Choral Music, June 2014

SATB THEMES WITH VARIATIONS

BROTHER JAMES’S AIR [E]
Mack Wilberg
SATB and keyboard
Oxford 978-0-19-337224-5 £2.15
CHILDREN OF THE HEAVENLY FATHER [E]
Mack Wilberg
SATB and piano
Oxford 978-0-19-974728-3 £2.15
FAIREST LORD JESU [E]
German folk song, arr. Antony Baldwin
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS538 £1.50
CHRIST, WHO KNOWS ALL HIS SHEEP [E]
Antony Baldwin
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS551 £1.50
COME HOLY GHOST, OUR SOULS INSPIRE [E]
Sarum plainsong, arr. Antony Baldwin
SATB and organ
Banks Music ECS567 £1.60
THE GIFT OF CHARITY [E/M]
John Rutter
SATB and organ
Oxford X526 £2.20

These six anthems all follow a simple formula in which the same tune is treated in different ways for each verse, usually with organ interludes. The very easy hymn arrangements of Wilberg, written for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I find rather sentimental. Much of Brother James’s Air is written in two parts and there is not a soprano note higher than the C above middle C! This tune is found in many hymn books and there are more interesting arrangements available such as those by Gordon Jacob or Malcolm Archer. Children of the Heavenly Father uses a simple Swedish melody for its theme. This hymn, apparently more familiar in America than the UK, is freely available on the internet.
Antony Baldwin’s three arrangements are all easy. Fairest Lord Jesu is quite attractive, with a descant of alleluias in the last verse. His composed hymn tune to Christ, who knows all his sheep is straightforward, with two verses in unison and one in harmony. Choirs interested in performing this text should also consider a rather good setting of these words by Charles Wood included in Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard and elsewhere, which works beautifully as an anthem. Come Holy Ghost is an effective, strophic setting of the plainsong Veni Creator Spiritus arranged in triple time, and with one verse harmonized for SATB – it is very straightforward with a descant of alleluias to enliven the last verse.
In a different league from any of the above is John Rutter’s The Gift of Charity, a paraphrase of I Corinthians 13. Rutter’s melodic gift and flair for attractive arrangement is apparent in this anthem, and although a little more difficult than the preceding pieces, this is something that will appeal to parish and school choirs. It is the star of this batch. Gordon Appleton

SATB ANTHEMS SERVING THE TEXT

HYMN TO THE TRINITY [E/M]
Christopher Rathbone
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS559 £1.50
CAEDMON OF WHITBY’S FIRST HYMN [M/D]
Philip Moore
SATB
Encore Publications £2.25
LATE HAVE I LOVED THEE [M/D]
Harry Bramma
SATB and organ
Church Music Society CMS 044 £1.85

These three pieces illustrate sensitive setting of texts by contemporary composers. In only 34 bars, Christopher Rathbone sets with great awareness the traditional office hymn ‘All hail, adored Trinity’. This is most effective and succinctly written for SATB and organ (a two-part version is also available). It would be an attractive introit or anthem for Trinity Sunday or for those churches dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
Tradition maintains that Caedmon of Whitby was the first English poet whose name is known. Dating from the seventh century, these words apparently came to him in a dream when he was looking after animals in Whitby Abbey at the time of St Hilda. Philip Moore has set them sensitively for unaccompanied choir. The singers need confidence and experience; the long lines in voice parts are attractive and the piece ends in a wonderful climax. I included this anthem some years ago in the repertoire of RSCM Voices North and can vouch for its effectiveness.
The well-known prayer by St Augustine of Hippo from his Confessions is set with great sensitivity for choir and organ by Harry Bramma, a past RSCM Director. The composer exploits the contrast between upper voices in four parts and men’s voices; the straightforward organ part is integral to the anthem and registration instructions are detailed. Although the notes are not difficult to sing, this sensitive, gentle music requires excellent tuning from the singers. It would be effective in any church service, especially one with a theme of vocation, such as confirmation or ordination.
Gordon Appleton

MUSIC FOR UPPER VOICES

THE LORD’S PRAYER [E/M]
Trinidadian Folk Song, arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FM007 £1.90
AVE MARIA [E/M]
Giulio Caccini arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FMOOl £1.60
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? [E/M]
American hymn, arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FM006 £1.60
COME, ALL WHO THIRST [E/M]
Luigi Cherubini arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FM002 £1.60
Gwyn Arch’s arrangements demonstrate his practical musicianship and experience in directing choirs. These four pieces from Banks ‘Music for Female Choirs’ series will be useful to directors of three-part SSA choirs. The well-known Trinidadian Lord’s Prayer sets the words over a gentle Caribbean folk-style piano accompaniment. Ave Maria, attributed to Caccini, has only these two words, and has become known through recordings by popular singers. The informative notes tell us that it was probably composed by a twentieth-century Russian composer and is a pastiche. How can I keep from singing? is an arrangement of a popular American hymn; Come all who thirst, for three equal voices, is attributed to Cherubini. None of these pieces is difficult, but they are worth exploring if you are looking for ‘light classics’ for upper voice choirs.

QUANTA QUALIA [M]
Patrick Hawes
SSAA, S solo and keyboard
Novello NOV293403 £2.25
I AM THE GENTLE NIGHT [E]
Paul Mealor
2-part voices, keyboard, opt. guitar
Novello NOV293513 £2.25
A CELTIC BLESSING [M]
Craig McLeish
SSA and piano
Novello NOV293623 £1.99
SALVATOR MUNDI [M]
David Bednall
SS and organ
Faber Music 978-0-571-53739-6 £2.50

Arranged for SSAA and organ or piano, Quanta Qualia needs a soprano soloist who can reach top D above the treble stave (the song was recorded by Hayley Westenra). Unfortunately no translation is given, but the text seems to mean ‘My soul, wait! How great and wonderful will be the joys of the meeting’. This could be just the music to use before a church committee gathers!
Paul Mealor has written both words and music for I am the gentle night, a two-part song dedicated to the National Boys’ Choir of Scotland, accompanied optionally by classical guitar with organ or piano. It is not difficult and I am sure that singers will enjoy it. Does the ‘I’ in the text refer to a supreme being or a lover? You can watch a performance on YouTube.
Craig McLeish has set in his Celtic Blessing the words ‘May the road rise to meet you’ for SSA. His attractive melody is first sung in unison, then harmonized, as the composer says ‘to help the choir singing contrapuntal lines’. He has created a song that is both accessible and challenging.
Salvator Mundi, for SS choir and organ by David Bednall, has an idiomatic organ accompaniment, and melodies which the singers will enjoy. The composer exploits Baroque conventions such as the interval of a second resolving to a third. It would be an effective anthem during Passiontide.
Gordon Appleton

ORLANDO GIBBONS

THE GIBBONS HYMNAL: HYMNS AND ANTHEMS [E-M]
ed. David Skinner
SATB
Novello NOV294360 £8.95

This excellent volume collects the ten surviving full anthems by Gibbons, along with the 17 songs that the composer composed for George Wither’s The Hymnes and Songs of the Church. Although some of the latter tunes are known today as hymns (Song 1 and Song 22, and also Song 9 which reappears as Song 34 or Angels’ Song), this is the first modern publication to give Wither’s texts beyond the first verse. The editor suggests sensibly that these might be useful as introits or elsewhere in the liturgy.
Of the full anthems, choirs that enjoy the few well-known ones (Hosanna to the Son of David, Almighty and everlasting God and 0 clap your hands) will certainly find many more to add to their repertoire, not least the very short, penitential 0 Lord, how do my woes increase and 0 Lord, I lift my heart to thee, with just 18 and 21 bars each. This is a useful, scholarly, practical and well-priced publication.
Stephen Patterson