John Rutter: Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Context

John Rutter’s choral work Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind is a setting of a song from the second act of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Originally published as part of Rutter’s choral cycle When Icicles Hang, this particular work is more often heard as a stand-alone work. Composed for SATB choir, the piece is simple, accessible and an audience favourite.  

The Text

 

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,

Thoug art not so unkind

As man’s ingratitude;

Thy tooth is not so keen,

Because thou art not seen,

Although they breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! Sing, heigh-ho! Unto the green holly:

Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:

Then, heigh-ho, the holly!

This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,

That dost not bite so nigh

As benefits forgot:

Though thou the waters warp,

Thy sting is not so sharp

As friend remembered not.

Heigh-ho! Sing, heigh-ho! Unto the green holly:

Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:

Then, heigh-ho, the holly!

This life is most jolly.

The Music Opening with a delicate alberti bass-like motif from the piano/harpsichord, the ominous scene is set. At the start of every two bars the next chord is played as a flourish, which is held by the use of the sustain pedal. The sopranos (or solo soprano) enter with the first stanza. The sway between minim and semiquaver movement adds to the imagery of the piece, with the words ‘blow’ and ‘gratitude’ receiving particular attention. All four parts enter for the start of the ‘Heigh-ho!’ section, with this opposing the delicate soprano opening. The movement simplifies, with words becoming syllabic in crotchet or minim movement. For the next stanza the tenors and basses step into the spotlight as they lead the way with the melody and the words. The sopranos and altos take an accompaniment role as they sing ‘ahs’ and ‘oohs’ underneath. The talk of bitterness and freezing is accentuated by being sung in the lowest ranges, giving the text an atmospheric spin. The choir unite once more to sing through the final ‘heigh-ho’s’ before the song comes to a natural close.  

Final Thoughts

With imagery, atmospheres and rhythms all being manipulated by Rutter, these are the elements that stand out in this wonderful piece for choir. John rutter’s calm but direct style makes this one of his most popular small-scale choir works.   Happy Reading! Image Source   You might also enjoy…


0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *