Cry Apples (2008)
Voice, Cello & Piano, 12'
In his VERSES made for women who cry Apples, &c., Jonathan Swift's characters are real working women, who speak with the directness and sincerity of the streets. The brevity of each poem is deceptive - in only the space of a few lines, six distinct personalities emerge. Not only do we hear the different selling techniques assigned to each item, but we also glimpse a little of the women behind their hardened commercial exteriors. We enjoy the entrepreneurial prowess of the orange and onion vendors yet sympathise with the bleaker outlook of the apple seller working hard to support an ungrateful, idle family. Swift's preoccupation with life in its grimy reality also ensures he does not hold back on describing the diuretic properties of asparagus, the aphrodisiac nature of oysters or the dangers of being caught with stinking breath after tucking into a plateful of onions! In these songs, the vocal writing keeps as close to the inflections of the speech as possible, with melisma only employed occasionally to support the hard sell! The music draws as much on folk, jazz and blues influences as classical origins in an attempt to reflect the colloquial nature of the text and demonstrate how, 300 years after they were written, the poems are as contemporary today as they would have been then.
These songs were first performed by Sarah Gabriel (soprano), Gemma Hegarty (cello) and Joseph Atkins (piano), at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 29th June 2008. Their subsequent London premiere was on 27th November 2008 at St Stephen's Church, Gloucester Road, where the performers were Kate-Symonds Joy (mezzo-soprano), Sophie Rivlin (cello) and William Vann (piano).