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Purcell my a***!

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Rick Jones Rick Jones | 16:56 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

My Composer of the Year was last week's Composer of the Week. On Monday, presenter Donald MacLeod played Purcell's My Beloved Spake in a 1981 recording by Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford under Simon Preston. The soloists, he said, were anonymous. Not any more! They were alto Matthew Bright, bass Michael Morton, and tenor Neil Mackenzie (a current BBC Singer) or Mark Tucker.

On Tuesday, Donald opened the show with Purcell's catch, Once, Twice ,Thrice which contains the repeated line 'so kiss my arse'. Disappointingly, the top part was constrained to substitute the original text for 'arm', so as not to offend delicate ears, while the lower lines were allowed to sing the original. Personally, I was more offended by the censorship...

Composer of the Week producer Johannah Smith tells me that the performance of 'Once, Twice, Thrice' on Tuesday was taken from a CD. It was therefore the record company (in this case Teldec) which bowdlerised it, not the BBC. Neither was it chosen for its sanitisation of the words, as it was the only version available to Johannah Smith in the library. Perhaps a less decent version could be presented to us later in the year when Purcell has his second Composer of the Week slot.

For some reason, these rude catches are always sung loud and quick, as if this is how drunks perform. I find this is not necessarily the case. One can become quite soppy after a few drinks and soft, slow rendition would be more appropriate, especially as this would highlight the fine composition. Ideally they should also be listened to drunk as this turns them into masterpieces, however they are performed.

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