• Geoffrey Burgon
  • Veni Spiritus (1979)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Vocal score for sale

  • 2(2pic)2224231timp.2percstr
  • SATB
  • soprano, baritone
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Veni Spiritus is a setting of five texts concerned with inspiration and is scored for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus and orchestra. It was completed in June 1978.

Most of the musical material is based on two fragments of plainsong – ‘Veni Sacte Spiritus’ and ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’. They are explored in a variety of contrapuntal and harmonic ways culminating in a complex eight part canonic treatment of ‘Veni creator’ in the last section. The musical imagery of the piece can be compared to a slowly opening flower or germinating seed, the first section containing the essence and raw energy of the piece and the last its full flowering. The process also takes place within particular sections of the work, for instance the three choral sections (one, three and five) all begin with a single line and gradually broaden into six or eight parts. These sections take as their text three Latin poems, the first and last ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’ and ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’ respectively whilst the central section is a setting of a less familiar Latin poem, ‘A Prayer to God the Father’.

The baritone soloist’s text is an Eskimo poem that is an invocation to the ‘Spirits of the Air’ to come down and inspire the hunter in his hunting, whilst the soprano sings words of St John of the Cross that begin ‘Oh flame of love to the living’.

Veni Spiritus was commissioned by the Royal Choral Society with funds provided by the Shirley family and the Arts Council of Great Britain. Financial assistance was also provided by the Royal Choral Society Special Music Fund. The first performance was given by the Royal Choral Society and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Felicity Palmer (soprano) and Stephen Roberts (baritone) and was conducted by Meredith Davies on 16 May 1979 at the Royal Festival Hall, London.