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Forbes L'Estrange: Drop, drop, slow tears for SATB Choir unaccompanied

Anthem in memory of James Bowman

Forbes L'Estrange: Drop, drop, slow tears for SATB Choir unaccompanied

Anthem in memory of James Bowman

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Choral leaflet

£3.50

Publisher: RSCM Publications
ISBN: A4084

I once had the good fortune to sing with James Bowman in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford; he and I were soloists for a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor and, as I recall, James did his best to make me giggle during our Et in unum Dominum duet with his increasingly flamboyant ornamentation! Our paths crossed again a few years ago when I was invited to adjudicate a singing competition at King’s School, Ely; James was sitting next to me, in his alumnus capacity, making approving noises as the students sang to us. What a uniquely talented, warm and charismatic man he was. When a commission enquiry came out of the blue from a couple in South Carolina for a choral piece in memory of James, I was delighted to accept. David and Judith Acres had known him personally and, being particularly fond of his recording of Gibbons’ setting of Drop, drop, slow tears, asked if I might be willing the same text. Choirs performing this setting should give particular attention to the quasi-Baroque phrasing of the recurring, descending motif and to the instruction to stagger the breathing for the very long phrases which together will create the impression of Mary’s unceasing tears as she washes Jesus’s feet. Also, please don’t be tempted to increase the tempo marking provided. The overall effect should be languid and expansive with plenty of rubato to enhance the pathos. Footnote for choir directors: If your choir happens to have in its midst a wonderful countertenor, please encourage him to sing the opening alto phrase of verse 1 and the subsequent soprano phrase as a solo, with the other vocal lines being sung by the rest of the choir. Thereafter the piece would be tutti throughout.

Joanna Forbes L'Estrange

Joanna Forbes L’Estrange (b.1971) is an English soprano, composer and choral leader who receives engagements throughout the world. A Master of Arts graduate in Music of Oxford University, she began her career as soprano and Musical Director of the five-time Grammy® Award-winning a cappella group The Swingles and her compositional output reflects her love of choral music, close harmony and jazz. She writes songs (including her own lyrics), sacred anthems, Christmas carols, television production music and arrangements, regularly collaborating with her husband Alexander L’Estrange on their award-winning series of large-scale community choral works. 

A passionate advocate for gender equality, Joanna has become the go-to composer for songs about women. Commissions include We will remember them for the Military Wives Choirs’, A woman (wearing bloomers) on a wheel which has been made into a film by the NYCGB, Suffragette March, Give us grace and A place for us maids, celebrating 40 years of female undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge. Her single Twenty-first-century Woman raises money for girls’ education globally. Visit her website: www.joannaforbeslestrange.com/composing