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Alexander L’Estrange

"If you had to create from scratch the perfect 21st century musician, Alexander L'Estrange would be your template.” Howard Goodall CBE


Alexander L’Estrange is one of Britain's most popular living choral composers and arrangers. His flagship work, Zimbe! Come sing the songs of Africa!, an ingenious 40-minute fusion of African song and jazz, has receivedmany hundreds of performances worldwide and spawned a successful series of large-scale community choral commissions. L’Estrange's sacred choral repertoire is recorded by Tenebrae on a disc entitled On Eagles’ Wings (release date: April 2016, SIGNUM); three stunning settings of poems by Shelley, Tennyson and Byron, entitled Love's Philosophy, are currently on the ABRSM Singing Syllabus. L’Estrange arranges for the world's leading a cappella groups including The Swingle Singers, Voces 8 and The King's Singers, for whom he wrote and produced the Great American Songbook album. As Consultant Editor of Faber Music’s popular Choral Basics series, he has written hundreds of arrangements of songs from across the musical spectrum. L’Estrange was a chorister at New College, Oxford, and gained a First in Music from Merton College, Oxford. Aside from writing, he is a highly accomplished jazz double bass player and pianist, choral workshop leader, musical director of musicals, presenter of children's concerts and jazz examiner/trainer for the ABRSM. A passionate advocate for the importance of singing in schools and the wider community, he presents his music with a mixture of energy, fun and consummate musicianship that has become synonymous with his name.

Read an interview with Alexander L’Estrange here

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Show me deare Christ (a reflection on the Credo of Byrd’s 5-part Mass)

What fascinated me most about this commission was the question of what “Credo” would have meant for William Byrd, a well-known “recusant” (a Catholic who refused to go to church). This was, after all, an age when being caught with Latin “popish” books, celebrating Catholic Mass, or even worse, harbouring a priest in your house, could mean jail, or, for Jesuit martyrs like Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and many others, much worse – hanging, drawing and quartering and then having your body parts boiled in salt water and cumin seed before being displayed on pikes around the city. Lovely. With this in mind I chose to set John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XVIII, which expresses the poet’s lifelong distree about the fragmentation of the church (“the bride of Christ”). Donne himself was a Catholic – his brother died in prison, guilty of “harbouring a seminary priest” – who eventually converted to Angicanism in 1615 and later became Dean of St Paul’s. Interpolated are words from Campion and Southwell, William Byrd’s will and other contemporary sources, as well as both Latin and English “intonations” from the “Credo” (plainchant) and “Creed” (Marbecke’s English setting).

This commission appears on ORA’s debut album, Upheld by Stillness.

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