Music for unaccompanied choir

SATB

O Western Wind… An anniversary (2021) – 4′

A commission to mark Vaughan Williams’ 150th birthday in 2022, published by Stainer and Bell in their Choral Now series.

Composer’s Note:
Ursula Vaughan Williams, poet, author, and second wife of Ralph Vaughan Williams, was clearly very much in love with him and remained so in the 49 years she lived after his death. Her poem O Western Wind: An Anniversary was written in 1993, on the 35th anniversary of Ralph’s death. Ursula contemplates her own mortality, and paints two contrasting pictures of how she and Ralph might be reunited after her death; either that time will ‘end for both in darkest night’ – they will disappear into oblivion (but crucially, the same oblivion) – or the yearned-for alternative ‘shall I find, in that unknown your hand is mine and mine your own?’.

Ursula’s title references the 16th-century song Westron Wynde, a lament for a lost lover; in this setting the opening line of the song is incorporated at various moments of the piece, partly in homage to Vaughan Williams’ love of Tudor music and his reuse of ancient English melodies in his own music, and partly as if the tune is floating through Ursula’s mind as she writes her poem. Eagle-eared listeners might also recognise some more direct references to Vaughan Williams which Ursula remembers along the way.

My eyes for beauty pine (2021) – 2′

A simple setting of the poem by Robert Bridges, for SATB with no divisi. Suitable as an introit or brief anthem, possibly to be sung by a quartet. The piece opens with a two-part texture for upper voices, echoed by the lower voices, before opening into a fuller texture for the final verse.

Song of Hope (2020) – 2’30

A folk-inspired setting of Thomas Hardy for SATB with divisi. Hardy’s optimistic words look forward to a ‘sweet tomorrow’.

Hale, Sterne Superne (2020) – 4′

A commission by present company for their virtual assumption evensong, setting a Scots Marian poem by William Dunbar. All the music in the service was new and written by female Cambridge composers. This was premiered on YouTube in August 2020.

O Lord, Support Us (2020) – 3′

This piece won the inaugural Jesus College Composition Competition in March 2020. The text is a prayer by John Henry Newman:
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done; then Lord, in thy mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.
It will be premiered by the college’s choirs in the autumn.

Ivy, Chief of Trees it is (2019) – 2’30

A carol for Granta Chorale, premiered at their concert A Christmas Garland in Corpus Christi College Cambridge, and now published by Multitude of Voyces in their third volume of sacred music by women. There is a rich medieval tradition of texts discussing the merits of holly or ivy, or pitching the two against each other in a contest; this anonymous 15th-century text clearly favours ivy. The musical setting is very simple, with a repeated choral refrain and brief verses for pairs of soloists.

Dance The Seven Seas (2018) – 4′

A celebration of the colours, flavours and sounds of the sea, this piece was commissioned by Caritas Chamber Choir for their concert in aid of the RNLI, and was premiered on 29th September 2018 in Ramsgate. Words are by the composer. Dance The Seven Seas appears in Caritas’s CD, A Caritas Collection, Vol. Two.

Haec Dies (2018) – 4’

Caritas Chamber Choir commissioned this setting of an Easter text for their tour to Sweden, where they sang it twice, in Gothenburg and in Helsingborg. The music is inspired by celebratory brass fanfares, and has two aleatoric sections in free time. Haec Dies features in Caritas’s CD, A Caritas Collection, Vol. Two.

Sicut Cervus (2018) – 4’30’’

Sample PDF (pages 1-3)

Buckfast Abbey commemorated a thousand years since their foundation with a composition competition, and this setting of Sicut Cervus was shortlisted. The music references church modes and monastic chant to reflect the long history of the abbey. It received its first performance in April 2018, alongside the other finalists’ pieces, and a new commission by Matthew Martin.

Prayer of Richard Rolle (2018) – 3’

Written for Ripon Cathedral’s New Music Week, this piece was premiered in the sermon on 13th May to open the week’s focus on new sacred compositions. The words by Richard Rolle talk about music as a form of divine revelation.

Ave Maria (2017) – 4’

Caritas Chamber Choir commissioned this Ave Maria for their Christmas concert in 2017, and have since performed it several times, including in Lille Cathedral. All voice parts are divided, and the upper and lower voices are frequently treated as two separate choirs.

Come Queen of Months (2017) – 4’30’’

John Clare’s Shepherd’s Calendar takes the reader through the twelve months of the year; here the opening of the text for May is set for SATB with several divisi. Clare describes the sounds of the season, including birdsong, crickets, bees and ‘childhood’s humming joys’, all of which are painted musically.

Factus Est Repente (2016) – 3’30’’

This Pentecost motet portrays two contrasting feelings the apostles might have felt in the biblical account of the descent of the Holy Spirit: breathless excitement and shocked reverence. The opening excited rhythmic material alternates with an awed, hushed ‘alleluia’ refrain.  The alleluia sections get longer, louder and slightly faster each time they occur, while successive energetic sections build up to the last iteration, a rhythmically offset ‘chattering’ reflecting the apostles speaking in many tongues. Finally a climactic alleluia closes the piece and in the last four bars the two separate musical ideas are combined at last.

Fitzwilliam College Chapel Choir gave the première in 2016, and in 2017 Granta Chorale performed it twice, first in Ely Cathedral Lady Chapel, and then in Saffron Hall. In 2018 it was selected for performance in Bayswater on 20th May as part of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.

Videntes Stellam (2015) – 3’

This atmospheric motet describes the arrival of the magi at the nativity and is appropriate for Christmas and Epiphany. Granta Chorale gave the first performance of Videntes Stellam in 2015 at a concert in St Mark’s, Newnham.

The Angel Gabriel (2012) – 3’30

This setting of Sabine Baring-Gould’s words won the senior category of Saffron Walden Choral Society’s Carol Competition in 2012, and was performed in the concert The Spirit of Christmas.

Upper voices

Dormi, Jesu (2017) – 2’

The first performance of this lullaby took place in the chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge, sung by the upper voices of Granta Chorale. The piece is constructed from irregularly overlapping simple melodic fragments accompanying a main melody sung in octaves. This recording is from the second performance in Great Chesterford.

Adam lay ybounden (2015) – 1’30’’

This setting was written for Voices of Newnham, who premièred it in Newnham’s Music of the Festive Season concert in 2015. The following year, it was chosen through Dulciana Vocal Ensemble’s Call for Scores, and performed by them in Dublin.