Tygers and Lambs

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This week's show opens with a creatures' chorus celebrating Saint Francis of Assisi's Feast Day. Host Kent Tritle offers some poems and settings referencing God and creation. William Blake’s seminal "animalistic" poems "The Tyger" and "The Lamb" sit alongside a new work by Christina Whitten Thomas called Choral de Bêtes.

We also hear a choral story from a young singer named Jake Eisner who's based at The Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City.

More on Music and the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi

Imagine a parade of camels, goats, sheep, horses, even fish and about a thousand cats & dogs with their owners. This happens every October during the annual blessing of the animals on the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Much music has been written about this story of creation. Britten’s cantata Rejoice in the Lamb is a setting of a text by the 18th-century enigmatic English poet, Christopher Smart. The pieces are part of larger choral segments, and are interspersed with solos for four voices. We hear a version sung by The Sixteen under the direction of Harry Christophers. It's one of the most fun to sing choral works in the repertoire.

Animals have long been the inspiration for choral music. The French poet Carmen Bernos de Gassztold wrote a series of prayers about the trials and joys these animals face. Musica Sacra sings a recent work called Choral de Bêtes – The Creatures Choir – by Christina Whitten Thomas. Voices of Ascension premiered it at Zankel Hall in 2007.

A New Feature on The Choral Mix

Each week we'll feature a choral story that highlights the choral backdrop of New York City. Today, 13-year-old Jake Eisner shares his thoughts about singing at the Cathedral School of St John the Divine, as well as his musical inspirations and life on the verge of his changing voice. As a choral associate at the church, Malcolm Merriweather weighs in on his teaching style and how nurturing the choristers in their prime is so important. (Kent Tritle is the director of cathedral music and organist at St. John the Divine.)

Join the discussion: What choral music with amazing animal imagery do you love?



Clausen, René:

The Tyger (Rebecca Lloyd, soprano) 2:46

The Lamb (Lindsey Lang, soprano) 4:46

Kansas City Chorale

Charles Bruffy

Album: "Life and Breath" Choral Works by René Clausen

Chandos CHSA 5105


Britten, Benjamin:

Rejoice in the Lamb, Op. 30 17:07

The Sixteen

Harry Christophers

Album: Blest Cecilia - Britten Choral Works I

The Sixteen

Harry Christophers

Coro 16006


Whitten Thomas, Christina:

Choral de Bêtes 12:06

Musica Sacra

Kent Tritle

Album: "Messages to Myself" New Music for Chorus A Cappella

MSR Classics MS 1411


Tavener, John:

The Lamb ["Little Lamb, who made thee?"] 3:51


Nigel Short

Album: Allegri / Miserere

Signum UK 35


Convery, Robert:

The Lamb 3:47

Musica Sacra

Kent Tritle

Album: "Messages to Myself" New Music for Chorus A Cappella

MSR Classics MS 1411