Two children's choirs will be joining Crouch End Festival Chorus at the world premiere of 17 Days: Finchley Children's Music Group and Coldfall School Choir. I've always loved writing music for children's choirs because they invariably sing my music with touching enthusiasm.
Which isn't to say that writing for children is easy, not by any means. Writing a piece that is readily singable without patronising or talking down to the children is notoriously tricky. Writing such music within the context of a much larger fully 'grown up' piece is altogether more complicated.
In 17 Days, the children have a pivotal role to play. At the beginning they set the scene, playing the dual roles of news reporters flying in from afar to cover the unfolding crisis, and angels on high reflecting on the events. They sing: "News is coming in of a collapsed mine in northern Chile, which has left over 30 miners trapped. Nobody knows if they are alive or dead." Their unearthly tune is punctuated by violent outbursts from the brass and percussion and is constantly underpinned by the slightly menacing, propulsive rhythms swelling up from the adult choir. The children - and their melody - fly above it all…
Later in 17 Days, the children again take centre stage in the setting of Emily Dickinson's poem, Hope. Here they sing:
"And sweetest in the Gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest Sea;
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
Again the children's melody appears to lift them above the drama of the scene below, this time embodying Dickinsons "little bird" so abashed by the storm. The innocent and moving beauty of Dickinson's text is reflected in the abundant tunefulness of the children's melody and will be amplified further still by the natural innocence of their performance. It should be a magical effect - I can't wait to hear it!