lads

A beautiful, understated song (it’s No 5 from Six Songs From A Shropshire Lad). I’ve been learning this in preparation for my choral audition later in April. I thought I knew it until I started learning it for performance. The subtle fluidity of the alternating 6/8 and 9/8 bars – same first and last verse, different for 2 and 3 – is excellent, and can catch you out, but it serves to emphasize key words in the text. The text unfolds its meaning slowly and on many levels – and recognizing that can help with the interpretation. The “lads” are soldiers soon to go to war, and the poet wonders how to identify those in the crowd who “will die in their glory and never grow old”. Butterworth himself died in the Great War in 1916. My favorite bit is at the very end, where the piano hits the highest note throughout the piece, a real moment of tension released and yearning – but we never get to that bit in our singing lessons. But I have to practice the technique a lot this week – particularly glottal stops and breathing – and memorise the words so that I can focus on the phrasing.

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