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Work of the Week – Gavin Bryars: Lauda 47 (Faciamo laude a tutt’i sancti)

On 14 September, Gavin Bryars’ new Lauda 47 (Faciamo laude a tutt’i sancti) for soprano, tenor and medieval ensemble will be premiered in a midnight concert in Sweden’s Uppsala Cathedral, performed by the Serikon ensemble and featuring soprano Anna Maria Friman with tenor John Potter as vocal soloists.

From 2001, Bryars has written a large number of short vocal works known in plural as ‘laude’, based on a collection of medieval devotional songs from 13th century Italy. Although reinvented for the present day, Bryars’ laude retain the lyrical purity and austerity of the original style. Lasting around 3-5 minutes each, these short songs are regularly published in collected volumes for singers around the world to add to their repertoire.

Gavin Bryars – Lauda 47 (Faciamo laude a tutt’i sancti): Let us sing praise to all the saints

To date, Bryars has written over 40 of his own laude for a variety of instrumentations including solo voice, voices and ensemble, and even full choir. Almost all of them feature a soprano part, which Bryars always writes with the voice of Swedish soprano Anna Maria Friman in mind, and Lauda 47 is no exception. Unusually however, the instrumental ensemble for Lauda 47 is comprised of two tenor recorders, organetta and slide trumpet, which have never been used in his previous laude.

Reflecting a similar fascination with early music forms, Bryars has also written multiple books of Madrigals in addition to laude, the latest being the Sixth Book of Madrigals for six voices which was released in 2015.

“The madrigals from my Sixth Book set texts by Petrarch, a scholar and poet of Renaissance Italy. Petrarchan sonnets have attracted me for several reasons, not least because of their prominence in Italian madrigal music, but also the heart-rending beauty of the poetry and its sheer technical brilliance.” – Gavin Bryars

Two days after the premiere of Lauda 47, another of Bryars’ choral works St Brendan arrives at the Promised Land of the Saints will be performed by the Coquetdale Chamber Choir on 16 September in Northumberland, conducted by John Casken.


© photo: Gautier Deblonde