Project Description

RIZZA: THE CELTIC COLLECTION

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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.

Commissioned Programme Note

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession to the oneness of the Creator of Creation… I arise today through strength of heaven, light of sun, radiance of moon, splendour of re, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of earth, firmness of rock… Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me… I arise today.” 

What powerful and passionate words these are of St Patrick as he describes life lived through the invocation of the Trinity!

I was first introduced to Celtic Spirituality through the writings and beautiful prayers of David Adam. This led me to the writings of Alexander Carmichael, who for sixty years pursued his life-long passion for pilgrimages to the Outer Hebrides. The fruit of these travels was written up in his famous book, Carmina Gadelica. The writings and prayers were recorded from a world in which people were ‘full of hymns and prayers, full of music and songs, full of joy and melody and innocent merriment.’

It has been a great joy to work once again with Tim Ruffer, Head of Publishing at the Royal School of Church Music and to share in his enthusiasm and encouragement for this collection.

Prayer was the daily rhythm which marked these people’s lives— prayers from dawn to dusk, prayers for the night, prayers from birth to death. These people of the Isles lived quite naturally in a state of prayer. They recognised God as Trinity—Father, Son and Sacred Spirit which gave an immediate and deeply rooted spiritual reality to their lives that permeated everything they did.

As we began to go through some of the prayers, I was caught and held by the beauty of these verses and by the rhythmic vitality which pulsated through them. I began to be aware of the mystery which was rooted in this ‘down to earth’ spirituality, and I found it is very bound up in the ordinary and familiar. There was a sense of the sacred in the most ordinary and mundane things that they did like kindling a re, bathing a baby, cooking a meal, growing the food that they ate and so on. To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘they saw earth crammed with heaven, and every common bush a re with God.’ All was seem as gift and an offering in gratitude to God.

As I began to set these sacred words to music I realised that I was standing on Holy Ground; I had to keep reminding myself of this oral tradition of simplicity which would enable the words to be easily picked up, memorised and taken into the heart thus becoming prayer.

Most of the music I have set is very simple indeed. Some is in a chant-like mode or set as a straight verse mode. Some of the chants I have written endeavour to echo the rhythmic strands which I found woven into the fabric of the words. I found that this blended our own heart beat with God’s eternal pulse deep within our being. Some of the chants and prayers have been enriched with instrumental variations which pick up and develop the underlying prayer, bringing in a new voice to proclaim our gratitude and love of God.

I think setting music to these beautiful prayers has reminded me that it is never too late to stand on the threshold and marvel at the grandeur of God in all its richness—to be surrounded by God’s presence in the ordinary and seemingly mundane things as we go about out daily lives discovering the hidden sacredness in God’s creation. Read more