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John Rutter


mrbouffant

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I played for a wedding this afternoon where a visiting quire sang three pieces, including two by Rutter. They were pleasant enough: sugary, schmaltzy and appropriate for the occasion.

 

It set me thinking. Does Rutter write in this style to attract the lucrative, American audience or because he can't do any better? I tend towards the former view simply because I think his Requiem is a very reasonable work and the orchestration is nicely done.

 

Of course his early carol stuff is now 'classic' but a forty-year career based on a recurring formula (nice melody with pianoesque accompaniment - a harmony verse - a lower voice verse - an upper voice verse - a final verse with descant) could be interpreted by some as a lack of imagination.

 

Undoubtedly he is hugely successful - especially across The Atlantic - and has no doubt made a comfortable living from this style of music, but I do wonder....

 

Any thoughts?

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I played for a wedding this afternoon where a visiting quire sang three pieces, including two by Rutter. They were pleasant enough: sugary, schmaltzy and appropriate for the occasion.

 

It set me thinking. Does Rutter write in this style to attract the lucrative, American audience or because he can't do any better? I tend towards the former view simply because I think his Requiem is a very reasonable work and the orchestration is nicely done.

 

Of course his early carol stuff is now 'classic' but a forty-year career based on a recurring formula (nice melody with pianoesque accompaniment - a harmony verse - a lower voice verse - an upper voice verse - a final verse with descant) could be interpreted by some as a lack of imagination.

 

Undoubtedly he is hugely successful - especially across The Atlantic - and has no doubt made a comfortable living from this style of music, but I do wonder....

 

Any thoughts?

Try Hymn to the Creator of Light - written for the dedication of the Howells memorial window at Gloucester Cathedral. This powerful and moving work shows what he can really do. But a bloke's gotta earn a living. Malcolm Archer has a similar place in the popular market, particularly in the States, but hear him 'gloves off', particularly when improvising, and you soon appreciate his breadth and skill.

 

As for the John Rutter 'standard' carols, I suppose they were refreshing, imaginative, novel and fun when they first appeared. There was nothing on the market like Carols for Choirs at the time (long before my time, ahem :rolleyes: ).

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I played for a wedding this afternoon where a visiting quire sang three pieces, including two by Rutter. They were pleasant enough: sugary, schmaltzy and appropriate for the occasion.

 

It set me thinking. Does Rutter write in this style to attract the lucrative, American audience or because he can't do any better? I tend towards the former view simply because I think his Requiem is a very reasonable work and the orchestration is nicely done.

 

Of course his early carol stuff is now 'classic' but a forty-year career based on a recurring formula (nice melody with pianoesque accompaniment - a harmony verse - a lower voice verse - an upper voice verse - a final verse with descant) could be interpreted by some as a lack of imagination.

 

Undoubtedly he is hugely successful - especially across The Atlantic - and has no doubt made a comfortable living from this style of music, but I do wonder....

 

Any thoughts?

Not necessarily what you're looking for but...

 

My favourite Private Eye cartoon, in the Xmas issue. A traditional robed choir in a chancel festooned with holly etc. singing lustily from sheet music. One chorister says to another "I can’t believe it's not Rutter".

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Many composers have favoured formulae for composition.

 

Could one not accuse J S Bach of being formulaic ? What sets his work apart is the breadth of invention within the disciplines of the selected format.

 

With me, a little Rutter goes a long way but fellow singers do seem to find his music very singable.

 

H

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With me, a little Rutter goes a long way but fellow singers do seem to find his music very singable.

H

 

I feel obliged to add...So long as they're not genuine basses.

Along with his virtually invariable format - outlined by Mr.Bouffant above (from which he omitted to mention the almost obligatory modulation before the last verse) - there is a feature which is irritaing to real singers: even in purposefully straightforward works, he rarely expolres the normal ranges of mature voices - his choral writing seems biased toward young/younger voices. You will search in vain for bass parts that are comfortable to sing because they go so high, and they virtually never contain phrases in the bottom octave of a 'normal' bass voice. Dr.Rutter is, amongst other things, an extremely expert orchestrator, it puzzles me that he doesn't seem to know the comfortable range of the 'normal' human voice.

 

I wish the gentleman no harm, he has written well for many choirs and in some cases memorably. On the other hand, the dependence which some choirs and choir directors show upon his work is (at least to me) quite worrying. If not exactly dumbing-down it seems to me a sort of musical 'playing safe'.

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I played for a wedding this afternoon where a visiting quire sang three pieces, including two by Rutter. They were pleasant enough: sugary, schmaltzy and appropriate for the occasion.

 

It set me thinking. Does Rutter write in this style to attract the lucrative, American audience or because he can't do any better? I tend towards the former view simply because I think his Requiem is a very reasonable work and the orchestration is nicely done.

 

Of course his early carol stuff is now 'classic' but a forty-year career based on a recurring formula (nice melody with pianoesque accompaniment - a harmony verse - a lower voice verse - an upper voice verse - a final verse with descant) could be interpreted by some as a lack of imagination.

 

Undoubtedly he is hugely successful - especially across The Atlantic - and has no doubt made a comfortable living from this style of music, but I do wonder....

 

Any thoughts?

 

 

=======================

 

Well, it's very easy to be critical, but Rutter has delighted many over the years.

 

At Christmas, I always think some of the best carols are either by Rutter or from the Czech Republic.

 

Call me a lightweight if you will.

 

MM

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Coincidentally, we had a discussion about Rutter at choir practice last night. I asked the choir to come along with suggestions of what they would like to sing for Christmas and at least half of what they brought along or suggested was Rutter. This was done rather apologetically as they know my usual response when they ask to sing Rutter! They're quite a good amateur choir too. I guess that, despite Cynic's valid observation, Rutter's style is found attractive by a number of singers, although I personally tend to find his very formulaic style uninspiring.

 

However, I have to take my hat off to him for his Requiem which I find a very atmospheric and moving work.

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Try Hymn to the Creator of Light - written for the dedication of the Howells memorial window at Gloucester Cathedral. This powerful and moving work shows what he can really do. But a bloke's gotta earn a living. Malcolm Archer has a similar place in the popular market, particularly in the States, but hear him 'gloves off', particularly when improvising, and you soon appreciate his breadth and skill.

 

Absolutely, excellent piece, shows what he can do, and certainly deserves a wider audience.

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"I can’t believe it's not Rutter". - Certain Lay Clerks from Wells apparently started this one when referring to Malcom Archer's choral compositions!

And the other one some of my ex pupils came up with a few years ago was 'utterly rutterly'.

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Among respectable company I will make all the right noises, that Warlock and Chilcott et al are superior composers (which they are) but in private I will play the newish Hyperion CD of Stephen Layton & Polyphony singing Rutter.

 

Perhaps I shouldn't be apologetic: after all, any composer deserves to be taken on their merits. Too much is wearysome, but then so is too much of anything. Also, hearing these carols orchestrated helps, as it helps us hear them for what they are: good, direct "light" music which Sidney Torch or Ronald Binge wouldn't have been ashamed to pen. (That was a compliment, by the way!)

 

Mind you, Rutter goes beyond even this occasionally. I defy anyone to listen to Wild Wood carol or Dormi Jesu (particularly the end) and not be moved.

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What about his Magnificat? Yes, formulaically Rutter but a damn good romp!

 

Peter

Yeh, I forgot about this, and only conducted it last Christmas! (Maybe that's saying something!) However, I seem to remember enjoying the experience....!

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My only connection with John Rutter was when I persuaded him to be a patron of the APOA, something I was very grateful for. considering he had just lost his son. He has since resigned this position.

I am well aware of his star carol which is often performed at the RAH, and I consider this to be brilliant, and I wonder whether others would agree.

Colin Richell

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The point made about the orchestrated carols is a good one. Some of the more trite ones are definitely given a lift by the accompaniment of a full orchestra. Before I get labelled a Rutter-basher, I should point out I attended a 60th birthday concert given in St Pauls Cathedral a couple of years ago - Tavener's Protecting Veil followed by the Rutter Requiem. With the LPO I think. The composer conducted the latter work. Very moving in the cavernous acoustic.

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During my time as Director of Music at Cirencester, John Rutter came to do a choral workshop using a wide range of music. His Dormi Jesu was quite popular. Also the setting of Psalm 150 is quite something. Like any other composer, his has his good moments and his bad moments. Another piece worthy of note is his "A Clare Benediction".

 

NS

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Well, it's very easy to be critical, but Rutter has delighted many over the years.

It's easy to mock, isn't it? Yes, Rutter's carols are unashamedly light music, but they are ever so well done. I would give my eye teeth to have his compositional fluency and deftness. As has been pointed out, you really need to hear them in their original form, with orchestra.

 

Mind you, Rutter goes beyond even this occasionally. I defy anyone to listen to Wild Wood carol or Dormi Jesu (particularly the end) and not be moved.

I agree that the Wild Wood Carol especially is very lovely. I find the Wexford Carol very effective too - folky, but tasteful.

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Yes, Rutter's carols are unashamedly light music, but they are ever so well done. I would give my eye teeth to have his compositional fluency and deftness. As has been pointed out, you really need to hear them in their original form, with orchestra.

I'll second the point about when sung with an orchestra accompanying. Fluffy maybe, but like a top notch pop song, it's masterful for what it is. Often with a populist highly accessible piece of music, you can listen to it once or twice and the novelty wears off. Rutter seems to have a knack of creating immediately likeable compositions but which can wthstand repeated listening.

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