The sacred choral music on this CD can be divided into settings of Latin and English texts. The most substantial works are Dixit Dominus and Beatus Vir, which are both Latin settings of vesper psalms for choir and strings. Latin is a wonderful language to set to music, with a long and rich history. It has a certain universality and less complicated vowels than English.
Dixit Dominus (2014) is a six-movement setting of Psalm 110 and was written in response to examples from the Baroque period, especially those by Vivaldi. Such pieces first introduced dance forms and vibrant rhythmic effects into sacred music. With my own music, I wanted to capture the essence of these eighteenth-century masterpieces but fused with twentieth century dance forms and jazz influences. After a strident opening movement, a solo violin emerges from the texture in ‘Virgam virtutis’ in music with a strong feel of Latin dance music. The upper voices then take a lead in the slow movement, ‘Tecum principium’, before the lower voices provide a short link to the contrasting and vigorous ‘Dominus a dextris’. The last movement, ‘De torrente’, describes the flowing of a brook, and leads into the Gloria which repeats the opening music.
The single movement Beatus Vir (2017), for eight-part choir, strings and soprano solo, begins and ends quietly with sustained chords from the choir over an undulating string accompaniment. The central section, however, contains a gradual building of intensity until the words ‘dentibus suis fremet et tabescet’—‘he shall gnash with his teeth and consume away’. Fortunately, calm is then restored.
Miserere mei (2012) is a Latin setting of Psalm 50 for unaccompanied eight-part choir and soprano soloist. In the central section the soprano soloist floats high above a pulsating murmur from the choir below. The line reaches a top C, recalling the same high notes in the famous seventeenth century setting by Allegri. The setting of Ave Verum (2018) is modelled on the famous example by Mozart, using the same abridged version of the text and a similar key scheme.
Written for the 2011 Haslemere Festival, on the anniversary of the King James Bible, the anthem Hymn to the Word begins by setting the opening of the Gospel of John, ‘In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God.’ The austere music for these words is then contrasted and resolved with music that sets Jesus’ comforting words from later within the Gospel: ‘This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.’
Rejoice in the Lord Alway is taken from a set of four Advent pieces. An exuberant setting, making use of a variety of rhythmic effects, is scored for choir, piano, strings and a solo oboe.
The Peace of God was written for a competition on the anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is a setting of the final blessing from the communion service. In 2014 it was performed by the Reed’s School chapel choir to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, as part of the school’s bicentenary celebrations.
Alleluia! A new work is come on hand was one of six shortlisted entries for the 2016 BBC Radio 3 ‘Carol Competition’. Performed by the BBC Singers, it was broadcast several times on BBC Radio 3 in the week before Christmas. The mystery of the ‘new work’ suggested the general feeling of the carol.
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life and Brightest and Best both make use of a soprano solo and were written for Llandaff Cathedral parish choir and St Bartholomew’s church choir, respectively. The short anthem Lord, for Thy Tender Mercy’s Sake, was written for this CD and is dedicated to Robert Lewis, Excelsis and Grayshott Concerts.