Richard Lambert Music

A Life to Grow (Op.1)

A cantata for SSATB chorus, baritone and (light) soprano soli, piano and brass octet (3.1.3.1)

Constructed in the form of an arch, and centralising on a lively setting of Psalm 100, there are cross-references to themes in several of the movements to unify the work.

The opening movement is a short prelude for brass octet. Setting the mood for the cantata as a whole, it also presents material that will re-appear in succeeding movements.

The second movement, And there were shepherds, sets verses 8-11 from St Luke's gospel, chapter 2, which the baritone presents expressively, supported by an obligato French horn and simple piano chording in B flat minor.

A key change to a brighter D Major is used to announce the angel, and another modulation brightens still further into B flat major for the female voices to enter confidently: Fear not! Behold good tidings of great joy I bring to you.

The male voices take the melody, building to a climax, at which point the introductory material returns, this time with the choir singing in counterpoint with the baritone. The movement ends with three jubilant alleluias, the trombones reminding us, fortissimo, of the opening melody.

The central movement, for choir and brass only, is an energetic setting of Jubilate Deo (Psalm 100) in B minor. Using busy jazz-style rhythms and material from the Prelude, this movement is in ternary form.

The central section is quieter initially, and unaccompanied (for the Lord is gracious), but it reverts to a sudden fortissimo (And his truth endureth) for all forces, which then leads to a lengthy reprise and a triumphant conclusion in B Major.

The fourth movement, A Birth was Made, is another ternary structure, in G Major. It is a gentle setting for soprano solo, piano and (mostly) muted brass, of a poem by Pam Lambert which derides the commercialisation of Christmas and the devaluing of the Christian message.

The choir participates in the central section with a sped-up version of the soprano melody, now in triple time; and the filigree piano writing symbolises the excess icing and glitter, which denotes our current celebration of this festival.

A return to the opening key allows the soprano to reiterate her first verse, this time extending into A life to grow, Lord Jesus, which gives the cantata its title.

The last movement, Gloria, for brass and chorus, is an extended reprise of the Prelude, this time setting the laudatory words, Gloria in excelsis Deo.

The Alleluias from the ending to the second movement are re-employed to provide an exultant conclusion and affirmation of faith.

Performances

  1. 14 December 1974 at St Martin’s church, Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire, with Sherwood choral society, Carol Chapman (soprano) and Philip Lingard (baritone)
  2. 6 December 1975 at Ward Freman school, Buntingford, Hertfordshire
  3. 21 December 1975 at Bassingbourn church, Cambridgeshire, with Ward Freman school choir
  4. 10 December 1978 at Barley church, Hertfordshire, with Chanticleer chamber choir, Jane Eagle (soprano) and Frank Wright (baritone)
  5. 19 December 1983 at Ward Freman school, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, with Amanda Simpson (soprano) and Simon Cowling (baritone)
  6. 3 December 1995 at St Christopher school, Letchworth, Hertfordshire
  7. 12 May 1999 at Great St Helen's church, Bishopsgate, London, with St Helen's school choir and orchestra

Listen

This recording of A Life to Grow was produced using computer software called Sibelius: it is not a live recording.

Purchase

You can view and purchase the score of A Life to Grow from Score Exchange.

If you wish to listen to the piece on that website, select the ‘MP3 file’ link instead of playing the embedded score for better audio quality.

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