Storm Clouds Cantata

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The Storm Clouds Cantata (or Storm Cloud Cantata) is a chorale by the Australian composer Arthur Benjamin.

The Royal Albert Hall, the scene of the "Storm Clouds Cantata" in the 1934 version

This chorale was written for the assassination scene in the Alfred Hitchcock 1934 film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, in the Royal Albert Hall. In the film version of 1934, the London Symphony Orchestra was directed by H. Wynn Reeves. In the 1956 version, however, the London Symphony Orchestra was conducted by the composer of new music for the remake of the film, Bernard Herrmann, and the chorus is the Covent Garden Opera Chorus with soloist Barbara Howitt.

The Cantata can be from eight to nine minutes long. It starts with a Lento in three-quarter time in C major. The first half of the chorale is Lento, at 108 beats per minute. Then begins the Allegro agitato, characterized by rhythmic strokes of the timpani. The conclusion is very fast both in the chorus and in the orchestra.

Orchestra[edit]

  • Piccolo
  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Clarinet
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Bassoon
  • Contrabassoon
  • Horn
  • Trumpet
  • Tenor Trombone
  • Bass Trombone
  • Tuba
  • Timpani
  • Snare drum
  • Cymbals
  • Bass drum
  • Harp
  • Organ
  • 1st/2nd violins
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Contrabasse
  • Mezzo-soprano solo
  • Chorus

Text[edit]

D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, The Man who Knew Too Much

Soloist:

There came a whispered terror on the breeze.
And the dark forest shook

Chorus:

And on the trembling trees came nameless fear.
And panic overtook each flying creature of the wild

Original: ...flying creature of the wind

And when they all had fled

Soloist:

All save the child — all save the child.
Around whose head screaming,
The night-birds wheeled and shoot away.

Chorus:

Finding release from that which drove them onward like their prey.
Finding release the storm-clouds broke.
And drowned the dying moon.
The storm-clouds broke — the storm clouds broke.
Finding release!

Addition for the 1956 remake[edit]

Yet stood the trees — yet stood the trees
Around whose heads screaming

The singers perform in an alternation between male and female:

Finding release;
Finding release from that which drove them onward like their prey.

This last part is part of the poco crescendo played by the tympani to culminate in the Maestoso in the finale which ends with the cymbal crash in which the assassin shoots.

See also[edit]