John McCabe's new Psalm Cantata

John McCabe's new Psalm Cantata
 Psalm Cantata has been commissioned by the English Baroque Choir and their music director Jeremy Jackman.

They will give the first performance on March 16, 2013 at St. John’s, Smith Square, London, including a pre-concert talk about the new work.

The soloists will be Alice Privett and Bozidar Smiljanic, with the Brandenburg Sinfonia.

The work lasts twenty minutes and is scored for baritone and soprano soloists with SATB chorus and 1200/0100/tenor drum/chamber organ/str.

John McCabe writes about the new work…

I’ve wanted to write a choral/instrumental piece based on texts from the Psalms for a very long time, so this commission from the English Baroque Choir and their music director Jeremy Jackman (to whom the work is dedicated) was a wonderful opportunity to put this idea into practice. I decided to write a kind of latter-day equivalent to the Bach cantatas, with two soloists (soprano and baritone). The texts are derived from a variety of Psalm sources: some in Latin, some in English, a meditation by Savonarola, and a Henry Vaughan poem.

The music is divided into three parts, performed without a break (or perhaps only a short one). At the beginning of Parts 1 and 2 the soloists intone recitative-like phrases in Latin, while at the beginning of Part 3 this brief section is purely instrumental. At the end of each Part, a chorale is sung by the choir, unaccompanied on the first two occasions but with all the forces combining for the final section, which in itself is a modest variation on the chorale theme. The soloists, who each have a solo number, also sing with the choir, especially in the finale.

The work pursues a course from the darkness of the pleas for mercy at the start to the ebullient lightness of the final number, when in Latin a celebration of unity is expressed. It seemed to me that we need to be reminded sometimes that living in unity and amity is something to be celebrated.

© John McCabe, 2012

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