The sixteen pieces on this CD are made up of four choral pieces with organ, two ‘a cappella’ pieces and ten choral pieces with organ and instrumental accompaniment.
The second piece for Morning Prayer is an unaccompanied choral piece, Open Thou Mine Eyes. These moving words express the desire that our eyes be opened to see beyond the temporal things of this world, that our hearts be inclined towards the desire for God, and that our steps walk in the ways of His commandments.
The third piece for Morning Prayer is Dedication, with words by David Adam. This is a simple choral piece with instrumental interludes. These lovely words invite us to dedicate ourselves each day to the Lord with our minds and our thinking, with the work that we do, with our body and its actions, and above all, that we give ourselves to each new day with our hearts and our loving.
The last piece for Morning Prayer is The Song Of Zechariah (Benedictus) with words taken from Luke1: 69-79 adapted by Anne Harrison. This is a celebratory choral piece with organ and begins with a refrain in Latin, ‘Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel’—‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.’ This is the moment when after nine months of losing his power of speech, Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit proclaims with an outburst of praise and gratitude this revelation. The first refrain leads to a traditional song of praise, the second, to a reflection on God’s promise to set his people free. And the third refrain returns to the opening song of praise with an overarching soprano descant leading to the ending doxology.
Midday Prayer begins with Blessed Bread, a Eucharistic choral chant with soprano descant and variations for violin and cello. As with any chant, this one can be used in any way to suit the particular time needed for the time of communion. It can be prayed in its entirety or can simply be sung even without using the instruments for the variations. The mystery of the Eucharist is embodied in the words: ‘Blessed bread, everlasting life. Sacred cup, eternal salvation.’, the chant being a reflection on the mystery of The Cross.
The second piece for Midday Prayer is The Real Presence, again with words by David Adam. It is a very simple Eucharistic prayer, which could be sung in a unison version with or without the instrumental variations. It opens with words of prayer asking for the Lord Jesus to bless us and be with us in the breaking of the bread and offering of the wine. The prayer is underpinned by this petition for the Lord’s blessing on our lives, in all that we do, and in all that we are.
The third piece for Midday Prayer is The Twenty-Third Psalm with words by George Herbert. It is an ‘a cappella’ piece with divisi parts for SATB choir. For me it is an intimate rendition of a text that I have always loved. I find that Herbert leads me into landscapes of serene beauty where he describes with wonderful intimacy and simplicity the love that God lavishes on me. I am loved and fed and nurtured; I am anointed and my cup runs over day and night; fear is taken away from death’s shady black abode as I am held so close and guided by such a love, which, as my praise, shall never end.
The last piece for Midday Prayer is Gloria In Excelsis. This is scored for SATB with soprano descant, organ, cello and trumpet. The trumpet part can of course be omitted and taken over by the organ. It is very much a celebratory piece with a more reflective middle section ending
with a big climactic finish with the full forces of the choir, soprano and trumpet descants. The text comes from the Mass Of Saint Benedict. This was written in response to the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal in 2011.
Saint Benedict and his famous Rule, written fifteen hundred years ago, has been for me a source of inspiration. He writes with tremendous simplicity
and an awareness of the ‘ordinary’. In writing this new mass I have been guided therefore by this openness to simplicity and consequently the music is simple and melodic. It can easily be sung by choirs as well as congregations who can lift up their voices in praise, worship, thanksgiving, reconciliation, joy and love–a community held together by praying through music.
Evening Prayer begins with Let My Prayer Rise Before You. Scored for SATB, optional soloists, soprano descant, optional cello and organ it opens with a short introductory passage on the organ which expresses the rising of incense. This is followed by a solo cello and organ which introduces the first refrain as prayer is offered up as an evening sacrifice. Each refrain is followed with recitative-like fragments, sung by a solo soprano and baritone.
The second piece for Evening Prayer is Sweet Dreams, Form A Shade with words by William Blake. It is dedicated to the Tonbridge Grammar School Motet Choir and was first performed at Westminster Cathedral in December 2012 as part of the Barnado’s charity concert. It was later performed by the Motet Choir at the Barbican Hall for the Barnardo’s School Choir Competition in March 2013 where they won first prize for the senior choir category. The music endeavours to follow the moving simplicity of the words as a mother reflects on the beauty of her babe.
The third piece for Evening Prayer is Song Of Mary. With words by Mary Holtby, it is a very simple melodic Magnificat suitable for small parish choirs or even school choirs. It could easily be adapted for treble voices. These lovely words express the simplicity and wonder which Mary, visiting her cousin Elizabeth, must have felt as she praised God for what was about to unfold in her life.
The last piece for Evening Prayer in this group is Kindle In Our Hearts. I have set this as a Taizé-style chant as I felt it lent itself to a very gradual build up with such vibrant and passionate words. It is scored for SATB choir, semi-chorus and instruments including a trumpet entering triumphantly on the last round. As with all chants, it can be reduced to suit the resources available.
Night Prayer begins with Before The Ending Of The Day.
I have set this as a simple prayer asking God to protect and safeguard us through the night.
Two very beautiful fragments from Psalm 17, Keep Me As The Apple Of Your Eye and Hide Me Under The Shadow Of Your Wings, form the text of the second prayer. This is set as a chant, which opens with serene chords, taken up by the guitar. The prayer is interspersed with instrumental variations and concludes with a repetition of the opening introduction.
The third piece for Night Prayer is Song Of Simeon, with words by Mary Holtby adapted from Luke 2: 29-32. Here the words reflect the prayer of Simeon as he takes from Mary the child Jesus in his arms and gives gratitude to God for granting what his heart most desired: to be in the presence of the Saviour promised by God. I have treated the opening refrain which is in Latin as
a plainchant introduction. The first verse, sung by the tenors and basses, is then repeated. As the song unfolds the verses and refrains are developed using different combinations of voices to give the relevant colours and expression to the beauty of the words.
The last piece for Night Prayer is Night Prayers, with words by David Adam. A metallophone is used to depict the ticking away of time. The prayer is very simple with the first verse praying for a safe repose so that refreshed we may give ourselves anew to the Lord. It ends with the repeated words “Christ my eyelids close.”
(Margaret Rizza, 2013)