Choral Music, June 2016

SHORT UNACCOMPANIED ANTHEMS BY LIVING COMPOSERS

FOR THE FALLEN [E]
David Terry
SATB
Novello NOV295746 £1.75
O SALUTARIS HOSTIA [M]
David Hill
SATB
Novello NOV295493 £1.75
PRAYER OF THOMAS KEN [E/M]
George Arthur
double choir (SATB / SATB)
Novello NOV295130 £1.75

None of these Novello anthems is more than 25 bars long and all can be performed by choirs that sing confidently and in tune without accompaniment.
David Terry’s effective and straightforward arrangement of the poem by Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen (‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old …’), is the easiest. It will be welcomed by choirs looking for a suitable anthem for Remembrance Day or other such occasions. O Salutaris Hostia is an economical yet interesting setting by David Hill of the Corpus Christi hymn but is also suitable for general use. Choirs need a secure sense of pitch to place the accidentals so they can savour the frequent discords. This is a most attractive setting, yet poorly presented by the publisher. Why does a piece of 21 bars need a page turn, especially when there is a repeat? The music should be printed in the centre spread with translations printed on the back page.
George Arthur’s Prayer of Thomas Ken was the winner of the Hereford Three Choirs Festival Choral Competition 2015. The well-loved text (‘Glory to thee, my God this night, for all the blessings of the light’) is given an imaginative setting although only two and a half verses are set. The music is always simple, yet with a sense of movement towards four bars of choral canonic writing. At this point, altos, tenors and basses sing ‘teach me to die, that so I may rise glorious’, while the sopranos keep repeating ‘that I may rise’. The piece ends softly and serenely.

CHRISTUS EST STELLA [M/D]
Will Todd
SSATBB
Oxford X585 £1.85
CROSSING THE BAR [E/M]
Richard Shephard
SATB
RSCM A3263 £2.25 [affiliates £1.69]

Will Todd composed Christus est Stella (‘Christ is the morning star’) in 2000 using words of the Venerable Bede inscribed above his tomb in the Galilee (incorrectly spelt in this edition) Chapel of Durham Cathedral. The composer describes his short anthem as homophonic, by turns ecstatic and calmly contemplative. Written for SSATBB, the rich textures of the music will be rewarding for a choir that is confident in placement of melodic lines and chords, and unafraid of gentle dissonance.
Richard Shephard writes in an accessible way and those familiar with his choral compositions will recognize his sensitive word setting, rich harmonies and melodic lines, here reminiscent of his Easter Song of Praise. Written in memoriam, this poem of Tennyson’s is not strictly Christian but may be useful at a funeral or memorial service.
Gordon Appleton

NEW EDITIONS OF OLDER ANTHEMS

ES IST NUN AUS MIT MEINEM LEBEN (NOW MY LIFE IS ENDED) [M]
Johann Christoph Bach ed. Jonathan Wikeley
SATB
Novello NOV295460 £1.75
AVE MARIA [M]
Richard Dering ed. Richard Lyne
SATTB and organ
Church Music Society CMSR137 £1.85
AVE MARIA [M]
Gabriel Fauré ed. David Andrews
SS and keyboard
Banks Music Publications ECS581 £1.95

Although a translation is given of the rather lugubrious chorale by J.C. Bach, this is not a singing translation, so choirs wishing to perform it must use German, which will restrict its use in English-speaking choirs. The words are suitable for funerals and could be poignant during a Good Friday liturgy. There is a spelling mistake in the German title of this edition.
The late-Renaissance composer Richard Dering uses some adventurous harmony in his short setting of Ave Maria for SATTB and continuo. This is a clear edition, although a suggested tempo indication would be helpful.
Somewhat in the style of the Cantique de Jean Racine, Fauré’s lovely two-part Ave Maria Op.93 is a piece which upper-voice choirs will enjoy. This edition by David Andrews is scored for piano or organ and transposed down a tone from the original, which will please the singers.
Gordon Appleton

TWO ANTHEMS BY ARCHER

I HAVE CALLED YOU FRIENDS [E/M]
Malcolm Archer
SATB and organ
RSCM A3156 £2.25 [affiliates £1.69]
BEATI MUNDO CORDE [M]
Malcolm Archer
SATB and organ
RSCM A3198 £2.50 [affiliates £1.87]

The prolific composer Malcolm Archer has given us two more attractive anthems. I have called you friends sets words from St John’s Gospel including the text ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’, which makes this a particularly suitable anthem for services of dedication. It was commissioned last year for the installation of the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. With a straightforward organ part, memorable melodies and interesting harmonic progressions, this anthem is within the capabilities of good SATB parish choirs.
The second anthem, although written for Hurstpierpoint College Chapel and setting to music the school motto ‘Beati mundo corde’ (‘Blest are the pure in heart’), is a more substantial piece that many church and school SATB choirs will enjoy. It reminded me of Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn (although easier) with a prominent organ part, contrasting unaccompanied choral sections, grand sweeping melodies and an extended Amen. The anthem includes some straightforward double choir writing (quartet or semi-chorus) contrasting the words of the anthem sung in Latin by one choir with the words and tune of the hymn ‘Blest are the pure in heart’ sung simultaneously by the second choir. The text is a Latin translation of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel – although unfortunately no translation is included in this edition.
Gordon Appleton

GENESIS CHORAL LIBRARY

AVE MARIA [D]
Alex Patterson
SATB with divisions
BONUM EST CONFITERI DOMINO [D]
Alex Patterson
SSATB
Banks Music Publications GCL002 and GCL003 £1.95 each

Banks Music Publications bravely started its new choral series, Genesis Choral Library, last summer with pieces from Thomas Hewitt Jones, Russell Hepplewhite and Alex Patterson, who is director of music at Nottingham Cathedral. His Ave Maria is much concerned with its own sound-world as chords are gradually built up, each time to a higher pitch or richer texture. There is a satisfying structure, including early in the piece when ‘Ave Maria’ is musically paralleled at the name of ‘Jesus’. Eventually there is a thrilling climax followed by a long pause for the sound to die away before a distant ‘ora pro nobis’. The effect is Brucknerian, despite a very different harmonic language. The same sort of building up is found in Bonum est confiteri Domino, although here contrasted with an energetic 7/8 or 7/8+3/4 lively swing as the choir sings (in Latin) ‘it is good to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing in honour of your name’.

O SING UNTO THE LORD [M]
Russell Hepplewhite
SATB and organ
O MAGNUM MYSTERIUM [D]
Russell Hepplewhite
SSAATTBB
Banks Music Publications GCL008 £3.95 and GCL009 £1.95

O sing unto the Lord needs a large choir to sing against the exuberant (and difficult) organ part. It seems a pity then that the choral writing is entirely homophonic for all 31 pages of the score – and mostly fortissimo, with brief softer interludes and an unexpected and effective pianissimo conclusion. But all the composer’s imagination seems to have gone into the organ. The eight-part unaccompanied O magnum mysterium shows how the composer can write for voices even if some of the chords are harder to pitch than one might think from the way the keyboard reduction falls under the fingers. The music has a clear sense of direction, emotional content and sensitivity to the details of the words, including at the start and finish the ‘awe and wonder’ that the composer requests.
James L. Montgomery