• Nico Muhly
  • Friday Afternoons (for children’s choir and orchestra) (2019)

  • St. Rose Music Publishing (World)

Commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker.

  • 1+pic.1+ca.2.2(cbn)/
  • Upper voices; piano
  • Children's chorus
  • 18 min
  • Trad, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Charles Kingsley, Mark Twain

Programme Note

Friday Afternoons was originally a set of songs for young voices and piano, here orchestrated. It was commissioned by Aldeburgh Music as a companion piece to Benjamin Britten’s cycle by the same name (1933-1935). In my response, I tried to pay homage to Britten’s virtuosity in setting text for children’s voices: the melodies are simple, but the harmonies underneath them (and, indeed, the subtle harmonic dissonances the melodies themselves imply) can be strange and shift unexpectedly. A few of the songs use actual folk melodies, and others are my imitations. The fast song, The Rain, is a direct homage to Britten’s This Little Babe, from A Ceremony of Carols, and was designed to be as exciting to sing as it was for me to sing Britten’s music as a young boy. All of the songs, whether exuberant or meditative, have a barely visible underpinning of the inevitability of ageing, a bittersweet emotion which most children begin to experience in their early teens. The songs conclude with a setting of Mark Twain’s Warm Summer Sun, which is both peaceful and, in a way, a morbid lullaby. The cycle lasts just under 18 minutes.
—Nico Muhly
World Premiere | May 12, 2019
The Berliner Philharmonie, Germany

Vocal Heroes youth choir and amateur singers
Members of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Simon Halsey, conductor

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