Simply Romantic – Tchaikovsky, the Legend

cropped-logo_darkblue_green-copy.jpg “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was a prolific composer: ballet scores, e.g. Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, concerti for the shviolin and piano, six symphonies and other orchestral works. He wrote songs, instrumental music and opera, the best known of which is Eugene Onegin. He was a troubled man from a young age until his death. Whether he died from natural causes or suicide remains a point of conjecture. He wrote music of passion and deep emotion, but by no means all melancholic. Music, it’s good for the soul.

The original version of Legend (Легенда) (also known as Crown of Roses), which we will be singing on Saturday, appeared first in Tchaikovsky’s 1882 collection, 16 Songs for Children.  He arranged it for SATB chorus in 1889. The words tell a legendary story of children meeting with Jesus. The verses foreshadow the Easter story, yet the piece is often sung at Christmas, perhaps because it begins “When Jesus Christ was yet a child”.

No doubt we will be looking at how to make the oh so important opening of Legend sound beautiful. ‘When’ is not an easy word to start on, it can easily sound from too far back, in the throat and a bit strangled. The soft and breathy consonants of ‘wh’ can be lost. A further problem is that the note for both ‘When’ and ‘Je-‘ is the same, and  whenever a note is repeated, there is a risk that the second occurrence will come out a shade flat. This can be compounded by a descending phrase, which is just what the sopranos have. Preventing the tuning slipping downwards comes by supporting the breath with the body – firm up those abs and support the diaphragm folks – and the mind. The mind? Yes! Think up and hold up, and all being well the notes will stay in tune. See what you think of the opening in this version:


This is the final Simply Romantic blog post before the day itself, but you might like to take a look at these videos in the meantime. See you all on Saturday, we’re looking forward to it. There will be a review entry of the day itself and then news about the East of England Singers’ concert on the 17th of October at St John’s, Carrington – Purcell, Mozart, Bruckner and Stravinsky. Voices, drums, woodwind and brass. Not to be missed!

(If you are reading this blog post in the emailed format, the video of Legend may not show. Click through to the website to watch it.)