6 The cock has crowed       1.10
  7 Shu is away       1.09
  8 A moon rising       1.46
  9 Outside the Eastern Gate       1.15
10 If along the highroad       0.50
11 By the willows of the Eastern Gate       1.09
12 I brought my great carriage       1.26
13 Wedding Song: My lord is all aglow       1.04

14 DUO (1981)       8.33

Suite for Piano (1962/1972):
15 March       1.24
16 Jig       1.32
17 Intermezzo       1.50
18 Berceuse       2.24
19 Finale       1.17

20 Spring (1983)       3.09

21 Triptych (1980)       8.18

22 A Song for Kate (1988)       2.59

23 Eclogue (1994)       8.16

24 Rorate Coeli Desuper (1988)       9.51

        Total Time 67.10

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