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by Guy Woolfenden

duration 10 minutes

SATB, 2 trumpets, horn, trombone, tuba
  I Sing to Apollo John Lyly (1592)
  II Sweet are the Thoughts Robert Greene (1590)
  III What is Our Life? Sir Walter Raleigh (1612)

Paean was commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the chosen lyrics celebrate and reflect the noble professions of Medicine, Psychiatry and the Arts.

Sing to Apollo is a hymn of praise to “Physics, and to poesy’s king”, for indeed Apollo was the god of medicine, music and poetry.

The second movement is largely unaccompanied, and the words persuasively promote the benefits of cultivating peace of mind and a simple life-style. (In 1592, two years after writing this charming lyric, Robert Greene revealed in a famous attack on William Shakespeare, that he was deeply envious of the rival poet, calling him “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers that with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you”. So much for preaching that “a mind content both
crown and kingdom is”!)

The third movement sets Sir Walter Raleigh’s exquisite lyric What is our Life? and its frequent use of theatrical imagery is masterly. The celebratory mood of the opening Paean returns in a short and uplifting coda.

Paean is dedicated to Professor John Cox with heartfelt gratitude for his help and encouragement.




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