• John McCabe
  • Motet (1979)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Chichester Festival for George Guest and the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge

  • 10 min
  • John McCabe
  • James Clarence Mangan

Programme Note

This was the first to be written of a Triptych of settings of words by James Clarence Mangan (1803-49), the Irish poet. He was one of those literary figures who appear from time to time, the highly personal force of whose work seems coloured by the intensity of their own experience, usually tragic - in Mangan's case, madness, illness and poverty marked his life. The work, for unaccompanied chorus, was commissioned by the Chichester 904 Festivities for George Guest and the choir of St John's College, Cambridge.

It was the rhetorical power of this very find poem (whose original title was Gone in the Wind), and some aspects of its contemporary significance, that attracted me to it, and in its vivid, subtle and dramatic verbal power it seems to me to reflect some of the essential characteristics of Irish poetry throughout the ages. In this setting, the music alternates between two tempi, a maestoso for the ritornello verses and a faster, more rhythmic feeling for the episodes between these. In this respect, the piece might most clearly be perceived as a kind of rondo form.
© 1989 John McCabe