Choral Highlights 2022

Choral Highlights 2022

In recent months the Wise Music choral catalogues are once again burgeoning with new music. Several high-profile performances of new pieces have taken place as well as important commissions of new choral works which will now find their place within the repertoire.

There are new pieces and publications from Richard Allain, Peter Bruun, Britta Byström, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Matthew Martin, Paul Mealor, Nico Muhly, Owain Park, Joby Talbot and Judith Weir, plus new repertoire from recent Australian signing Ross Edwards. This feature includes just a selection of new works. There is more to come and plenty of other pieces recently available.

We would be delighted for you to consider these pieces for your future programming, recordings and broadcasts. For perusal scores or more information about exclusivity and availability of any of these pieces please contact us.

Shine a Little Light
Written for Sarah MacDonald and Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir this thirteen minute work for upper voices and piano sets texts by the composer's brother Thomas Allain.

The Queens' Responses for SATB a cappella and The Queens' Service for mixed choir and organ, were both commissioned by The Revd Dr Jonathan Holmes and Queens' College, Cambridge for Suzi Digby OBE.

Faldet fra himlen
Prolific Danish composer Peter Bruun’s latest choral work to marks the 25th anniversary of Fuglsang Musikforeningens. It sets a text by Knud Romer, ‘Words and tones are united in a common game, where no theme is too big or too small, and where everything is magically and sensibly united and perpetuated’. The work was premiered by Klosterkirkens Choir, conducted by Jan Ole in Nykøbing, Denmark in November.

Another part of the wood
Sweden’s Eric Ericsson Choir premiered Another part of the wood in October. Following on from her 2021 BBC Proms debut with Parallel Universes, and with a growing choral catalogue, Britta is an international name to look out for.

Edwards is one of Australia’s most recognisable musical voices. His unique sound world evokes and is drawn from the natural environment, elemental forces and human connectedness. Edwards has won several APRA-AMC Art Music Awards, including the Award for Excellence by an Individual in 2015 for his contribution to Australian chamber music. In 1994 Edwards received an ARIA Award for the recording of his violin concerto (Maninyas), performed by Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Dene Olding as soloist. In 1997, Edwards was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Dawn Mantras
This work was composed for the Dawn Performance which was telecast to the world at the dawn of the new millennium from the Sydney Opera House. This work, which captivated an audience of billions, expresses hope for peace and renewal. A sequence of unforgettable images culminated in a young girl singing solo from the topmost of the building’s famous sails, accompanied by mixed choirs and a culturally diverse instrumental ensemble. The text was sourced from Latin, as well as living languages of Australia, South East Asia and the Pacific.

Flower Songs
Flower Songs is a choral maninya (dance/chant). Its text consists of the botanical names (in Latin and ancient Greek) of a selection of central eastern Australian wild flowers. Sir Jonathan Mills once summarised my attitude to word setting as being “averse to texts that are philosophical, psychological, dramatic or descriptive (and) only interested in ones that allow (him) to invoke some kind of timeless spirituality in setting them to music … (His) essential vocal style, most evident in the vocal maninyas and

The work is characterised by modified repetition of rhythmic patterns centred on drones – a sort of hypnotic incantation.” Flower Songs is dedicated to Nicholas Routley who commissioned it, with Australia Council assistance, for the Sydney Chamber Choir. The work is in two movements: the first vigorous and ecstatic; the second hazy and dream-like.

Flower Songs performed by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

Other choral works from Ross Edwards’ choral catalogue include Mass of the Dreaming, Mountain Chant and Sacred Kingfisher Psalms.

This year Frances-Hoad’s exquisite BBC Proms commission to mark the Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II Your Servant, Elizabeth took place and her Three Choirs Festival commission, A House of Light, for the Finnish male vocal group Valkia and flute. There is also plenty more choral repertoire available as a result of her role as Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford.

A green thought in a green shade
For mixed voice choir. Commissioned by Temple Music Foundation, setting a text by Andrew Marvell from ‘The Garden’.

A House of Light (The Ballad of Eddystone)
A twenty-minute work for TTBB chorus and flute with a text by Di Sherlock.  

Earth puts her colours by
For TrATB choir and organ. Commissioned for Worcester Cathedral Choir by The Elmley Foundation in memory of Samuel Driver White. Words by P.H.B. Lyon.

The Merton Service
The Merton Service for Upper Voices
The Merton Responses

One Earth
A short piece for voices and piano, commissioned and first performed by the London Symphony Orchestra Discovery Choir conducted by Neil Ferris. One Earth sets a text by Di Sherlock for voices and piano and is an ideal community choir piece.

Your servant, Elizabeth
‘…the words of two Queen Elizabeths in music which moved from quiet intimacy to a radiant mystery, as if the two Queens were communing with each other. As the Prom had reminded us, royalty has brought forth some wonderful pieces across the centuries, but this new one can certainly hold its head high in their company.’ Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

Watch the World premiere of Your servant, Elizabeth from the 2022 BBC Proms on BBC iplayer. Watch from 1:41:33.

Angelus ad Virginem
This Christmas Eve you will be able to hear the coveted annual choral commission from King’s College Cambridge. This year Matthew Martin has composed Angelus ad Virginem for the famous Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which is broadcast on BBC Radio the world over. Of the new commission Martin writes: ‘I was delighted to be asked by Daniel Hyde and King’s College, Cambridge to write this year’s commission for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. I have chosen to set a familiar text and tune - Angelus ad Virginem - and for it to serve as a tribute to the late great Simon Preston CBE (chorister and later organ scholar at King’s). The text suggests something descriptive and exuberant, and this arrangement makes use of the original 13th century carol throughout. A colourful organ part is designed to propel the music forward, sometimes twisting and distorting the melody in unexpected ways, hopefully reflecting something of Simon’s wit, vitality and stylish energy.’
The publication will be available in the new year.

A mainstay of the Novello choral catalogue, Paul Mealor continues to be a popular composer, and his output in 2022 has continued. A few highlights:

A Temple in the Spirit
For mixed choir and organ this anthem was commissioned by Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor to mark the Enthronement of the Most Revd Andrew T. G. John as Archbishop of Wales. First performed on 30th April 2022 at the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Deiniol in Bangor by the Cathedral Choir, conducted by Joe Cooper.

The Ingression of Love
Paul Mealor tops off an incredible year for his music, which featured a bespoke score for the Burberry Spring/Summer 2023 collection fashion show and a commission for the Thanksgiving Service for Queen Elizabeth II's life held at St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh. The Ingression of Love for choir and string orchestra celebrates 40 years of ministry at Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church, Atlanta. It is also the church's 150th anniversary year. The piece was premiered on December 4 by the Choir of Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church in Atlanta conducted by Sean Vogt.

A Wondrous Noel
The second Mealor work in December is a ‘cornucopia’ of Christmas carols for chorus and small orchestra (2200/0000/perc/str) for Minnesota’s Exultate Chamber Choir, with three performances in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul from December 9-11. Dr Thomas D. Rossin and the Exultate Chanmber Choir and Orchestra commissioned and premiered the work at various locations in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota.

No Resting Place
Taking Britten’s War Requiem as his model, in No Resting Place Muhly has interwoven the words of people who have found themselves in exile, along with the words of the Israelites, who were equally driven into exile. No Resting Place is a setting of Lamentations, verses 1–5, interspersed with short fragments of interviews from the Windrush Generation. This was premiered at Cadogan Hall in London by The Tallis Scholars conducted by Peter Phillips and is undoubtedly a crowning work in Muhly’s choral output.

Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Westminster Service)
Muhly has now composed the fifth evening service of his career for James O’Donnell and the Choir of Westminster Abbey, premiered in October. This setting is a sure-fire addition to the liturgical repertoire. Have a listen to his first service, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale here:

With Eys Lift Up
The Festival of St. Cecilia has been the flagship event in the charity Help Musicians’ calendar since 1946. Each year they commission a new work, and this is year Nico Muhly answered the call. With Eys Lift Up, sets the Thomas Traherne celebratory 17th-century poems ‘Bells’ and 'Churches'.It was premiered at Westminster Abbey by the combined choirs of St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, conducted by James O’Donnell. The organist was Peter Holder.

Antiphon for the Angels
Now available for all, Antiphon for the Angels was written in response to a commission from VOCES8 and Rachel Podger for their concert programme, ‘A Guardian Angel’. The work merges texts by Hildegard von Bingen (in Latin and English translation) and St Ambrose – the latter’s prayer, ‘Behold the radiant sun departs’.

Five Carols
This collection brings together five beautiful works composed for SATB without divisi. Adam lay ybounden is a setting of medieval English words, and is perfect as a seasonal introit. The Holy Child and A Winter Bloom are settings of words by contemporary British poets, Georgia Way and Hannah King, which both offer a reflective take on the festive period. Here is the little door was composed for readers of the BBC Music Magazine, and captures the wonder of Frances Chesterton’s text – at first meditative and subdued before becoming more colourful and lively. I Wonder as I Wander is a reworking of an existing piece by Owain Park scored for larger choir. The wistful melody has the character of a folk song, with mellifluous writing for the accompanying voices. 

Salisbury Canticles
Now available on sale is Park’s setting of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for SATB and organ, dedicated to the Choir of Salisbury Cathedral. It was written as a celebration of Susan Baker’s 75th birthday and first performed on 28 September 2021 at Salisbury Cathedral by the Choir of Salisbury Cathedral, conducted by John Challenger.

Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Wells Service)
Talbot’s works have been praised for their innovative approach and emotional depth. His unique blend of tradition and experimentation has helped to push the boundaries of the genre. Wells Cathedral continues its important work in commissioning church music by living composers, designed for regular use in year-round services at Wells and beyond, with its latest request from Joby Talbot. By crowdfunding within the Cathedral, congregants, composers and performers are unified in creating a canon of worship music for the future. Previous composers engaged by the initiative include Judith Weir, John Joubert, John Tavener and Thea Musgrave.

A number of new choral works by Judith Weir have received their first outings this year – two choral works in relation to the late Queen Elizabeth II, a useful anthem for SSAB choirs and the larger choral work O Sweet Spontaneous Earth.

By Wisdom
This four-minute anthem was composed to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen in 2022. First performed at a Service of Thanksgiving for Her Majesty The Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 3rd June 2022 by the choirs of St Paul’s Cathedral and Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal conducted by Andrew Carwood, with William Fox, organ.

Weir comments: ‘Amongst many ancient writings which examine the importance of Wisdom in our life on earth is the Old Testament Book of Proverbs. The short selection of verses (from Proverbs, Chapter 3) set to music in this anthem celebrate 'the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding'. By Wisdom was written in honour of HM Queen Elizabeth II, in her Platinum Jubilee Year.’

Indelible, miraculous
A short, simple setting of a poem by Julia Darling which builds to a climax to the words "we all matter". Originally composed for youth singers and first performed at BBC Proms concert from Sage Gateshead, the piece is also suitable for choirs where a limited number of male singers are available.

Like as the hart (Psalm 42)
For the state funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Westminster Abbey requested that Weir set to music the first seven verses of Psalm 42, "Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks: so longeth my soul after thee, O God". Weir said: ‘The words and music speak at first of the soul's great sadness and thirst for God's reassurance; but as the psalm progresses, the mood becomes calmer and more resolved, culminating in consolation, with the words "Put thy trust in God". The Queen’s strong faith in, and support of, Anglican worship was an inspiration for me when setting this psalm to music.’

Psalm 42:1-7 performed bt Westminster Abbey Choir

O Sweet Spontaneous Earth
This new twelve-minute work is a suite for chorus and string orchestra, commissioned by the Addison Singers, and dedicated to their conductor David Wordsworth. The three movements set texts, by historical American poets, whose themes Weir has often referred to in earlier compositions. Each poem is about the Earth, and our experience of living on it.