Fearful Symmetry

Songs and Piano Music by John Sykes

Rowan Pierce soprano, Gareth Brynmor John baritone, Iain Farrington piano, William Vann piano

John Sykes (1909-1962) was born in India where his father was working in the Indian Civil Service. He went to school at Clifton College, Bristol and he studied the organ while he was a pupil there, gaining his FRCO qualification. In 1928 he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, with an organ scholarship, to read Modern History – music was not, at that time, offered as a first degree subject. He then gained the degree of B.Mus. in 1933 and after graduating, he spent a year studying composition (with piano as a second study) at the Royal College of Music, where he was a pupil of Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob. He joined the teaching staff of Kingswood School, Bath, becoming the school’s Director of Music in 1952. Sykes spent his whole working life at Kingswood, apart from war service – he was a conscientious objector – and he died of cancer in the school sanatorium in June 1962.

This recording is of songs, solo piano works and a piano duo. The songs are largely settings from William Blake’s poems from Songs of Innocence and Experience, but there are also settings of poems by Sykes’s friend and contemporary, Randall Swingler.


If you have bought the CD (or even if you haven’t!) you will find only 28 of the 29 tracks on it, since there was no room for more. You can download track 29 from here in either flac or mp3 format.




John Sykes’ music could scarcely have received better advocacy than this. Rowan Pierce and Gareth Brynmor John make a very good job of their respective allocations of songs and they receive super support from William Vann. Iain Farrington is a fine advocate of the solo piano music. The recorded sound is very good throughout and the documentation is up to Albion’s usual excellent standards. John Sykes’ music deserves its moment in the sun and Albion Records have done him proud.
John Quinn
Musicweb International

Rowan Pierce and Gareth Brynmor John are absolutely ideal in having light, broadly expressive voices with faultless diction.

They make the music gleam brilliantly. As accompanist, William Vann is excellent. He supports but never overwhelms the voices, and his playing is full of colourful expression.
Alan Cooper
British Music Society.

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Songs of Innocence and Experience (William Blake)

  1. Piping Down the Valleys Wild
  2. Hear the Voice of the Bard
  3. Earth’s Answer
  4. The Ecchoing Green
  5. The Garden of Love
  6. Holy Thursday (Innocence)
  7. Holy Thursday (Experience)
  8. The Divine Image
  9. The Human Abstract
  10. The Lamb
  11. The Tyger
  12. Infant Joy
  13. Infant Sorrow
  14. The Clod and the Pebble
  15. The Blossom
  16. A Poison Tree
  17. The Sick Rose
  18. The Fly
  19. On Another’s Sorrow
  20. The Schoolboy
  21. The Shepherd
  22. The Voice of the Ancient Bard

    Piano Duo

  23. Polonaise – Assyrian Festive Dance

    from ‘Homage to John Dowland’ (Randall Swingler)

  24. Jean with her Golden Grace

  25. My Mistress Played

    Piano Solos

  26. Toccata

  27. Paean

  28. Keel Row

    Bonus Track

  29. London (Songs of Experience)


Rowan Pierce ~ soprano (tracks 1,4,6,8,10,12,15, 19,21)

Gareth Brynmor John ~ baritone (tracks 2-3,5,7,9,11,13-14,16-18,20,22,24-25,29)

Iain Farrington ~ piano (tracks 23, 26-28)

William Vann ~ piano (tracks 1-25,29)

ALBCD040 – Fearful Symmetry
Songs and piano music by John Sykes
Release Date: 2020
(CD format, downloads and streaming)