Benham: A Triumph Song
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About this release
Hugh Benham composes alongside his role as Organist and Choir Director at St. Boniface Anglican Church in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire. He is active in the Guild of Church Musicians and the Royal School of Church Music. He is a writer of academic and educational articles and books, and a chair of examiners for GCE Music. This recording brings together a number of his choral works envisaged for choirs of mixed abilities.
A Triumph Song is a hymn of thanksgiving and rejoicing for Ascensiontide and general use. Verse 1 in unison, unaccompanied harmony for verse 2, and unison plus descant for the final verse.
Love came down at Christmas (1992), unlike A Triumph Song, is a setting of a very well-known text. The music of verse 1 is repeated, varied, in verse 3; verse 2, which begins in the tonic minor key, is partly for unaccompanied voices.
Love’s redeeming work, an anthem for Eastertide and general use, is largely based on the modal melody of verse 1. This melody is mainly Dorian, but ends with a more ambiguous pattern of interlocking thirds (G E flat F D) that is later given contrapuntal treatment. Read more
Chorale, for organ, is a miniature suitable for performance before or during the distribution of Holy Communion. After an introduction, the first three phrases of its simple chorale- or hymn-like melody are soloed; the fourth phrase is more densely harmonised with parallel chords over a low pedal note.
Let my prayer rise before you, a responsory for Evening Prayer, has for several years formed part of the Advent Liturgy at St Boniface, Chandler’s Ford. The unison refrain ‘Let my prayer’ is sung three times, a tone higher each time as the prayer rises; the verses are for solo male cantor.
Evening Voluntary has various comfortable English echoes and associations, but there are ambiguities and uncertainties, as in the middle section where a serene C major is soon compromised.
O sacrum convivium, composed in the 1970s, is a short Communion motet (or introit) for unaccompanied voices in simple chordal style. The opening and closing sections in B flat major are separated by a passage of strong tonal contrast, with a climactic soprano F sharp as the worshippers look forward to ‘future glory’.
Ave, verum corpus, a longer motet, also for Communion, follows the same structural scheme as Elgar’s setting. After an enigmatic organ introduction (minor key, although the overall tonality is major) a section for women’s voices with organ is repeated in harmony. This is followed by a second section similarly repeated. The coda (‘O clemens, O pie…’) is chiefly for solo voices. Dissonance underlines references to pain and suffering, notably at ‘Vere passum…’, a reference to Christ’s Passion, with parallel sevenths in the organ.
Mysterium fidei: the title of this meditative organ voluntary was suggested by the ‘mystery of faith’ proclaimed in the Eucharist.
Behold the Lamb of God is a unison hymn composed in 1984. It is suitable also for use as a simple anthem at the Eucharist, especially in Passiontide. The melody is largely pentatonic (with the notes D E F sharp A B) but G is strongly asserted for contrast in the middle.
Melody with variations for organ is modelled in structure on ‘Complainte’, no. 3 of Vierne’s 24 Pièces en Style Libre. A self-contained melody is repeated with variations of texture and harmony, and then inverted; there are some prominent pedal points. The quiet conclusion is intended to lead into a short period of silence before the choir enters at the start of a service.
Blest are the pure in heart is similar in structure to Ave verum corpus but more straightforward in style. It is suitable as a short anthem or introit, either at the Eucharist or Evensong.
The Lord’s Prayer (2005), for unison voices, uses the modern text beginning ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’. It may be accompanied by piano instead of organ.
Much of Allegro scherzando is based on the three-note motif heard twice at the start (falling, then rising). Two pitches a semitone apart are embedded in the dissonant chordal textures a little further on: they form the basis of the brief lyrical interludes that immediately follow.
Divinum mysterium is named after a melody familiar from many hymn books (for the hymn ‘Of the Father’s love’) and originally from Piae Cantiones of 1582. The opening solo and the following verses hint at this melody; it is more clearly foreshadowed in the organ part, and then is sung in full towards the end. The final C sharp major chord suggests something of the divine mystery, especially as the principal keys are G major and E major. This anthem was composed with Christmas in mind, but is suitable for other occasions including Epiphany and feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
(Hugh Benham, 2011)
About the artists
Neil Ferris studied at Royal Holloway, University of London, and at the Royal College of Music. He is currently Music Director of Wimbledon Choral Society, one of London’s leading amateur choirs, and is Guest Conductor of Manchester Chamber Choir, Principal Guest Conductor of Birmingham Bach Choir.
In demand as chorus master to some of the leading symphonic choruses in the UK, Neil is Associate Chorus Director of the London Symphony Chorus, Chorus Director at the Royal College of Music and Chorus Master at the Endellion Summer Festival. He has also worked with the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC National Chorus of Wales and the chorus of Cambridge University Music Society. In these roles he has prepared choirs for internationally acclaimed conductors including Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Carlo Rizzi, Marin Alsop, Donald Runnicles, Francois-Xavier Roth, Thierry Fischer, Jac van Steen, Martyn Brabbins and Ryan Wigglesworth.
Formerly Head of Choral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Neil helped establish the international reputation of the choral conducting course and developed the conservatoire’s choral ensembles. This summer he prepared the chamber choir to join the BBC Proms Youth Choir with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle and conducted them on stage at the Wales Millennium Centre in a collaboration with international ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. In demand as a teacher and mentor to many young aspiring choral conductors in this country and abroad, he has led masterclasses in the USA, Ireland and Denmark and for the Association of British Choral Directors and National Youth Choir of Great Britain.
Equally at home working with orchestras, Neil has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, New Queens Hall Orchestra, Haydn Chamber Orchestra, Salomon Orchestra, Orchestra Vitae and the period instrument ensembles Florilegium and Apollo Baroque. He made his Royal Opera House debut with Will Tuckett’s ballet The Wind in the Willows.
Recordings include an album of the choral music of Jonathan Dove with Convivium Singers released on the Naxos label and Fauré’s Requiem on the Convivium Records label. He has also prepared the chorus for the LSO Live recordings of Berlioz Roméo et Juliette, Brahms Requiem and Szymanowski Stabat Mater.
Convivium Singers is an award-winning, critically acclaimed choral ensemble, providing opportunities for young singers at the early stages of performing careers, as well as for talented musicians who have chosen not to pursue careers in music. The ensemble specialises in performing and recording sacred and secular music by living European and American composers. It was recently described as ‘an extraordinarily good choir to listen to’ by BBC Radio 3’s ‘CD Review.’
Convivium Singers have released a number of recordings in recent years, collaborating with companies, including the Baltic Exchange, London, and publishers, notably the Royal School of Church Music. Composer discs include works by Jonathan Dove, Margaret Rizza, Malcolm Archer, Carson Cooman, Hugh Benham and Michael Higgins. They have also delved into early music, and their CD of motets by Peter Philips (Convivium Records) received a Choir & Organ five-star review. The choir was filmed at Portsmouth Cathedral in 2014 for a special Songs of Praise programme on BBC1, as part of the DDay70 commemorations.
The Singers often work with established conductors and composers to introduce contemporary music to wider audiences. They were prize-winners at the Tolosa International Choral Contest (2011, Spain). The ensemble has also performed at Milan’s La Fabbrica del Canto festival and in Hradec Králové at the Czech choral festival Sborové slavnosti.
Convivium Singers have a diverse repertoire from traditional choral music to folk-songs, partsongs and popular arrangements.
- A Triumph Song - Hugh Benham
- Love Came Down At Christmas - Hugh Benham
- Love's Redeeming Work - Hugh Benham
- Chorale (Organ) - Hugh Benham
- Let My Prayer Rise Before You - Hugh Benham
- Evening Voluntary (Organ) - Hugh Benham
- O Sacrum Convivium - Hugh Benham
- Ave, Verum Corpus - Hugh Benham
- Mysterium Fidei (Organ) - Hugh Benham
- Behold the Lamb of God - Hugh Benham
- Melody With Variations (Organ) - Hugh Benham
- Blest Are the Pure In Heart - Hugh Benham
- The Lord's Prayer - Hugh Benham
- Allegro Scherzando (Organ) - Hugh Benham
- Divinum Mysterium - Hugh Benham
Catalogue number: CR011
Choir Convivium Singers
Organist Michael Higgins
Conductor Neil Ferris
Cover Image Tom Kuglin
Photography Tom Kuglin
Engineering Adaq Khan, Adrian Green
Mastering Adaq Khan
Producer Alexander Norman, Hugh Benham
Creative Director John Bevan
Executive Producer Adrian Green
Recorded 23, 24, 25 July 2011
Venue St Alban the Martyr, Highgate, Birmingham
Total Duration 49 mins