Unaccompanied Choir

Pied Beauty2016
SATB choir5 minutes


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Premiered by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Cleobury, King’s College Cambridge, 29 May 2016.
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Ian Stephens: Pied Beauty
I have known Nick and Eleanor Steinitz for many years, through our association with Pigotts Music Camp, an inspirational place in the Chiltern Hills. My music came to their attention through some of the works that I’ve performed there with friends. It must have made a favourable impression as they then approached me with this commission.
Pied Beauty is in memory of their son Chris, who had been a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral. I never had a chance to meet Chris, but he was about my age and was known by many of my friends. I would have loved to have known him. Nick and Eleanor asked for the work to be more a celebration than a doleful piece of remembrance, and I have kept this in mind while making this setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ beautiful poem.
Stephen Cleobury on Pied Beauty
“I thought your setting of this striking poetry displayed great sensitivity to the words, and also amplified them appropriately – never an easy task with a text which can, rightly, stand on its own. Although not without difficulty, the music can relatively easily be assimilated by singer and listener alike. I hope it will receive the popularity it deserves.”
(Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge)
Cecilia Speaks2015
SATB choir15 minutes


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Premiered by Exmoor Singers of London, directed by James Jarvis, in St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, London, 22 November 2015.
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Ian Stephens: Cecilia Speaks
Cecilia Speaks
Telephone spell to rewind love
Orsino’s dilemma
Cecilia Speaks is a setting of three poems by Isabel Rogers, winner of the 2014 Cardiff International Poetry Competition. I got to know Isabel many years ago when we were colleagues in the cello section at Pigotts Music Camp, an inspirational place in the Chiltern Hills. It was there that she got to know my music, and I her poetry. When the opportunity came up for her to commission some settings of her beautiful and many-layered poems, I was delighted that it was me that she turned to. Cecilia Speakswas written for Exmoor Singers of London in 2015.
Flying South2015
SA choir5 minutes
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Ian Stephens: Flying South
A setting for unaccompanied upper voices of a beautiful poem exploring the migration of geese. The poem is by Isabel Rogers, winner of the 2014 Cardiff International Poetry Competition. The setting was written for the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir and its conductor Simon Emery.
The Malmesbury Responses2010
SATB choir12 minutes


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text: from the Book of Common Prayer

Sheet music available to buy here

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Ian Stephens: The Malmesbury Responses



In 2007 I was one of ten composers commissioned to write a piece to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ensemble 10/10, the contemporary music group of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Searching for a way to link my new piece in some way to the ensemble’s name, I chanced upon the story of Eilmer.



“He was a man learned for those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a deed of remarkable boldness. He had by some means, I scarcely know what, fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus, and, collecting the breeze upon the summit of a tower, flew for more than a furlong [about 200 metres]. But agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by the consciousness of his rash attempt, he fell, broke both his legs and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure that he had forgotten to provide himself with a tail.”



The intrepid man was Eilmer, a monk of Malmesbury Abbey. The report of Eilmer’s feat was included in
Deeds of the English Kings by fellow monk William of Malmesbury, writing in about 1125. Eilmer’s flight took place in the year 1010, or thereabouts; it was this that provided the link to the ensemble’s name.

The resulting piece, Through the Affrighted Air, was an exploration of this event; its title was drawn from the poem Icarus by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles.

BBC Radio 3 recorded the concert at which Through the Affrighted Air was first performed, and it was broadcast on 19 October 2009. I emailed news of this broadcast to many friends, and also to some people in Malmesbury itself. Neill Archer, vicar of the Abbey and – unbeknown to me – once an international opera singer, listened to the piece. On the basis of that listening he commissioned me to compose TheMalmesbury Responses, in celebration of the millenary of Eilmer’s flight.

At Neill’s request, I have incorporated some elements from Through the Affrighted Air into the responses, in particular a rising three-note pattern (C-D-B) which underpins many of its melodic lines.



I have provided two versions of the Cantor’s part – a traditional unmeasured version, and a more elaborate version, in the tenor register, for Neill Archer to sing. Both versions are equally valid.

My true love hath my heart1998
SATB choir2 minutes 30 seconds
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text: Philip Sidney

Premiered at the wedding of Nicholas Krestovnikoff and Miranda Harper-Jones in Bristol on 14 March 1998.

Sheet music available to buy here
For Instance1996
SSAATB choir2 minutes


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text: Laurence Whistler

Premiered by PartSong in Bristol in 1996

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Song from Tyrannick Love1996
SSAATB choir3 minutes 30 seconds


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text: John Dryden

Premiered by PartSong in Bristol in 1996.

Sheet music available to buy here
The Ecchoing Green1996
SSATB choir2 minutes 30 seconds


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text: William Blake

Premiered by PartSong in the Bristol in 1996.

Sheet music available to buy here

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Ian Stephens: The Ecchoing Green

Between 1995 and 1997 I sang in a small choir in Bristol called PartSong, then directed by Miranda Krestovniskoff. I wrote The Ecchoing Green for Partsong, and they have performed it many times. It was broadcast on Essential Classics on BBC Radio 3 on 5 September 2012 in a recording by the Elysian Singers, conducted by Sam Laughton.
Epitaph on a Tyrant1995
SSAATTBB choir4 minutes


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text: W.H. Auden

Premiered by the BBC Singers in Maida Vale Studios on 2 September 1997.

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Ian Stephens: Epitaph on a Tyrant

I composed this as a final-year undergraduate at Bristol University. It was selected to be on Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) annual shortlist in 1995, and was given a workshop performance by the BBC Singers in Maida Vale Studios, London, conducted by Simon Jolly, on 2 September 1997.

Make we Merry1993
SSAATTBB choir3 minutes
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Premiered by the National Youth Choir of Great Britain at the Royal Albert Hall on 22 December 1994.

Sheet music is available to buy here

programme note

I composed this as a second-year undergraduate at Bristol University. It has been performed by choirs including the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, the Bristol University Singers, the Bristol Bach Choir, the Exmoor Singers of London.
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