And the swallow by Caroline Shaw was originally written for eight parts split over two sets of SATB choir. In this arrangement by United Strings of Europe’s artistic director Julian Azkoul, the strings are laid out symmetrically, with the double bass in the centre of the ensemble.
The work features on the ensemble’s new album Renewal on BIS Records. In the liner notes, Azkoul writes:
’and the swallow is a setting of Psalm 84, which is commonly read at the dedication of new churches. The work splits the SATB choir into two equal groups, exploring antiphonal textures and imitative effects. In my arrangement for string orchestra, I sought to enhance this by redeploying the players, placing the double bass in the centre with cellos, violas and violins each split into two groups emanating out from the centre.
’Although Shaw’s vocal music is renowned for its use of extended techniques, and the swallow largely eschews special effects, except for the very ending where the singers evoke the pattering of autumn rain. This hushed murmuring is akin to the tremolo technique on bowed instruments which I use in my arrangement.
’Shaw has mentioned two sources of inspiration for and the swallow: the Syrian refugee crisis and the humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the USA. ”There’s a yearning for a home that feels very relevant today. The second verse is: ’The sparrow found a house and the swallow her nest, where she may place her young’ which is just a beautiful image of a bird trying to keep her children safe – people trying to keep their family safe.” The Covid-19 pandemic has further underlined the universal human need for a home.’
The video was produced by Matthew Bennett, engineered by Dave Rowell, with Thomas Gimson on videography and editing. It was recorded at St Silas Church, London in March 2021.