Tag Archives: John Tenniel

Recordings of rarely-heard Thomas Moore part 1

Project ERIN has published forty-one podcasts of individual pieces of music, music either set to words by Thomas Moore or inspired by his work in some way. Today we will introduce the first set within these podcasts, which were taken from a student-based project for the Queen’s University Belfast BMUS module ‘A Night at the Opera’ in spring 2017. Since this was the bicentenary of Moore’s Lalla Rookh, it was decided to recreate this tale through a mixture of narration (written and delivered by the students themselves) and a selection of music, ranging from domestic songs dating from as early as 1818 to the 1893 version of a grand opera. The students provided their own arrangements to these works, sometimes adding an obbligato instrument to a song originally conceived for voice and piano only, sometimes working as a small chamber group to perform a piece originally conceived for orchestra.

Feramorz singing to Lalla Rookh, as drawn by John Tenniel

Our programme opened with the “Slow March” from Frederic Clay’s cantata Lalla Rookh – originally written for the Brighton Festival of 1877. We used our arrangement of this as an atmospheric piece that recurred to suggest ‘travel’ from one section of Moore’s work to the next. We then followed the structure of Moore’s tale, drawing on Clay again for the song “Princess thy royal father”, sung by Lalla Rookh’s officious chaperone Fadladeen as he supervises that princess’s reluctant wedding journey to meet a groom she has never met. Said groom has disguised himself as the poet Feramorz so he can join Lalla Rookh’s train and court his bride; we recorded the runaway hit of Clay’s cantata, “I’ll sing thee songs of Araby” as the poet’s first – and successful – attempt to intrigue his betrothed. Prior to this, we hear Lalla’s expression of restlessness and lack of fulfilment in “Sous le feuillage” from Félicien David’s opera comique Lalla Roukh (Paris, 1862).This highly popular work travelled across the theatres of Europe, and did much to circulate Moore’s tale to new audiences (for further see project ERIN’s OMEKA exhibit, ‘The tales and travels of Lalla Rookh, at http://omeka.qub.ac.uk/exhibits/show/tales-travels-lalla-rookh/.)

Zelica sings ‘Bendermeer’s Stream’ to Azim, as drawn by John Tenniel

‘The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan’ is the first poetic tale that Feramorz sings to Lalla Rookh in Moore’s original. This dark story of a cult built around a false prophet does not seem to have inspired any domestic songs or cantatas for amateur choral societies to enjoy, but it did stimulate the Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford to write a grand opera derived from Moore’s work. Within this tale we find ‘Bendemeer’s Stream’ – a mournful reminiscence sung by the prophet’s concubine Zelica to her former lover Azim – from Stanford’s second adaptation of his own work as Il profeta valeto (London, 1983). We offer a unique arrangement of this song for soprano, piano, and obbligato clarinet.

Peri with dead lovers, lithograph by Owen Jones and Henry Warren

Feramorz’s second tale for Lalla Rookh was ‘Paradise and the Peri’, a lighter but still poignant story of a fallen Persian angel whose desire to enter heaven obliged her to find ‘that perfect gift’. This resulted in the Peri undertaking three quests, from which she brings back: a drop of blood (from a hero), a sigh (from a dying lover), and a tear (from a repentant sinner). We chose music to mark the three recurring actions of this story. Each quest starts with the Peri waiting at the gate of heaven, for which we recorded an arrangement of “Vor Eden’s Thor” from Robert Schumann’s ‘poem in music’ Das Paradies und die Peri (1843). The guardian angel’s repeated refusal to give the Peri entrance is captured by “’Sweet’, said the Angel” from John Francis Barnett’s cantata Paradise and the Peri (Birmingham, 1870). An expression of the Peri’s dashed hopes we also took from Barnett, “But ah! Even Peri’s hopes are vain”. We returned to Schumann for an atmospheric chorus of Arabian maidens, “Schmucket die Stufen”. We concluded our adaptation of this tale with John Clarke Whitfield’s  “Joy, joy forever!”, which the Peri sings as Heaven’s gate is finally opened for her. This was taken from his cantata for soprano,  The Peri Pardoned; this was published by Moore’s regular music publisher James Power in 1818.

Lalla Rookh by Kenny Meadows

Recordings of all the pieces mentioned above can be found at: http://www.erin.qub.ac.uk/podcasts/. Copies of all the images, with full metadata, can be found at http://omeka.qub.ac.uk/collections/show/15.

Music credits: Oscar Aiken (arranger); Megan Boyd (piano); Courtney Burns (soprano); Ellen Campbell (soprano); Matthew Campbell (tenor); Sarah Coulter (mezzo); Galina Crothers (piano); Jenny Garrett (piano); Ciara Jackson (flute); Jason Jackson (recording engineer); Linzi Jones (violin); Alison Montgomery (piano); Gerard Mullaly (clarinet); Daniel Steele (baritone); Poppy Wheeler (arranger, bassoon, flute).

Part 2 of this blog series will cover the pieces this ensemble recorded from Moore’s ‘The Fire-worshippers’, ‘The Light of the Harem’, and also from the conclusion of Lalla Rookh’s wedding journey.

Thomas Moore’s most popular songs: Bendemeer’s stream

There’s a bower of roses by Bendemeer’s stream,

And the nightingale sings round it all day long;

In the time of my childhood ’twas like a sweet dream,

To sit in the roses and hear the bird’s song.

That bower and its music I never forget,

But oft when alone in the bloom of the year,

I think–is the nightingale singing there yet?

Are the roses still bright by the calm Bendemeer?

No, the roses soon wither’d that hung o’er the wave,

But some blossoms were gather’d while freshly they shone,

And a dew was distill’d from their flowers, that gave

All the fragrance of summer, when summer was gone.

Thus memory draws from delight, ere it dies,

An essence that breathes of it many a year;

Thus bright to my soul, as ’twas then to my eyes,

Is that bower on the banks of the calm Bendemeer.

Zelica sings to Azim, drawn by John Tenniel

‘Bendemeer’s Stream’, from ‘The Veiled Prophet’ in Lalla Rookh (1817), is a nostalgic lyric sung by the concubine Zelica to fulfil the prophet’s demands that she seduce her former lover Azim. This individual lyric was set by more composers than any other from Lalla Rookh, with James Power of London publishing settings by Lord Burghersh, William Hawes, and Lady Flint shortly after Moore’s poem came out. A later setting, by Edward Bunnett, was published in 1865. American settings (as ‘Bower of roses’) include J. Wilson (New York, 1817), as well as R.W. Wyatt and S. Wetherbee (Boston, 1820). The song also appears in Charles Villiers Stanford’s opera, The Veiled Prophet (Hannover, 1881; London, 1893 as Il profeta valeto). Project ERIN has recorded a special arrangement of the Stanford (with piano and obbligato clarinet), which will be made available on the project website early in 2019.

Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Queen’s University Belfast

The response of illustrators and engravers to Thomas Moore

 

All of Thomas Moore’s works featured in project ERIN – the Irish Melodies, the National Airs, and Lalla Rookh – were conceived to feature contributions from illustrators and engravers at an early stage. With regards to the two song series, each number thereof would sport one or two plates designed by illustrators such as as Thomas Stothard RA (“Row gently here” from the National Airs; “Lesbia hath a beaming eye” from the Irish Melodies), or William Henry Brooke (“As vanquish’d Erin”, and “Oh, ye dead!,” both from the Irish Melodies). The title pages, too each had their own illustration. These designs were executed as engravings (“a printmaking technique that involves making incisions into a metal plate which retain the ink and form the printed image” –tate.org.uk) by such as Charles Heath (1785-1848) or Henry Melville (1792-1870). While the images featured in the Irish Melodies or National Airs – whether produced by James Power in London or William Power in Dublin – were ostensibly the same (i.e. drawn by the same illustrator), the fact that the brothers employed distinct engravers is evident when copies of their works are compared. One of the most famous illustrated volume associated with Thomas Moore is the 1846 edition of the Irish Melodies as illustrated by his fellow Irishman Daniel Maclise RA (1806-1870); Maclise’s work is distinct from earlier illustrated editions in presenting one or two illustrations (or at the very least a decorative border) to each of the Melodies. The popularity of this edition (which was reissued by Longmans as late as 1876) brought Moore’s work to a new generation towards the end of his life and beyond.

Lalla Rookh has a particularly strong association with illustrators. Queen Victoria’s drawing master Richard Westall RA (1765-1836) seems to have been commissioned by the Longman firm to design Illustrations of Lalla Rookh an oriental romance—since this volume came out in the same year as Moore’s ‘oriental romance’. Charles Heath (1785-1848), also associated with illustrations for the Irish Melodies, was the engraver. More famous perhaps was the edition of Lalla Rookh with sixty-nine illustrations designed by John Tenniel (1820-1914), issued several times by Longmans between 1861 and 1880. This  edition already had a rival issued by George Routledge in 1860 that featured the illustrations of numerous artists, including George Housman Thomas (1824-1868), Kenny Meadows (1790-1874), and Edward Henry Corbould (1815-1905). Routledge promoted an illustrated edition of Moore’s Lalla Rookh until at least 1891. Some of these artists, as well as the engraver Charles Heath, were previously involved in an illustrated version of Lalla Rookh brought out by Longmans in 1838.

Much of the illustrative activity associated with Moore’s work took place in the Anglo-Irish orbit, and involved some fairly high profile artists. Project ERIN is able to document a few continental works with engraved illustrations, including Lalla Rookh : ein morganländisches Gedicht, translated by Johann Ludwig Witthaus and published by Schumann of Zwickau in 1822. This work, presumably intended for those with a modest book budget, has but two illustrations, both engraved by one J. Thaeter. We only have the surnames for the two illustrators – Rensch designed a frontispiece of Lalla Rookh, while Baumann designed an image depicting Aliris holding a faint Lalla Rookh after his identity as her beloved Feramorz is revealed. Even more obscure are the identities of the designer and engraver of the frontispiece to volume one of The Works of Thomas Moore, as issued in Paris by Arthus Bertrand in 1820. Depicting the prophet Mokanna unveiing himself to Zelica, this is designed by “Ch” and engraved by “Dx” (see below).

Mokanna unveils himself to Zelica.Paris,Arthus Bertrand, 1820d

Although lithography — “a printing process that uses a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to them” (tate.org.uk) – was discovered in 1798 (britannica.com), the first known example of this technique being used to illustrate Moore is the 1860 illustrated edition of Paradise and the Peri issued by the London-based firm Day & Son. lllustrator Owen Jones (1809-1874) and illuminator Henry Warren (1794-1879) offer a luxuriously colourful response to this particular tale of Moore’s, a sample of which is produced below.

Peri with dead lovers.Jones and Warren

Images courtesy of Special Collections, Queen’s University Belfast

We conclude this blog by announcing that two electronic collections that will be available through project ERIN’s dedicated website by the end of this month are here given a ‘soft launch’ through their home site in omeka.qub.ac.uk.
Collection number 17, ‘Moore’s Irish Melodies” Texts and Illustrations”, includes numerous still images that document the efforts of the artists mentioned above, as well as others active in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in the Victorian era. See also ‘Lalla Rookh in 19th-century Europe’ (collection 15) for 71 images associated with that work. (A third collection, related to the National Airs, is still under development.) All of these collections will be interpreted through OMEKA exhibitions that will become available through the project ERIN website by the end of August 2017.

Performing the role of Feramorz

Guest contributor Matthew Campbell

Editor’s note: in May 2017, as part of the lunch series in Music at Queen’s University Belfast, Matthew performed a song as Feramorz from the 1877 cantata Lalla Rookh (W.G. Wills, text, and Frederic Clay, music).*

Perhaps a 19th-century Irish poet’s interpretation of the Kashmir Valley may seem far-fetched to students today, particularly as research indicates that Moore had never actually travelled to India in his lifetime. However, his telling of the fictional story ‘Lalla Rookh’ depicts a love story so exotic and beautiful that it really isn’t overly surprising that so many composers chose to realise it through music.

In our snapshot interpretation, I am performing the role of Feramorz and have the pleasure of performing a song from Frederic Clay’s interpretation entitled “I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby”. This is a love song which allows me to explore Feramorz character not only as a heroic King in disguise, but also an innocent young man in love.

 

LR.L1.1880a.Feramorz, LR, Fadladeen.Tenniel

Feramorz sings to Lalla Rookh, as depicted by John Tenniel.

Image courtesy of Special Collections, Queen’s University Belfast.

In Moore’s poem, Feramorz is actually the young King of Bucharia, Aliris, in disguise. He undertakes this disguise in an attempt to woo Lalla Rookh (his intended bride through an arranged marriage) with his poetry and music. Fran Pritchett expands on Moore’s interpretation of the character of Feramorz by writing, “He was a youth about Lalla Rookh’s own age, and graceful as that idol of women, Crishna, such as he appears to their young imaginations, heroic, beautiful, breathing music from his very eyes”.[1] I agree with this depiction as this is somewhat how I myself imagined the character, I would however add that I feel that Aliris’s choice of disguise was more than a cunning plan to woo Lalla Rookh, but rather a genuine act of love suggesting that royalty and riches could not make him happy if he was without the one he truly loved, and his willingness to demote himself of these privileges in an attempt to capture her heart suggest to me that he was more interested in love than materialist wealth and status. When performing as Feramorz I combined these descriptions along with my interpretation of the song to depict a character by implementing simple yet effective methods of characterisation.

My first entrance singing Clay’s song allows me to portray a young man in love as he gazes upon the beauty of Lalla Rookh. By standing up straight with my chest inched forward and my chin raised to allow my head to point upwards towards Lalla Rookh, I can use this body language to suggest a man who is confident and assured, both characteristics of a heroic character. I also interpret this through my gait, which as I move closer to Lalla Rookh is controlled and calm suggesting that I am unafraid of approaching the one I adore. Characterising a young lover is slightly more challenging and in an attempt to achieve this I have opted for subtlety rather than a form of melodrama. Simple extended arm gestures towards Lalla Rookh accompanied by the occasional gaze upon her face should be effective in establishing a form of attraction between the characters.

I also believe that nothing more than subtlety is necessary given the beautiful floating melody of the song, which in itself easily suggests romance. When I sing this song I tend to move a little more rubato than other performances I have heard and this is a personal choice as I believe it allows me to place emphasis on the emotive elements of the song and give it a hint more tenderness and feeling which will also help depict the innocent plea of a young lover. Winton Dean makes an interesting remark in his paper on recitative performance in late baroque opera noting that when singing “not only should there be no regular pulse; there should be no singing in the sense that arias are sung. Recitative was defined as a form of musical speech and should be delivered parlando, not with the full voice”.[2] Whilst I do not feel there are any elements of the song in which it would be appropriate to sing parlando, I do think there is merit in suggesting that the idea is adaptable and therefore also applies to the concept of singing rubato. Young love should not be rigid and restricted and for that reason I would see no benefit in observing every bar line, beat and rest with precise execution. Instead, I would respect the musical integrity of the piece but also give it an element of realism by feeling the mood of the song and adapting my performance appropriately whether that be through change in tempo or dynamics mostly or simply the overall pace of the piece.

When I rehearse Feramorz’s song a natural beauty occurs as I never seem to sing it exactly the same way twice.  For this to happen so freely and unplanned is an example within itself of how the song and the character can become one by simply allowing oneself to feel the song.


[1] Pritchett, F (2013) Lalla Rookh (1817), Available at: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/lallarookh/index.html#index

(Accessed: 23rd April 2017).

 

[2] Winton, D (1977) ‘The Performance of Recitative in Late Baroque Opera’, Music & Letters, 58(4), pp. 389 – 402.