Vocal Area Network logo VAN Feature

Shrewsbury Chorale to premier work in memory of Brian Aschinger
by Cindy Allen for Vocal Area Network
Posted April 11, 2004

Brian AschingerOn June 5, 2004 at the Tower Hill Church in Red Bank, NJ, the Shrewsbury Chorale will premier a choral work entitled As Angels in some brighter dreams, written by English composer Howard Goodall. Mr. Goodall, one of Britain's busiest and most sought-after composers, is famous for composing British TV show theme songs, most notably those for Blackadder and Mr. Bean, as well as film music, choral and theatre works. As Angels in some brighter dreams was written for the chorale in memory of Brian Aschinger, the chorale's Music Director from 1991-1997 who died in August of 2001. Mr. Aschinger was a good friend of Mr. Goodall. The chorale recently asked Mr. Goodall to tell us about his relationship with Mr. Aschinger and also how he came to write the piece. The following is his reply.

"Brian Aschinger was a dear friend to me and a champion of my musical theatre and choral works in the USA. He got in touch with me out of the blue one day in the mid-1980s, having heard a cast recording of my West End musical The Hired Man. From that moment onwards we corresponded regularly and soon he was producing the Off-Broadway US premiere of that piece. This led to further productions, including a wonderful full-scale version at the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, which Brian directed with his unquenchable spirit, optimism and energy. His passion for the musical theatre was matched by his love of choral music and in this respect he and I were soulmates. It was with huge pleasure that I read his glorious 20- or even 30-page letters of his concerts as director of The Shrewsbury Chorale and I was deeply touched when he first programmed a work of mine. I suspect it is hard for Americans fully to appreciate how much it means -- for those of us from smaller communities many thousands of miles away -- to have one's work performed, listened to and even enjoyed in the vast and impressive arena of your country. Brian's enthusiasm and hard work on behalf of my compositions was for me a constantly humbling experience.

"In August 2001 I received an e-mail from his friends and colleagues Jim and Ann Crawford with the devastating news of his death. Since I had been a little out of touch with him for the months previously and he had in any case attempted to conceal the gravity of his illness from all but his very closest, this news came as a terrible and an abrupt shock. As fate would have it I was to be in New York a month or so later for a film shoot and was hoping to be able to combine this with any memorial or celebration of Brian's life that was proposed. My first day's filming was in Lower Manhattan, the morning of September 11th. En route to the rendezvous I stood in the street with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and watched with my own eyes the horrific unfolding events of that appalling day. When I had returned safely to England, I realized that in all the trauma and noise of the moment, I had not been able to pay my last respects to this remarkable, kind, insightful human being. It occurred to me that one way of doing so was to contact the Shrewsbury Chorale and offer a new choral piece in his memory. They generously agreed to my proposal and As Angels in some brighter dreams is the result. In choosing its texts I first sought out the greatest theatre writer of all time, Shakespeare, to reflect Brian's love of the theatre and found the beautiful valedictory song from Cymbeline, "Fear no more the heat of the sun." For a man who so cherished freedom, tolerance and his American heritage, and who never lived to witness 9/11, its chilling phrase fear no more the lightning flash nor the all-dreaded thunderstone caught my eye. Its second text was from the 17th century metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan, whose They are all gone into the world of light, written after the death of the poet's brother, seemed to me to say so much about the passing on of loved ones. So this work is a farewell to Brian but also my way of saying thank you for his generosity, and a small way of demonstrating my solidarity and kinship with the people of his beloved country. It is therefore profoundly appropriate that it is an American chorale -- his chorale -- that will sing it this June."

For more about Howard Goodall, visit www.howardgoodall.co.uk/. For information about The Shrewsbury Chorale, visit www.shrewsburychorale.org.
Cindy Allen handles publicity for the Shrewsbury Chorale. This is her first article for Vocal Area Network.

Content Contact: Cindy Allen.
Revision Date: April 11, 2004.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

 Vocal Area Network logo