Sunday Synth Jams: This is a virtuosic theremin rendition of Albert Ketelbey’s In A Monastery Garden, performed by Peter Pringle.
It’s an “unabashedly sentimental” work from close to 100 years ago – and a part of theremin history.
See Pringle’s notes, below, for details.
One of the very first theremin recordings ever made was thereminist Lennington Shewell’s transcription of British composer Albert Ketelbey’s hugely popular 1915 composition, IN A MONASTERY GARDEN. It was released in 1930 by RCA at virtually the same time as they began to distribute the first RCA theremins.
This is a wonderful piece of magnificently schmaltzy, unabashedly sentimental, early 20th century “light” program music and it launched Ketelbey into the forefront of the popular composers of his day and made him one of Britain’s first music millionaires. This piece of music was wildly popular and would have been very familiar to our great grandparents. We need to remember that it was written after the start of World War I, and Europeans were reeling from the tragedy and brutality of the destruction of the world they had known.
The score calls for birdsong, chapel bells, an organ, and for a chorus of monks to be heard singing “Kyrie Eleison” (a phrase from the Greek meaning, “Lord, have mercy”) in a nearby cloister. The monks’ voices were to be (according to the original score) the “gentlemen of the orchestra” who were required not only to play their instruments but to sing as well!
Here’s what Ketelbey himself wrote about this composition: “The first theme represents a poet’s reverie in the quietude of the monastery garden amidst beautiful surroundings – the calm serene atmosphere – the leafy trees and the singing birds. The second theme in the minor expresses the more personal note of sadness, of appeal and contrition. Presently, the monks are heard chanting “Kyrie Eleison” with the organ playing and the chapel bell ringing. The first theme is now heard in a quieter manner as if it had become more ethereal and distant; the singing of the monks is again heard – it becomes louder and more insistent, bringing the piece to a conclusion in a glow of exultation”.
The theremin in this video is a Moog Ethervox and I used it not only for the melody but also for the birdsong. The voices of the monks singing “Kyrie Eleison” are me singing into a Digitech VOCALIST.