Jos Milton, tenor
Melinda Coffey Armstead, piano & organ
Songs by Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)
Down by the Salley Gardens
I will go with my father a ploughing
I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills . . . Michael Head (1900-1976)
“Nimrod” from Enigma Variations . . . Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Studies in English Folksong . . . Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Jerusalem . . . Hubert Parry (1848-1918)
It is a joy to welcome Jos Milton back to CitF and the Carmel Bach Festival. We have been colleagues and friends for many years now, having collaborated on services for CitF, recitals and a CD: Southerly – Art Songs of the American South, recorded here and released in 2015 by Albany Records (see below for more info).
Here are Jos’ notes on the life and work of Ivor Gurney:
British composer Ivor Gurney was a chorister in the Gloucester Cathedral Choir at the turn of the twentieth century. He began composing at a very young age, and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1911, where he began studies with Charles Villiers Stanford. Gurney’s training was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. He joined the 2nd/5th Gloucesters in 1917 and served in France. He sustained two injuries as a soldier, the second time by noxious gas. Although he survived this trauma, Gurney’s mental health eventually declined as a result of it, and he spent the last fifteen years of his life (1922-1937) in an asylum. He was a prolific composer of song, as well as an accomplished poet. The bulk of his song output seems to originate from an intense period of creativity between 1919 and 1921. These lyric compositions exhibit an exceptional sensitivity to word-setting, and are (in this tenor’s opinion) unjustly neglected in the current realm of voice recital programs. Texts for today’s Gurney selections are by William Butler Yeats (Down by the Salley Gardens), Walter de la Mare (An Epitaph), John Fletcher (Sleep), and Joseph Campbell (I will go with my father a-ploughing).
from Performing Arts Monterey Bay – April 16, 2019:
Over the years, and in fits and starts, Coffey Armstead has made numerous CD recordings. The most recent, Southerly: Art Songs of the American South, with an outstanding lyric tenor, Jos Milton. Their program consists of all new music, James Sclater’s Beyond the Rainbow (1998) of six songs to texts by Ovid Vickers, Dan Locklair’s Portraits (1983) of three songs to texts by Emily Herring Wilson, Price Walden’s Abide With Me (2015, a Milton commission) five songs to texts by Walt Whitman, C Austin Miles, Henry Francis Lyte and Philip Rice. Four songs by John Musto to texts by Langston Hughes, Shadow of the Blues (1986) completes the collection. This program was recorded at Erdman Chapel, Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, in July and August, 2015, and subsequently performed on two days in November at Mississippi College, Clinton, and the University of Mississippi, Oxford. Not only do these songs add an exquisite contribution to the art song songbook, but their music—some of it like “In the garden” from the Price Walden set is absolutely gorgeous—could not have originated in any other place than America. (Milton sings “Unknown” from the Locklair set solo.) The Journal of Singing published this rave: “Nothing quite equals the special pleasures derived from a recording that is truly fresh in its musical offerings or approach. Southerly is such a recording.…This was clearly a labor of love, executed with a relentless attention to the smallest detail, and the result is one of the most enthralling art song releases of the last twenty years…Milton’s singing is unfailingly beautiful throughout all the songs…Pianist Melinda Coffey Armstead’s wonderful playing is a consistent joy…In short, this recording is exemplary in every way.”