A century of English Church Music

Our next concert traces a line through more than a century of English Church Music, from Edward Elgar through Benjamin Britten to Philip Moore.

Outstanding works and deeply moving music, beginning with Philip Moore’s brilliant and exciting Tu es Petrus, commissioned by St Peter’s Singers to celebrate our 40th anniversary and first performed in 2018.

Monday 17 February 2020 1.05 pm Leeds Town Hall

Admission free

Programme

Tu es Petrus Philip Moore
All wisdom cometh from the LordPhilip Moore
Ecce sacerdos magnusEdward Elgar
Great is the Lord (Psalm 48) Edward Elgar
Ave verum corpusEdward Elgar
Give unto the Lord (Psalm 29)Edward Elgar
Rejoice in the LambBenjamin Britten

St Peter’s Singers

David Houlder organ

Alasdair Jamieson

conductor

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Some notes by Dr Lindley on the works in today’s programme

Philip John Moore [born 1943] – Tu es Petrus
St Peter’s Singers Fortieth Anniversary Commission [2018]

This afternoon’s opening work for choir and organ is a setting of the Latin Gradual for the Feast of St Peter – celebrated historically with St Paul on 29 June. Within the contemporary Roman liturgy of today, the first part [only towards the close of the second line above] Tu es Petrus has become the Versicle sung with the Alleluia of the Mass between the Epistle and Gospel Readings. In its original form, the medieval Gradual text comprised two parts; famous polyphonic settings of the text as motets often consisted of two separate pieces with a common refrain and the libretto comprising Christ’s famous charge to Peter as found St Matthew. Philip Moore’s music of the entire Gradual was first performed at a concert in Leeds Minster in Summer 2018. Its utterance is appropriately declamatory and exultant, sometimes massively chordal deploying imitative choral textures. Organ and Singers are often heard antiphonally, one followed by the other.

Philip Moore – All wisdom cometh from the Lord [1980]

Organist of St Gabriel’s Cricklewood during student days at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Philip Moore held subsequent appointments at Eton College, Canterbury Cathedral and Guildford Cathedral, where he succeeded founding Choirmaster Dr Barry Rose, prior to becoming Master of the Music at York Minster in 1983. Among his distinctions are an Honorary Doctorate of the University of York, the Order of St William of York from the Archbishop of York and, from the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2016 the Thomas Cranmer Medal. In Summer 2008 he retired from his York post after a quarter of a century of hugely distinguished creative activity as choir trainer, conductor, organist and, not least composer. One of Britain’s most prolific and prominent writers of fine church music, Dr Moore includes within an extensive output masses, canticles, anthems and cantatas. All wisdom cometh from the Lord was composed for the Golden Jubilee in 1980 of Lanesborough School, Guildford – from which the Cathedral Choristers come. The work was revised in 1985. The extensive baritone solo was written especially for the then Lanesborough Headmaster, and brilliantly expresses the meaning of the evocative verbal texts. The final section is of consummate beauty and sets verses from Psalm 119 for the uppermost voices to traditional plainchant underpinned by alto, tenor and bass parts – the timeless stillness created contributes immeasurably to the overall effect of the piece and to a magical conclusion.

Edward Elgar – Ecce sacerdos magnus [1888]

This noble miniature processional was devised by Elgar for the visit to Worcester’s St George’s Church of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham, Edward Risley on 9 October 1888.  The work follows in the wake of its creator’s three Latin motets with organ accompaniment dating from the previous year – Ave verum [heard a little later this afternoon], Ave Maria and Ave, maris Stella – and sustains a musical link with the Benedictus movement of a famous Haydn mass, the Heiligmesse where there is a commonality with the striding processional-like accompaniment to each.

Edward Elgar – Psalm 48: Great is the Lord, Op 67 [1912]

Inscribed to the Very Reverend J Armitage Robinson DD, Dean of Wells, with sincere regard. Great is the Lord was composed for the service held on 16 July 2012 at Westminster Abbey for the 250th anniversary of the Royal Society. The anthem’s main, sweeping, melody appears first in unison tenor and bass voices, succeeded by two sopranos and altos who figure later in a stupendous descant atop the principal motto theme. At the work’s heart is a fabulous bass solo, We have thought on Thy loving-kindness, O God – a moment of heart-easing beauty, followed by a dance-like enticement unfolding from the lines let Mount Sion be glad and the daughters of Judah rejoice. The main theme returns and a massive Amen concludes it.

Edward Elgar – Ave verum corpus [1887]

Understandably, on account of its inherently attractive melodic beauty, this superb miniature occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of church singers world-wide. It is very definitely and by some margin the most frequently performed of its creator’s early church music. The verbal text is from a greatly loved Latin hymn in honour of the Blessed Sacrament dating from the 14th century, of which the English translation printed above is included within a vast number of mainstream hymnals.

Edward Elgar – Psalm 29: Give unto the Lord, Op 74 [1914]

The composer devised this noble setting, the second of two substantive psalm texts for Anglican usage, for the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy held on 30 April 1914 at St Paul’s Cathedral towards the end of the tenure as Organist of [his] “friend Sir George C Martin MVO, MusDoc &c”. It was Martin who had, much earlier, arranged Elgar’s 1897 Imperial March for solo organ. The prayerful invocation of peace at the end of the text was, perhaps, a premonition of the coming war, the so-called war to end all wars. Cast with one of Elgar’s favourite keys, E flat major, the music is solemn, ceremonial and urgent; an interesting key change for the quieter, central segment beginning at the words in His Temple doth everyone speak of His glory is founded within the very distant key of B minor, through whose related major key of D Elgar gets back into his home key just in time!

Benjamin Britten [1913-1976] – Rejoice in the Lamb [1943]

Commissioned for St Matthew’s Church Northampton but its then Vicar, The Reverend Walter Hussey, Rejoice in the Lamb was first sung in Northampton on St Matthew’s Day, 1943 on the precise date of the church’s consecration fifty years earlier. Walter Hussey’s introduction from the printed vocal score provides a worthy introduction to the origins of the verbal text. The music speaks for itself!

The words of the Cantata Rejoice in the Lamb are taken from a long poem of the same name. The writer was Christopher Smart, an eighteenth century poet, deeply religious, but of a strange and unbalanced mind.

Rejoice in the Lamb was written while Smart was in an asylum, and is chaotic in form but contains many flashes of genius.

It is a few of the finest passages that Benjamin Britten has chosen to set to   music. The main theme of the poem, and that of the Cantata, is the worship of God, by all created beings and things, each in its own way.

The Cantata is made up of ten short sections. The first sets the theme. The second gives a few examples of one person after another being summoned from the pages of the Old Testament to join with some creature in praising and rejoicing in God. The third is a quiet and ecstatic Hallelujah. In the fourth section, Smart takes his beloved cat as an example of nature praising God by being simply what the Creator intended it to be. The same thought is carried on in the fifth second with the illustration of the mouse. The sixth section speaks of the flowers – the poetry of Christ. In the seventh section, Smart refers to his troubles and suffering, but even these are an occasion for praising God, for it is through Christ that he will find his deliverance. The eighth section gives four letters from an alphabet, leading to a full chorus in section nine which speaks of musical instruments and music’s praise of God. The final section repeats the Hallelujah.

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