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Old London Street Cries

for SATB choir

Year:  1981   ·  Duration:  5m

Year:  1981
Duration:  5m

David Hamilton

Composer:   David Hamilton


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The old traditional street cries of London have been a source of inspiration for composers from Renaissance times through to twentieth century examples such as the setting by Luciano Berio. They were the method by which street sellers made the passers-by aware of their produce. Each seller had his or her own special cry which advertised the wares and promoted their superior quality.

This short collection of cries was originally written in 1981 for a choral group directed by John Rosser. In those more enlightened days summer employment schemes were available to student groups, and a choir was deemed to be a suitable way of employing students for 3 months or so. The group, called 'Summer Singers' performed for old people's homes, in shopping malls and, after January, in schools.

A revised version made in 1993 added a couple of small refrain-like sections, made some minor changes to the original work's harmonies and extended considerably the central fugal section ('Black and white cherries...'). This score includes further revisions made in 2007 prior to a performance by John Rosser and his choir Viva Voce.

The text of the work begins with a warning to the passer-by: don't stop and listen to the singers or else a pickpocket is liable to target you. This is followed by a variety of street calls for everything from herrings to old iron to parsnips and prunes. The work ends with the opening section repeated more or less exactly.

Dedication note

Written for John Rosser and the Summer Singers 1981/82

Text note

Text from traditional London street cries