From Handel to Mealor, we look at the best classical music composed to celebrate Royal babies and birthdays
Paul Mealor's in the hot seat this week as we explore the inspiration behind his lullaby, Sleep On, dedicated to the Royal Baby.
Composer: Paul Mealor
Piece: Sleep on
Date written: 2013
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the music to someone who's never heard it before?
Sleep on is a gentle lullaby for female voice, with a rocking harp and strings accompaniment, devised as a real aid to sleep.
How did the idea for the piece come about?
Hayley Westenra and I wanted to create a lullaby for TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child. I knew I wanted to compose a very lyrical, gentle piece and so I composed a lilting melody to begin with. Then I turned to the fabulous Irish poet and lyricist, Brendan Graham (who wrote the words to that famous hit, You Raise Me Up) for the lyrics, and he wrote THE most amazing words. Out of these beautiful words about hope and a mother's love, I built the rest of the song.
Did you have a musical 'EUREKA!' moment where everything fell into place, or did the piece gradually shift and change over time?
I did have a eureka moment. Often with me, I fall asleep thinking about a piece and, in the morning, I awake with an idea; and, this is what happened with Sleep On! I love it when this happens. Then the real work starts - shaping the melody into a real piece of music.
Is there a musical moment in the piece you're most proud of?
Yes, the second verse of the song has a flute countermelody, and I think this really adds a beautiful new colour to the work... It was something I really agonised about, and I'm so glad I left it in!
What's been your favourite performance of the music?
Hayley Westenra's recording!! She sings it so beautifully, it's hard to imagine anyone else singing it now.
If you could hear anyone admit they're a huge fan of the piece, who would it be?
I'm a real Harry Potter freak-of-a-fan; so, if JK Rowling liked my Sleep on, I'd fall down with pride!!
If you had to compose it again, what would you change?
I think I would add another verse. I could imagine one more verse coloured by the strings in another way; though, as William Mathias used to say, "it's always better to leave them wanting more, rather than wanting less!"
Where was the premiere and how did you feel hearing the piece for the first time?
I heard the first edit of the recording first, and was bowled over by how Hayley had captured so intimately the emotion that Brendan and I had imbued in the piece. I was very moved hearing it, as I often am. Being a composer is often a lonely occupation, writing on one's own; however, in performance or in recording, you can really connect with the performers through your music, and that's a uniquely beautiful experience.