WERE YOU THERE? [M]
SATB and organ
arr. James Whitbourn
Chester Music CH82214 £2.95
KUM BA YAH [E]
SATB and organ
arr. John Rutter
Oxford 978-0-19-340366-6 £1.60
James Whitbourn’s arrangement of Were you there? was written for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. It is effective, atmospheric and not too difficult. A successful performance needs excellent intonation in eight-part harmony. You can watch and hear a performance by King’s on YouTube recorded at last year’s televised Easter broadcast. If you have the choral resources, this will enhance next Good Friday’s music.
John Rutter’s short and very easy arrangement of Kum ba yah (in memory of Nelson Mandela) uses contrasts of texture and dynamics for its effect: upper and lower voices, harmony, accompanied or unaccompanied. This is suitable for modest SATB choirs.
O GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD [M/D]
SSA and organ
Oxford W181 £2.20
It is extraordinary to read that the manuscript of this 1977 piece was lost after its composition, hence its first publication in 2015. It could only have been written by Rutter. The texts are thoughtfully selected (verses from Psalms 136 and 67) and the words set with great care. The almost plainsong-like opening vocal lines, contrasting with a Britten-esque organ part, grow in richness and alternate with a more thoughtful ‘for his mercy endureth for ever’ – which triggers the entry of ‘God be merciful unto us, and bless us’ from Psalm 67. An extended Gloria includes a thrilling crescendo on ‘As it was in the beginning’ and a blazing conclusion. It deserves to become standard repertoire for upper-voice choirs.
A LITANY [M/D]
Four-part upper voices
Oxford W180 £1.85
Walton was 14 when he wrote his first version of A Litany (‘Drop, drop, slow tears’) for upper voices, subsequently reworked twice for SATB. A comparison between these first thoughts and the published SATB version is fascinating: there were re-barrings that alter the position of stresses and several places in the later version where rests were removed or the duration of chords shortened to tighten the music. At the start, the first version has two extra falling-third ‘drops’. But this upper-voice version still has the distinctive poignancy of the well-known SATB one, from those opening falling phrases, through the dramatic ‘cry for vengeance’ to the final, repeated ‘my tears’.
James L. Montgomery
FROM THE BREAK OF THE DAY [E/M]
SATB and piano or organ
Oxford 978-0-19-337141-5 £1.85
LOVE ONE ANOTHER [E/M]
SATB and piano or organ
Oxford 978-0-19-339566-4 £1.85
PRAISE THE LORD, YE HEAVENS ADORE HIM [E/M]
SATB and organ or piano
Oxford 978-0-19-339567-1 £1.85
Alan Bullard has a great gift for writing accessible, effective and melodious music for choirs; if you are not aware of his compositions, these three would be a good place to start. From the break of the day uses the text of the well-known hymn ‘Lord of all hopefulness’. This anthem is in the key of A flat with a contrasting F major central section, and has attractive four-part writing and an accompaniment for either piano or organ. The arrangement is sufficiently flexible to be performed effectively by a unison choir or by a soloist.
Love one another sets selected verses from the Gospels of Mark and John. It would be particularly fitting to use on Maundy Thursday, but these words of Jesus to love one another are so central to the Christian faith, we should sing them often. This setting blends words and music sensitively and interestingly, yet avoids sentimentality.
Using the well-known hymn text, based on Psalm 148, the anthem Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him is marked with the musical directive ‘with life and spirit’. It is a happy and up-beat arrangement that will be enjoyed by organists and choirs – and perhaps particularly, SATB secondary-school choirs. All three anthems are warmly recommended.
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE: A festival service to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta
compiled by Michael Hampel, Andrew Reid and Tim Ruffer
RSCM S0160 £6.50 (affiliates £4.88)
Of the four surviving copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta, two are in cathedrals – Lincoln and Salisbury. Whatever its legal weight today, it certainly retains iconic status and the Introduction to this volume emphasizes its granting to God the liberty of the Church. The service broadens the theme with words and music that concentrate on justice and social responsibility.
From the ‘Gathering’ onwards, with options by James MacMillan and Bernadette Farrell, two alternatives are printed for each musical item. Two of the congregational pieces have hymn or song options, the latter being the Gettys’ ‘There is a higher throne’ and the Kendrick/Rolinson ‘Restore, O Lord, the honour of your name’. Elsewhere you can choose anthems by William Harris (Strengthen ye the weak hands) or Malcolm Archer (Walk humbly with your God, specially written for the Magna Carta anniversary), and Philip Wilby (God be in my head) or Margaret Rizza (Dedication). Different approaches to the liturgy are provided by Kyries by Byrd (three-part) or Rosemary Field (troped, with a cantor), Magnificats by Sumsion (SATB) or Bernadette Farrell (can be upper or mixed voices, and with optional flute and trumpet lines), and psalms that are either Coverdale to Anglican chant or Common Worship Psalter to an excellent responsorial chant by Andrew Reid that deserves wider use.
This range means that choirs who buy the book initially for an RSCM Festival or other particular service will take back much other useful material. A further use is offered with an optional structure for a choral evensong: a section of ‘Additional choral resources’ provides Ebdon Preces and Responses and the Sumsion Nunc Dimittis in A that complements the Magnificat in the main part of the book. All in all, this useful compendium of material far transcends any specific anniversary.
O JESU, BLESSED LORD [E]
SAB or SATB and organ
MY SONG IN THE NIGHT [E]
SATB and piano
Oxford 978-0-19-340473-1 £2.20
Geoffrey Atkinson’s anthem O Jesu, blessed Lord is available for either SAB or SATB. Although merely 36 bars long, it is an effective meditation after Communion, and ends with a great fortissimo musical climax: ‘How blest am I, how good thou art!’ Both versions can be inspected on the Fagus-music.com website.
My Song in the Night is a gentle and intense setting of an American folk hymn. It is really written in two parts – men and women – with no more than eight bars of SATB harmony. The piano accompaniment is an important part of the texture and would only be playable on the organ with considerable reworking. You can hear (and see) a performance on YouTube with lush orchestration sung by the immaculately attired Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
ALLELUIA, SING TO JESUS! [E/M]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-339568-8 £1.85
ANGELUS DOMINI [M/D]
Novello NOV294283 £1.75
THOU KNOWEST, LORD [M/D]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-339903-7 £1.85
Alan Smith has written an exuberant anthem-setting of the hymn ‘Alleluia, sing to Jesus!’. With lively rhythms in both the organ and choral parts, this setting breathes new life into these familiar words, appropriate for the Eucharist, Easter and Ascensiontide. This is highly recommended, particularly for SATB choirs of young singers. You can listen to this anthem on the Oxford University Press Music website.
Angelus Domini by Patrick Hawes can be heard on YouTube and Spotify. This very short and slow setting in Latin for unaccompanied choir in eight parts was written for New College Choir, Oxford. Immaculate intonation is required. No English translation is given (perhaps only those who understand Latin are expected to buy this anthem?) but the text is the first part of the Angelus. For me, it felt somewhat incomplete without a subsequent Ave Maria.
The organ accompaniment of Thou knowest, Lord by Bob Chilcott (part of the composer’s Requiem) has been specially written for this edition. The score is for SATB choir in which every part divides. Again, there are many recordings of this on YouTube. Listen and decide!
MISSION PRAISE: 30th Anniversary Edition
Compiled by Peter Horrobin and Greg Levers
Collins Music edition (2 volume set) 978-0-00-756343-2 £55.00
Words 978-0-00-756519-1 £9.99 Large print words 978-0-00-756520-7 £25.00
Some readers may be surprised that Mission Praise is only 30 years old, since it seems to have been around for a lifetime (even for older readers). And during this time it has grown and grown – now 2,720 pages with 1,385 hymns and songs – so much that (and this is good news) it is in two volumes, heavy though each is. It has the virtue of consistency. Other hymn books have reviewed their choice of keys, harmonizations, associations of text and tune, versions of words, etc. with each new edition. This can be annoying for people who have always sung the words one way, or an alto or tenor part one way, to find it has changed in the latest version. No danger of that here – each item is reproduced exactly as it was in previous printings, with the latest additions at the end.
The first volume has the 798 items included in the 1993 Mission Praise Combined when previous volumes were combined, reordered and re-indexed (but not re-edited). Looking at that first volume, from ‘A new commandment’ to ‘Yours, Lord, is the greatness’, one does sometimes feel stuck in the 1980s. Did the original editors really get everything so right that 30 years later they don’t want to revisit some of their decisions? Is every one of the initially chosen items still being sung somewhere?
The second volume contains the later material with the extra 223 items of Complete Mission Praise, followed by the 123 of the 2005 edition, the 106 of the 25th Anniversary Edition, and now an extra 135 for the 30th anniversary. There will have to come an end to this adding with never subtracting! We do not need to revisit the well-aired arguments concerning shortcomings in the original books – that is not the point. Many churches have found that it has renewed their worship to have Mission Praise as a supplementary or indeed primary worship songbook. I continue to be grateful to have a copy accessible at my side and especially this latest version. There is no more complete collection of every item that a church musician might be called upon to play or sing.
The Dutch composer Fred Vonk has a number of his anthems recently published by Edition Ferrimontana. Sample pages may be inspected at http://musikalspezial.de/edition-ferrimontana.html?artist=29940 and copies with a minimum quantity of 20 may be ordered via that web page. If you have questions contact the composer direct at email@example.com