CD Details

ONE EQUAL MUSIC CD
from the Victoria Quarter, Leeds

St Peter’s Singers
directed by Simon Lindley

1. Bring us, O Lord God William Harris (3:19)
2. Let all mortal flesh keep silence Edward Bairstow (3:33)
3. Alleluia Eric Whitacre (8.14)
4. Faire is the heaven William Harris (4:51)
5. Magnificat Arvo Pärt (6:36)
6. Bogoróditse dyévo Serge Rachmaninov (2:30)
7. In the stillness Sally Beamish (2:17)
8. O Magnum Mysterium Morten Lauridsen (6:45)
9. O Radiant Dawn James MacMillan (4:26)
10. Morning Prayers Philip Moore (6:26)
11. Prayers in Time of Distress Philip Moore (4:10)
12. Evening Prayers Philip Moore (4:53)
13. Evening Hymn Francis Jackson (6:06)
14. My soul, there is a country Hubert Parry (3:42)
15. Holy is the True Light William Harris (1:59)

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Sound Engineer and Producer: Steve Swinden
Associate Producers: Darius Battiwalla and David Houlder
Concept and Project management: Quentin Brown
Copyright © St Peter’s Singers 2014
Registered Charity 507174
www.stpeters-singers.org.uk

The music

The programme reflects significant musical strands and influences. Some find a place on account of an inherent simplicity and directness of expression – such as the works by Sir William Harris, Arvo Pärt, James MacMillan and Sally Beamish. Others are representative of a special voice from within the sacred tradition like Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Edward Bairstow and this factor is featured too by more contemporary voices.

 
Bairstow’s classic setting of the ancient hymn Let all mortal flesh keep silence was written in the Summer of 1906 for his Choir at what was then Leeds Parish Church; its delayed publication, in 1925, and the grandly rhetorical climax, has tended to lend credence to the thought that the piece was composed for York Minster. The manuscript resides, on display, in Leeds Minster’s choir vestry, where St Peter’s Singers rehearse.

Bairstow’s two successors at York, Dr Francis Jackson and Dr Philip Moore find a special place; both have sustained close relationships with music-making in Leeds in general and at the city’s Minster in particular. Jackson’s Evening Hymn, for long a favourite with St Peter’s Singers, and Moore’s visionary Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are each works cherished by many choral groups.

Numinous elements of traditions developed by Arvo Pärt and Morten Lauridsen are represented, whose creative spirits evince influences of the timeless music of the Orthodox and polyphonic traditions. Others, such as Eric Whitacre, have come to love the traditional and played a part in developing it from, as it were, without, rather than within. 

The sonority of unaccompanied singing of sacred texts raises the earth-bound spirit in a particular way, whether or not the listener comes to it with a standpoint emanating from belief. Melody and, especially, harmonic underpinning of lyrical musical lines draws one close to a response enkindling rapture – an aural version, perhaps, of the visual experience of gazing deep into an icon painting.

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Verbal texts come from figures as diverse as Prudentius in the 4th century and the even earlier liturgy of St James; from Henry Vaughan and Sir Thomas Browne in the 17th century; and, in output from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the German pastor imprisoned then murdered by the Nazis) and Katrina Shepherd, we interact with figures nearer to, and within, our own day.

Sir William Harris is represented by three works. The first two are his remarkable treatments for double choir – Faire is the heaven and Bring us, O Lord, God. It is from the verbal text of the latter that we take the title of this recording, coming as it does from Donne’s stanza : no noise, nor silence, but one equal music.

Interestingly, Harris did not only write for the most accomplished choirs, such as those found in our Cathedral and Collegiate foundations, but produced a vast amount for ensembles of more modest resources; from among this corpus comes a luminous setting of words from the pre-Reformation Sarum Diurnal translated by The Rev Dr G H Palmer: Holy is the true light, and passing wonderful. This text also forms the final movement of Howells’ Hymnus Paradisi.

The magnificent acoustic of Leeds’ Victoria Quarter accords a bloom and warmth to the musical sonorities. Placement of such deeply expressive musical and verbal concepts highlights, too, the emphasis on the sacred within a secular environment – each achieved by a remarkable vision of synthesis between magnificent craftsmanship and design. The congruence in time as well as space between the richly creative period of the VQ’s construction, whose streets were designed by Sir Frank Matcham, and the music of the “English Edwardians” is a further significant factor. 

Of course, the music has been selected to serve the concept of this innovative One Equal Music project, but much of it has emerged as particular favourites of the choir’s membership and from a desire to make the most of, and from, sounds designated for soul, heart, body, mind and spirit as well as voice. Saint Augustine asserted that those who sing pray twice. Our hope is that many brought to this wonderful music, perhaps for the first time, may be uplifted and sustained by it as we have been, and continue to be.
Simon Lindley

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