Those Fenny Bells Anthony Gilbert

Those Fenny Bells cover
Text/libretto by
John Clare
3 mins

Voice, accompanied Voice(s) & 1-3 Instruments

1 Mezzo Soprano, 1 Countertenor, 1 Vibraphone

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treble or mezzo-soprano, counter-tenor and vibraphone

Programme note

Throughout his life, even when in Northampton Asylum, John Clare’s poetry constantly returned to the fenland countryside of his youth, celebrating in particular three fond memories:  Mary, his first love, birds of the countryside and church bells.  Those Fenny Bells takes his first bell poem, written while still living at Helford,  and combines it with assonant fenland place-names, playing the part of bells, perhaps, sung by the treble.  The melodies for both voices involve ‘Cambridge surprise’, a local change-ringing method.   Assonance is used to combine vocal heterophony.


High Quadring Cor-by Stragglethorpe Gra-

I’ve often on a sabbath day

-by          Pipewell       Twy-well

Where pastoral quiet dwells

Teigh Hun-   dle  Hou-   ses    New   York      Aisby

Lain down among the new-mown hay

to   Whisby   Spital    Beels-

To listen distant bells

-by   Bleasby Gunby   Hund  -  dle   Hou-

That beautifully flung the sound

-ses Quorn Lee Eye    Green

Upon the quiet wind

High Week -    ley   Gloos-ton    Brere   -   house   Bar

While beans in blossom breathed around

Hag -   worthing-ham  Red -  mile

A fragrance o’er the mind.



And Pipe-well   Sib- sey     Bils-by  Teigh

And I have listened till I felt

Great Gid ding Gaul-by Irth-

A feeling not in words

-ling-bo -rough  Glooston Bulby    Twy -    well

A love that rudest moods would melt

Nose -   ley         Lowes - by          Bur-

When those sweet sounds were heard.

-town Ped-war-dine   Shoby Scrane End

A melancholy joy at rest,

and Threddlethorpe All Saints

A pleasurable pain,

Aby Dog-dyke Stragglethorpe Edith Wes-

A love, a rapture of the breast

-ton   Col- ly -    wes  -  ton Scrane

That nothing will explain.

Eye Green    Ab Kettleby  Han - by Gra -A

dream of    beauty that displays

-by Wrangle Warboys

Imaginary joys

Ab  Dal  -  by   Goad -   by  Gaul - by Ais-

That all the world in all its ways

-by      Hop  Pole Teigh Wymes-

Finds not to realize.

-wold Oadby Theddle - thorpe-All -    Saints

All idly stretched upon the hay,

Irth - ling-borough Stainby eye

The wind-flirt fanning by,

Pode   Hole   Lowes-by   Pidley   Fen     Twy-

How soft, how sweetly swept away

-well Hum-by  Ho-by  Guy’s

The music of the sky.



HeadWhissendine Wasps Nest  Hun  -  dle     Hou -

The ear  it lost and caught the sound

-ses           Bushby Bunny Quorn

Swelled beautifully on:

Teigh Spital-in-the-Street a Wran-

A fitful melody, a round

-gle Week   -     ley   Bur -      ton-le - Coggles

Of sweetness heard and gone.

Pipe-well Scots Hole      Eye Green Great  Gid- ding

I felt such thoughts I yearned to sing

Old   Quad -   ring  Irth  -  ling - bo-   

The humming air’s delight

rough  Deene      to   Bush -   by    War - boys     Wing

That seemed to move theswallow’s wing

Tydd Glooston Twywell Dyke

Into    a    wilder flight.


Those Fenny Bells was commissioned by NMC Recordings Ltd for their  'Songbook' album, and first performed by Loré Lixenberg, mezzo-soprano, Michael Chance, counter-tenor and Andred Ball, vibraphone at Kings Place, London on 3rd April 2009.

Loré Lixenberg, Michael Chance and Andred Ball, Kings Place, London, 3rd April 2009