New Zealand composer Chris Artley‘s ‘O My Children, My Poor Children!’, for SATB choir and big band, was premiered before a full house at the International Schools Choral Music Society (ISCMS) Gala Concert at Shanghai Symphony Hall on Saturday 23 February. Over 350 secondary students and teachers took part in the performance, which was directed by Dr. Robert Hasty (Director of the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra).
The festival’s theme for 2019 was ‘Spirit of Peace’, in recognition of the strongly-held pacifist beliefs of featured composers Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett. The ISCMS festival commissioned Chris Artley to write a work for choir and big band to go alongside their works. After searching for suitable texts, he chose ‘O My Children, My Poor Children!’, which is part of Henry Longfellow’s epic poem, ‘Song of Hiawatha’ and contains a heart-felt plea for peace. As expected with this instrumentation, the work has a strong jazz feel and is designed very much with young singers in mind.
Chris is the first Kiwi to be invited as Guest Composer of the ISCMS festival, where previous guests have included Sir Karl Jenkins, of ‘Adiemus’ fame, and Grammy award-winning composer, Christopher Tin. David Squire, Director of National Youth Choir of New Zealand, was also in attendance at the festival, as Choir Director and Chorus Master. David coached the choir in Chris’ piece and conducted them in ‘Five Spirituals’ from ‘A Child of Our Time’ by Michael Tippett.
“Chris wrote a wonderful work that captured the imagination of both players and singers, and provided an idiomatic performance experience that was not typical for either the choir members or jazz band players. The debut performance was very well received by the audience, and Chris had the novel experience of students wanting him to autograph their scores after the concert!”
– David Squire
“O My Children! by Chris Artley is an authentic and accessible jazz work that allows the young singer to experience this important genre in a meaningful way. The text adds meaningful depth and it would make a wonderful addition to a program that focuses on the good in humanity. It perfectly balances between choir and jazz ensemble, with moments where the instrumentalists play alone and allows talented soloists to shine.”
– Dr Robert Hasty