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Program Notes & Synopses

Enhance your patrons’ experience with notes that highlight the music’s humanity and illuminate its depth. Choose from our wide selection of pre-written pieces or commission custom notes that complement your concert story.

Program Notes & Synopses

Enhance your patrons’ experience with notes that highlight the music’s humanity and illuminate its depths.

Custom Notes

Tell your own concert story by commissioning synopses and program notes that fit you needs. Just tell us what you’d like to have, and we'll get back to you with a quote.


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Britten: Canticle 3: Still falls the Rain

Britten: Canticle 3: Still falls the Rain


3815 words
program notes by Chris Myers

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In 1954 Benjamin Britten was asked to compose a piece in memory of Noel Mewton-Wood, the Australian pianist who had died recently at age thirty-one. Mewton-Wood was a close associate of Britten’s; in addition to occasionally accompanying Peter Pears and performing at the Aldeburgh Festival, he premiered the revised version of Britten’s piano concerto in 1946. Despair after the death of his partner had driven Mewton-Wood to kill himself, and Britten was shaken by the news. In her diary entry for 7 December 1953, Imogen Holst wrote, “He was looking grey and worried, and talked of the terrifyingly small gap between madness and non-madness, and said why was it that the people one really liked found life so difficult.”
Throughout the earlier part of Britten’s career, his work as a songwriter focused on the composition of tightly unified cycles. These cycles generally set either an anthology of poems by various poets focusing on a single theme, such as Our Hunting Fathers and the Serenade, or a collection of verses by a single poet, generally also on a single theme or mood, such as On This Island, the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, and The Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Within these cycles, there are few individual songs which retain their effectiveness divorced from their context within the larger work. In the late 1940s, however, Britten began occasionally to set poems that, due to their length and complexity, were better-suited to stand on their own rather than as pieces of a larger cycle. He called these settings “canticles,” a description meant to acknowledge not just the religious nature of the texts (many of his other songs had been religious in nature), but also an intensity of spiritual tone requiring more substantial musical form.

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