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EXCELSIOR

About the music on 'EXCELSIOR'

 

It is our sincere wish, in promoting new works, not only to produce CDs but to encourage others to sing the music. When this CD is released, therefore, we shall also shortly afterwards release all the works on it in sheet music form as the first pieces in the Amemptos New Music Series.

The music will be reasonably priced and all the pieces graded as to difficulty according to the key below.

 

Key: 1- simple, no potential problems; 2 - straightforward and quite easy; 3 - some potential difficulties but generally manageable with proper practice; 4 - some difficult parts; 5 - difficult: some extremely tricky sections.

 

Below are much fuller details of all the recorded works, along with an indication of the forces needed to sing them. The difficulty grading according to the Key above is in square brackets, e.g. [2]

The length of each work is given in minutes & seconds, e.g. (2:45)

 

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Track 1    (5:14} 

Evening Prayer.  [3]  SATB + S/solo + Organ

Composer: Keith Caple

        This glorious, traditional anthem, reminiscent of some of the 19th century choral “greats”, allows a soloist to shine initially and, in the last section, to soar with beautiful melody above the SATB choir and organ. Rich harmonies, modulations and suspensions hold the interest throughout, but it is the truly sublime melodic lines that will remain in the hearer’s heart after the piece has ended. Words collated from two sources, the first a translation by Edward Caswall in 1858 of an 18th century Latin hymn and the second from a hymn by William Romanis, written in 1878. Treble: James Orrell.

 

To hear a short excerpt from the beginning of this work, please click the button on the right.

Music is through Windows Media Player. Link opens in a new page.

 

Track 2    (1:41) 

Remember not, Lord, our offences.  [2]  SATB

Composer: Simon Slater

        “Tudor” in style, this short and richly harmonic introit allows the music to reflect superbly the words, dying away with lovely suspensions into the final repetition of “be not angry with us for ever”. Words taken from the Litany.

 

Track 3    (1:50)

O vos omnes.  [4]  SSATBB

Composer: Christopher Hutchings

        With the Latin text taken from Lamentations 1:12 (O all ye who pass by on the road, stop and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow), this haunting work, written as an Easter introit for solo sextet or six-part chorus, is full of glorious, shifting, chromatic harmony, typical of Chris Hutching’s superb choral music. The emotional effect is heightened at the final phrase which dies away to nothingness with a sublime held 2nd.

 

Track 4    (1:04)

Ave Maria.   [2]  SATB

Composer: Kenneth Beard

        One surely hears the sound of the typical Cathedral choir that Kenneth Beard was so familiar with in this short anthem, written in 1990 for Mold parish church in North Wales. Fairly modern in harmonic structure, the music moves effectively between 3:8 and 4:8 time, before soaring into the final climax at “ora pro nobis” - “pray for us”.

 

Track 5    (3:40)

Dixit Maria.  [5]  S(S)A(A)TB(B)

Composer: Lloyd Buck

        With Latin words from Luke 1:38, (Mary said to the angel “behold the handmaid of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word”), this anthem modulates with apparent ease and to great effect between some rather unexpected keys. Difficult not only because it is written in F# major, the work also holds several pitching and intonation traps and calls for particularly low SA notes at the end. Sopranos split frequently, altos quite often and basses occasionally. The general tonality is traditional, but worked with a flair that marks Lloyd Buck as a composer of depth and musicality. The two great climaxes lie within a framework of short melodic lines and the music dies away in peaceful acceptance as Mary understands the wonderful meaning of the angel’s words.

 

Track 6    (1:04)

Adam lay ybounden.  [1] SATB

Composer: Derek Bevan

        Written in 1996 to the familiar anonymous 15th century words, this bright version of “Adam lay ybounden” will be within the reach of almost every choir. With a lovely, lilting melody, immensely catching and suitable for the words, this short carol will find favour with all age groups.

 

Track 7    (1:39)

Balulalow.   [1] SATB

Composer: Ronald Law

        It will come as no surprise to listeners to this ancient carol and Ron Law’s Requiem (see below) that the composer is also a lover of jazz music. Being original in harmonic style but always retaining a traditional feel is his trademark – and in this short work the mixture is perfect. The altered harmony in the final phrase leaves the hearer perhaps slightly surprised but also completely satisfied.

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Track 8    (5:36)

Gaudent in coelis.  [3] SATB + SS/solos + organ

Composer: Simon Slater

        “There is rejoicing in heaven” is the translation of the opening phrase of this vibrant work. The first section is a lively paean of joy featuring two soprano soloists above the SATB choir and leads into a slower section in two parts. Firstly, the organ picks out a lovely melody with a solo flute stop, followed a reprise for the soloists. Then comes the chorale, albeit re-harmonised, with the old tune made famous in Mendelssohn’s oratorio Christus, part of which is a standard anthem for cathedral choirs at Christmas and known to generations of choristers as “There shall a star”. Introducing this is a two bar triplet organ passage, deliberately placed there by Simon “as a gesture of the utmost respect and thanks to Mendelssohn” who uses a similar figure. The final section recapitulates the beginning of the work, but with joyful modulations towards the final phrase and the last, majestic, triumphant organ reed chords.

1st Soprano: Charlotte Vivian;  2nd Soprano: Lynne Rogers.

 

To hear a short excerpt from the middle section of this work, please click the button on the right.

 

Track 9    (2:20)

Infant holy.  [1] SATB

Composer: Simon Slater

        A new and moving version of the traditional carol, which shouldn’t be taken too slowly, this simple work won the audience prize at the Keele Bach Choir carol competition in 2005.

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Track 10   (2:52)

Draw near to God.  (Hymn).  [1]  SATB + organ

(+optional descant/drum/cymbal/trumpet in last verse).

Composer: Jonathan Amysson

        Amemptos Music was determined to commission an original hymn for use on this CD, so we decided upon a metre that we thought appropriate and asked Jonathan Amysson to write the music (see composer notes later). He provided this within a week: we then recorded it on a midi file and sent it off to Timothy Dudley-Smith, who had already kindly agreed to write us the words especially for this project. Undoubtedly the finest and most prolific hymn writer of the age, Bishop Timothy also came back to us within a week – and the result of this collaboration is a hymn combining deep meaning and wonderfully tuneful music. We are certain that it will become greatly loved and frequently heard wherever congregations meet for Christian worship.

Trumpet: Andrew Blewett.

 

To hear the last two of the four verses of this work, please click the button on the right.

 

Track 11   (1:53)

God with me. [1]  SATB + organ

Composer: Timothy Knight

        Tim Knight’s typically accessible and original style shines throughout this simple, peaceful and lovely work. A key to the composer’s international success is his ability to interweave melodic voice lines and accompany them with a continuo in itself interesting, adding substantially to the overall effectiveness of his works.

 

Track 12   (1:19)

O Son of God.  [1]  S/solo + organ

Composer: Jonathan Amysson

        A short and stunningly effective treble solo, with words adapted from the Communion service. Treble: James Orrell.

 

Track 13   (2:14)

I will lift up my eyes.  [2]  SATB + organ

Composer: Timothy Knight

        Tim’s second work on this CD, with text drawn from Psalm 121, again interweaves lovely, flowing melodies between the parts.

 

Track 14   (1:18)

Requiem 1 – Nothing in my hand.  [2]  T or B/solo+organ (or orchestra)

Composer: Ronald Law

        The first of three consecutive sections taken from Ron Law’s Requiem. Space did not allow us to record this beautiful and atmospheric work in its entirety – that is, we hope, a future project. “Nothing in my hand” is an unusual and moving baritone solo placed between the Offertorium and the Sanctus. Baritone: Philip Arkwright.

 

Track 15   (2:07)

Requiem 2 – Pie Jesu.  [2]  S/solo + organ (or orchestra)

Stunning in its glorious melodic line and deeply satisfying in its harmonies, the Law version will undoubtedly take its place alongside earlier Pie Jesu masterpieces whenever a soprano or treble soloist is available of the standard of James Orrell, who communicates this work so movingly.

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Track 16   (3:36)

Requiem 3 – Agnus Dei.  [3]  SATB + organ (or orchestra)

The Agnus Dei begins simply but of course with Ron Law’s usual interesting harmonic touches. Then a ravishing change from C major to Ab signals the beginning of a short section of two-part melodic counterpoint (Lux Aeterna) that is simply breathtaking. The final section reprises the very first section of the Requiem (not recorded on this CD) and, reverting after one phrase to C major, ends at peace with “Dona eis requiem”.

 

To hear a short excerpt from this work, please click the button on the right.

 

Track 17   (2:25)

Sing a new song.  [5]  SATB + organ

Composer: David Meacock

        This exciting, unusual and brilliantly triumphal work unsurprisingly won a composition prize for David Meacock when he was a student at the RCM. It follows on from his "Four Sacred Songs" which also use texts by the celebrated hymn writer, then Bishop of Tetford, Timothy Dudley-Smith, and is typical of the composer’s often chromatic but mostly tonal harmonic palette. The organ part is particularly difficult at times: AT split occasionally. Words: Timothy Dudley-Smith, adapted from Psalm 98.

 

Track 18   (1:51)

Ave, verum corpus.  [2]  S/solo + organ

Composer: Simon Slater

        Simon Slater never intended to write an Ave verum corpus “given that there are already three masterpieces available, i.e. Byrd, Mozart and Elgar.” However, “one day it happened without my really intending it”. The result is this lovely treble solo with its soaring melody, ideally suited to the purity of a boy’s voice. The final unusual modulations to “in mortis examine” are astounding in their effect. Treble: James Orrell.

 

Track 19   (1:22)

Crux fidelis.  [2]  SATB

Composer: Christopher Hutchings

        “Faithful cross”, the second of Chris Hutchings’s works on this CD is a short motet for Eastertide. The subtle chromatics and resolutions again show his mastery of a highly original musical language and have resulted in a thoughtful and moving anthem whose music could not be more appropriate for the words.

 

Track 20  (4:08)

I wonder as I wander.  [3]  SATB

Composer: Paul Freeman

        Professor Paul Freeman’s setting of this traditional poetry offer us a masterpiece of subtle, shifting harmony beneath a well-known melody. At first glance a discordant score, Paul’s experienced hands have worked with the underlying modality of the melody and written an approachable, brilliantly effective and moving work. A soprano solo begins the piece, followed by SATB but with changing phrase beginnings for the different parts woven throughout. Soprano: Naomi Burrell.

 

Track 21   (3:40)

Drop, drop slow tears.  [3] SATB + organ

Composer: John Ellis

        The ancient words, set to music many times including by Gibbons and Walton, receive here a new and beautifully moving setting from Dr Ellis. He comments that he felt “these words required quiet and meditative musical support to match the similarly introspective nature of the text”. The work begins with the altos and continues with the basses; a section of a capella follows, with the final choral phrase touching in the extreme. The organ ends the work with the gentlest and simplest of quiet phrases.

 

Track 22   (2:25)

An Evening Prayer.  [2]  SATB

Composer: Rod Mather

           It was not until all the works on this CD had been recorded that we finally managed to trace Rod Mather, who now lives in Melbourne, Australia. We originally found this work whilst browsing through various choral sites on the internet during our early searches. With some none-traditional yet superbly effective harmonies, this beautiful, unaccompanied piece ends with the lovliest of extended "Amens".

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Track 23   (1:42)

Prayer of St. Columba.  [1]  SATB

Composer: Timothy Attride

        A definite choice with which to end this CD from the moment we saw it, this work is a truly lovely, hymn-like motet, which is essentially a prayer. Originally just one verse, we asked Tim Attride to write another so that the music could be heard twice. He therefore looked into other writings of St. Columba and paraphrased them into what now is the second verse.

 

To hear this short work, please click the button on the right.

 

 

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