Choral Music, March 2017

SATB ANTHEMS

O REX GLORIAE [M]
Charles Wood
SATB and organ
Church Music Society/Oxford 978-0-19-340761-9 £1.85
AND THEY SHALL BEAT THEIR SWORDS INTO PLOUGHSHARES [E]
James Davy
SATB
Novello NOV295999 £1.75
THE GIFT OF EACH DAY [E/M]
John Rutter
SATB and keyboard
Oxford 978-0-19-395410-6 £1.85
O Rex gloriae by Charles Wood is an Ascensiontide anthem. For such a short period in the Church’s year, this season has inspired some wonderful music: just think of the many settings of ‘O clap your hands’. This unaccompanied four-part anthem sets in Latin an Ascension text looking forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Wood composes effectively for voices and this is no exception. If your choir has a secure sense of pitch and enjoys singing Wood’s Hail, gladdening light then O Rex gloriae will surely please the singers. In its 71 bars, this dramatic anthem offers great opportunities for contrasting dynamics and mood.
James Davy’s 21-bar, gentle, unaccompanied anthem And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, with text from Isaiah interspersed with Alleluias, would make a fitting introit at services with a theme of peace.
John Rutter’s anthem The gift of each day is a setting of the composer’s own text in his inimitable musical style. It is a movement taken from his large choral work The Gift of Life, forming a short, accompanied anthem with organ or piano. Although acknowledging God the Creator, the text is not specifically Christian and could be useful at interfaith gatherings. It is an attractive and gentle anthem which will appeal to many small choirs.
Gordon Appleton

I LOVE ALL BEAUTEOUS THINGS [M]
Judith Weir
SATB and organ
Chester Music CH82038 £2.99
This stunning anthem was written for the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 90th birthday and, despite the forces available, the composer, the current Master of the Queen’s Music, wrote a piece well within the capabilities of most SATB church choirs. The organ part will require a bit of preparation before the first rehearsal, but the busy quavers lie comfortably under the hand and the occasional use of pedals is straightforward. The organ part also gives more support to the voices than may be apparent at first glance. It is a bright, up-tempo piece, praising God in his creation, and with music that matches what Weir calls ‘the swift, fleet-footed rhyme and metre’ of the poem. Much of the choral writing is in unison or mixed two parts. Listen to it on YouTube (extracted from the St Paul’s Thanksgiving Service).

A HYMN FOR ST CECILIA [M]
Malcolm Archer
SATB (S solo) and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-341470-9 £2.90
Malcolm Archer explores all the different moods of Ursula Vaughan Williams’s wide-ranging text. Although the piece is essentially joyful (‘Sing for the morning’s joy’), quieter moments of contrast leave a strong impression: ‘Sing for your loves of heaven and earth’, and the soprano solo ‘Your summer time grows short and fades away’. With a strong, almost ecstatic finish, it would be a good choice for a choral festival service.

GIVE THE KING THY JUDGMENTS, O GOD [M]
John Rutter
SATB (with divisions) and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-351163-7 £2.65
WE HAVE A STRONG CITY [M/D]
John Rutter
SATB (with divisions), trumpet and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-351162-0 £2.90
Both pieces were written by John Rutter for choirs to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, but how very different from each other they are! Give the king thy judgments, O God, written for the Temple Choir, is a four-minute, jubilant piece for a festive occasion, with a lovely, meditative interpolation of Gibbons’s Song 1 in the middle. We have a strong city, with words from Isaiah, Zechariah and Amos, was written for Salisbury Cathedral to mark its stewardship of Magna Carta, and is a 7½ minute reflection on what God expects of his people and his reward for them. The music is derived from a little (ideally distant) trumpet motif heard at the start. Rutter’s writing for choir and organ is surefooted and he is always sensitive to words; this is an anthem of noble intensity. Particularly magical is the way he treats ‘and the hills shall break forth before you into singing’ where the word ‘singing’ is repeated eight times, firstly in a rising sequence, then falling away on a descending A to D, an inversion of the trumpet’s opening D–A motif.

THEY ARE HAPPY [M]
John Joubert
SATB (with AT soli) and organ
Novello NOV951126 £2.25
John Joubert approaches his 90th birthday. The carol for which he is known by so many church choirs, Torches, was written 66 years ago, but his creativity shows no sign of diminishing: his 89th birthday was marked by the premiere in Wells Cathedral of his new St Mark Passion. They are happy is newly published and comes with a 2016 copyright date, but the opus number suggests that it was written in the late 1980s. It is a setting of words from Psalm 33, starting ‘They are happy, whose God is the Lord’, perhaps written for a wedding or another specific occasion but suitable for almost any occasion when we can pray ‘May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.’ The music is mostly meditative, but with an impassioned outburst on ‘Our soul is waiting, waiting for the Lord’, at which point the choir sings in unison/octaves and tenors have top A flats. Luckily here, and at a similar place near the end, they are doubling the altos and can drop an octave and double the basses instead.
James L. Montgomery

ZADOK THE PRIEST [M/D]
G.F. Handel
Stephan Blaut
SSAATBB and keyboard
Bärenreiter BA10258-90 £4.00
THE KING SHALL REJOICE [M/D]
G.F. Handel
Stephan Blaut
SAATBB and keyboard
Bärenreiter BA10259-90 £9.00
Bärenreiter have issued vocal scores of the two of Handel’s coronation anthems most frequently sung by church choirs. The editions are based on the urtext of the Halle Handel Edition, the definitive complete Handel edition, and join a competitive market for these anthems. There are editions from Novello and Oxford of all four anthems in one volume, but if you just want just one or both of those listed here, the Bärenreiter editions are clear and authoritative, and tie up with their full scores and orchestral parts.
Stephen Patterson

In the batch of publications recently sent to RSCM for review were a number of octavos off-printed from the two Novello anthologies Short and Easy Anthems edited by David Hill. As I had previously given both volumes, one for SATB and one for upper voices, very warm recommendations (Sunday by Sunday Issues 70 and 74), I suggest that readers interested in obtaining individual copies of these anthems examine the anthologies, which are both priced very reasonably, after which they can investigate the availability to purchase of individual anthems should they so wish.
Gordon Appleton

ANTHEMS FOR UPPER OR TWO-PART MIXED VOICES

PANIS ANGELICUS [E/M]
Alexander l’Estrange
SA and organ
Faber Music 978-0-571-57210-6 £2.50
ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL [E/M]
David Blackwell
SA and organ
Banks Music Publications GCL018 £1.95
BLEST ARE THE PURE IN HEART [E]
Alan Bullard
2-part SA or TB or mixed and keyboard
Novello NOV296010 £1.75
HEAR MY VOICE, O LORD [E]
Rupert Jeffcoat
2-part mixed choir and organ
Novello NOV295955 £1.75
With its gentle, jazz inspired harmonies in the organ accompaniment, Panis angelicus is an attractive setting by Alexander l’Estrange for upper-voice choir of the well-known communion text. It begins in unison, then in two parts, and finally in three parts with a soloist – although this writing is not difficult for the singers.
David Blackwell’s setting of three verses of All things bright and beautiful is the sort of tuneful music that appeals to children’s choirs and will be readily appreciated by audiences. The accompaniment is well suited to piano.
Alan Bullard has really set only verse one of the hymn Blest are the pure in heart to music, although he has used the text of verse three in a descant sung simultaneously over the first verse. Bullard writes sympathetically for voices and accompaniment, but overall I felt the anthem a little short. The musical ideas here could be reworked to create a longer and more substantial piece.
Hear my voice, O Lord by Rupert Jeffcoat is a setting of words from Psalm 29 for two-part choir of upper and lower voices. The vocal lines are straightforward over an imaginative accompaniment, although the organist needs to play correct accidentals and be comfortable in the key of F sharp major.
Gordon Appleton

LET ALL THE WORLD IN EVERY CORNER SING [M/D]
David Bednall
SSAA and organ
Boosey & Hawkes 979-0-060-13290-2 £2.99
The notes themselves are not difficult, but this energetic anthem needs high rhythmic control as it dances along ‘with great joy’ mostly in 7/8 but with enough 8/8 and 4/4 to throw one off balance. The organ part propels the work along, and will need an accomplished player to provide stability for the choir. Colston’s Girls’ School Chamber Choir, for whom it was written, are known to be an excellent choir and will have enjoyed this piece, in the composer’s words ‘climaxing with the choir splitting into four parts for the antiphonal cries against the full organ’. Not for the faint-hearted, but very effective for those who can sing it with conviction.
James L. Montgomery

Firehead Editions have just released their Anthology for Lent including anthems, organ works, music for handbells and liturgical pieces, all ‘designed for parish musicians with more limited resources’. Composers are Frederick Frahm, Huw Morgan, Nicholas Wibberley and Michael Bonaventure. It is an unusual combination of anthems (including unison and SAB) and instrumental music – see http://fireheadeditions.com/anthology-for-lent to preview a complete copy.