Sunday, 11 January 2009

E.J. Moeran: Cherry Ripe- a two-part song.

I have often wondered what a copy of the E.J. Moeran’s two part song Cherry Ripe was doing in a second-hand bookshop in Wales. Especially as it used to belong to the Pontefract Music Festival up in the West Riding. It is not clear from the Festival’s Webpage if it is still extant: the latest update appears to be for 2004!

However the aims of this worthy society were/are quite simple. They provide a “competitive week of music, speech and drama for enthusiastic amateurs of all ages and levels of competence. Original and established works of poetry, speech and acting are performed as well as vocal solos, duets and choral pieces. Instrumental classes provide for solo performances, small groups, bands and orchestras and all participants benefit from help and guidance from very experienced adjudicators”

And perhaps most important of all, the “local people in the audiences enjoy the high standards of competitive performances at a very reasonable cost, the whole festival concluding with a superbly relaxed concert of the week's winners.”

But back to my copy of Moeran’s music. It cost me a princely sum of 25p (or five shillings in real money). Scribbled on the back of the music is the date 1982. I guess that this must have been the last time the work was sung – at least from this particular copy.

THERE is a garden in her face
Where roses and white lilies blow;
A heavenly paradise is that place,
Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow:
There cherries grow which none may buy
Till 'Cherry-ripe' themselves do cry.
Those cherries fairly do enclose
Of orient pearl a double row,
Which when her lovely laughter shows,
They look like rose-buds fill'd with snow;
Yet them nor peer nor prince can buy
Till 'Cherry-ripe' themselves do cry.
Her eyes like angels watch them still;
Her brows like bended bows do stand,
Threat'ning with piercing frowns to kill
All that attempt with eye or hand
Those sacred cherries to come nigh,
Till 'Cherry-ripe' themselves do cry.

Cherry Ripe is one of Four English Lyrics that Jack Moeran composed in 1934. This was a providential time, for the composer, as he had also restarted work on his great G minor Symphony. Recently, in 1929, he had produced the excellent setting of James’ Joyce’s poems and the choral Songs of Springtime.
The Four Songs were Cherry Ripe by Thomas Campion, Willow Song by John Fletcher, The Constant Lover by William Brown and The Passionate Shepherd by Thomas Marlowe.

Geoffrey Self has noted that Moeran had little time for singers and he suggested that these songs were in fact ‘dumbed down’ so as to appeal to singers who typically ignored his music. Of course this version of Cherry Ripe is not the same tune as that used by Eric Coates in his Tarantella from the London Suite or even that used by Cyril Scott in his eponymous piano piece nor Frank Bridge in his exquisite miniature for string orchestra.

These pieces of music was based on other words and another tune:-
Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,
Ripe I cry,
Full and fair ones
Come and buy.
Moeran sets the three verses of Campion’s song more or less strophically with only the second voice, the alto, and the accompaniment showing signs of variation. However, the effect is pleasing as it is one of those arrangements that are actually quite catchy and linger in the brain after hearing. Of course there is no current recording of this piece currently available, although I believe that it was issued on an old Hyperion vinyl LP.

One last thought. If this music ended up in the recycle bin at the Pontefract Music Festival offices, I wonder what else has been deemed to be old-fashioned, irrelevant and no longer required. Imagine, Ernest John Moeran being chucked out to make space for Andrew Lloyd Webber or Einaudi!


sonia from pontefract said...

I came across your post when seeing if the Pontefract Music Festival programme was on-line. The Festival is still going strong(ish) and starts this Saturday (7thMarch2009).Liz Quinn is still the contact.
As to how the piece ended up in Wales - perhaps one of the adjudicators that year came from those parts.

Moelwyn said...

It is of course, referred to in Dylan Thomas' "A child's Christmas in Wales".

Eric Jackson, webmaster said...

Thank you for your nice comments about our Festival. The Pontefract music Festival is indeed still going strong, entries for 2016 have just closed and we will have nearly 200 taking part over two weekends. We have a new comprehensive website and a whole raft of new people involved in making the Festival a success.