RIZZA: OFFICIUM DIVINUM
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About this release
The album features music for upper voices and harp by 20th century composers Benjamin Britten and Gustav Holst. A collaboration in 2017 between Winchester College Chapel Choir and British harpist Katie Salomon, the recording captures the trebles (boys) at their best under the masterful direction of Malcolm Archer.
Alongside A Ceremony of Carols and excerpts from Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (sung in English) is a performance of Britten’s Suite for Harp by Katie Salomon.
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.
Morning Prayer begins with The Night Has Passed. It expresses the dawn which awakens us, inviting us to pray in thanksgiving with one heart and mind. It becomes celebratory as we rejoice in the gift of another new day.Read more
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)
About the artists
Eamonn Dougan is an inspirational conductor and renowned baritone. He is Associate Conductor of The Sixteen and founding Director of Britten Sinfonia Voices. Informed by his singing, Eamonn is an engaging communicator with a particular passion for Bach, the French Baroque and Sixteenth and Twentieth Century English repertoire.
Forthcoming conducting engagements include a tour of France with renowned ensemble Accentus, Messiah in Spain, tours and performances with the Danish VokalEnsemblet in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, a return visit to Jersey Chamber Orchestra and ORCAM (Spain), and continued work educating choral groups across the world including conducting his own Thomas Tallis Society and Genesis Sixteen. Eamonn’s work with Sir James MacMillan and James’s Cumnock Tryst Festival continues as he returns to direct a special MacMillan premiere composed for the Tryst’s fifth anniversary. He will conduct De Profundis on their next album and will assist Sir Mark Elder on Opera Rara’s next recording and performance at Royal Festival Hall.
Eamonn recently conducted Cosi Fan Tutte at the Ryedale Festival “Dougan’s baton maintained a steady momentum … a heart-warming show” (York Press), Faure Requiem with the newly formed Chiltern Arts Festival Chorus, and Mozart’s La finta giardiniera with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Experience Ensemble “he kept them right on the ball” (York Press). He has directed many orchestras and choirs including Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Corinthian Chamber Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Trondheim Barokk, Opera Rara, BBC Singers, Accentus (Paris), Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir (Poland), and Coro de la Comunidad (Madrid). Programming highlights have included curating and conducting ‘A Weekend of Excessively Good Taste’ (French Baroque) at Kings Place, London.
With the Britten Sinfonia Voices he has conducted several world premieres including Sir John Tavener Flood of Beauty, Esenvalds Aqua, Nico Muhly Looking Forward for the Britten Sinfonia’s 20th birthday and the choral premiere of Jóhann Jóhannsson Orphée at the Barbican. Other projects with the Britten Sinfonia have included Bach St John Passion, MacMillan St Luke Passion and Seven Last Words, Britten Curlew River, Birtwistle Yan Tan Tethera, Possibly Colliding: Session Six and a programme featuring Stravinsky & Mozart at Milton Court as part of the Barbican’s Esa-Pekka Salonen composer focus. He has assisted various conductors including Sir James MacMillan, Martyn Brabbins, Andreas Delfs, Adam Fischer and Sir Mark Elder.
Eamonn has a highly successful five-disc Polish Baroque series with The Sixteen. The first disc, music by Bartlomiej Pekiel, was met with widespread critical acclaim and was shortlisted for a Gramophone Award (‘Richly dramatic’ – The Observer; ‘A delightful performance’ – BBC Music Magazine). Subsequent discs in the series include The Blossoming Vine, music by Gorczycki, and Helper and Protector. The fifth disc, music by Marcin Mielczewski, was released in 2017. “The sound is radiant throughout and well balanced … each work is finely shaped by director Eamonn Dougan.” (Limelight Magazine)
In 2008 Eamonn was appointed a Visiting Professor to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, where he teaches ensemble singing and directs the Guildhall Consort; he is Music Director for the Thomas Tallis Society. Eamonn read music at New College, Oxford, before continuing his vocal and conducting studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Eamonn Dougan is managed worldwide by Percius.
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.
- The Night Has Passed - Margaret Rizza
- Open Thou Mine Eyes - Margaret Rizza
- Dedication - Margaret Rizza
- The Song of Zechariah (Benedictus) - Margaret Rizza
- Blessed Bread - Margaret Rizza
- The Real Presence - Margaret Rizza
- The Twenty-Third Psalm - Margaret Rizza
- Gloria in Excelsis - Margaret Rizza
- Let My Prayer Rise Before You - Margaret Rizza
- Sweet Dreams, Form a Shade - Margaret Rizza
- Song of Mary - Margaret Rizza
- Kindle in Our Hearts - Margaret Rizza
- Before the Ending of the Day - Margaret Rizza
- Keep Me as the Apple of Your Eye - Margaret Rizza
- Song of Simeon - Margaret Rizza
- Night Prayers - Margaret Rizza
Catalogue Number: CR022
Choir Convivium Singers
Organist David Price
Conductor Eamonn Dougan
Engineering Adaq Khan, Kevin Hodgson
Mastering Adaq Khan
Producer Andrew King, alexander Norman, Margaret Rizza
Creative Director John Bevan
Executive Producer Adrian Green
Recorded 29, 30 April, 1, 2 May 2013
Venue Portsmouth Cathedral
Total Duration 67 mins