This work is on world release on Signum Records SIGCD 501, in a performance by Tenebrae under Nigel Short, with Jeremy Filsell, organ. Click the Signum link to hear an excerpt. It was published by G Ricordi (London) Ltd in 2006. For information in either case please visit the Links page of this website.
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In the year 2000 The
Souls of the Righteous was privately commissioned as a memorial to a member
of the congregation at Winchester Cathedral, who for over thirty years had
travelled regularly from Folkestone in Kent to share in its worship and to hear
Winchester Cathedral Choir under its erstwhile Master of Music, Dr David Hill.
This motet sets words which turned out to have been in the minds of both
composer and commissioner before either had specifically suggested any text to
the other. The music was first heard in Winchester Cathedral on 20 May 2000. The
tenor solo part was sung by (and, at the commissioner’s request, especially
conceived for) William Kendall, who marks his own thirtieth year as a serving
member of the Choir in 2005 and enjoys also a solo career of international
distinction. It was he who had effected a meeting of commissioner and composer.
Subsequently he has sung the solo part during a BBC broadcast of Choral Evensong
and also on a CD release of the work by the choir Tenebrae,
conducted by Nigel Short [Signum Classics, SIGCD 501].
Although a member of
Winchester Cathedral Choir myself (1991-2001), sadly I had not had the privilege
of knowing Sheila Bushnell, to whom the music is dedicated. This seemed to
augment an already daunting compositional responsibility. In the event, two
memories guided my response. One was that of the sublime setting of these words
in Latin [Justorum Animae] by William
Byrd, known and loved from the moment when I first encountered it as a chorister
at New College, Oxford, in the late 1960s. Though lighting the humblest of
candles beside such work, the present setting may at least claim as its point of
departure some generalised glimpse into the spiritual and musical sensibility of
Byrd. My second prompting, more personal and, in the end, perhaps more pertinent
still, is the cherished memory of my own parents. Whatever the merits or
otherwise of these compositional results, I hope that a certain authenticity of
feeling may be found in them, as happily it was by the commissioner, who has
wished to remain anonymous but who welcomed disclosure of so personal a
perspective. The Souls of the Righteous
stands, then, partly as a private
tribute to two people known and loved, but primarily –and in some curious
sense, more poignantly –to Sheila and to those whom the poet Matthew Arnold
identifies for us as
‘The friends to whom we had no natural right,
The homes that
were not destined to be ours’.
Francis Pott, 2005
Music Web, 2003
I have, however, deliberately left to last the piece which has made the greatest impact on me. This is the other offering from Francis Pott, The souls of the righteous Pott has perfectly realised the serenity and consolation conveyed in these lines and has constructed a truly beautiful piece of choral music… Sustains the mood of subdued ecstasy right through to the seraphic concluding Amen. An exceptional piece.