Piece of the week: Health and Safety for either SATB, SSA, or three-part Cambiata Choir, all with piano (2016).
Depending on your point of view, ‘Health and Safety’ either suggests sensible and careful precautions, or an unnecessary nuisance and form-filling. It had never occurred to me that it could also be a title for a piece of music!
But finding suitable words for a new song is always problematic, particularly where young people are involved, and when I was commissioned to write a new piece for a teenage boys’ choir I scratched my head for some time. However, a train journey, a new printer, and an email suddenly combined to create the text for my ‘Health and Safety’ – three short pieces for boys’ changing voices (no longer do we say ‘broken voices’) for which the fashionable name is ‘Cambiata Choir’.
Thus the three movements of this lighthearted piece touch on different aspects of safety.
The first movement, ‘Caution’ warns us that it ‘may contain two, three, (or more) parts’. The more relaxed second movement asks us to make sure that we have ‘the right ticket for our journey’, and to ‘familiarise ourselves with the safety notices displayed throughout the train’. And the upbeat last movement begins with the instructions that came with my printer: ‘Put your product on a flat, level, surface that is free from vibration and shocks…’ and later quotes from the postscript to an official email: ‘This information is confidential. You should not disclose its contents to anyone…’
I have to say that I found these words really inspiring!
Health and Safety was commissioned by the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Choral Festival and first performed in Truro by the Warwickshire County Male Voices (director Garry Jones), and other performers include the National Youth Choir of Scotland and the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain, as well as a number of adult choirs.
Health and Safety is published by Oxford University Press in three versions – the original three-part cambiata and baritone version, an upper voice SSA version, and a mixed choir SATB version – all with piano accompaniment.