Motet for SSAATTBB chorus a cappella

Duration: ca 9’30”

This work was commissioned for the St Louis Chamber Chorus under its conductor, Philip Barnes, by John and Gailya Barker in memory of their parents. Its première took place within a programme conceived on the theme of Winchester Cathedral, with which Christ Church Cathedral in St Louis has special links (an inscribed stone from Winchester Cathedral is set into one of its walls and its reredos is a copy of the 19th century original at Winchester). The choice of text was made in order to juxtapose this new setting by a recent member of Winchester Cathedral Choir to the much earlier one by Thomas Weelkes, Organist at Winchester College for a few years beginning in 1598 (and subsequently Organist at Chichester Cathedral).

This modern setting attempts to respond to the timeless grief of a parent mourning his or her child, and to bring this sympathetically into line with resonances of a contemporary world where such private grief is all too frequently brought to universal attention through intrusive coverage by news media. At the same time, the music seeks to respect the aesthetic and technique of the setting by Weelkes -and also that by Thomas Tomkins, prized yet more highly by the present composer. (Tribute should be paid here also to the fine contemporary setting by Jonathan Rathbone.)

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The St Louis Chamber Chorus has a marked affinity for the English choral tradition. This put an extra shine on their sold-out concert Sunday afternoon at Christ Church [St Louis] Cathedral. …As usual, artistic director Philip Barnes assembled a thoughtful, imaginative programme.

…The afternoon’s biggest moments came at the end of the first half and the end of the concert, respectively. The first was the reconstruction, by Craig Monson of Washington University, of John Sheppard’s 1554 setting of Psalm 128, Beati Omnes.
…The other was the world première of Francis Pott’s When David Heard. With its text from 2 Samuel, it expresses King David’s anguish over the death of his son Absalom in a haunting, beautifully complex setting for eight parts that took the listener through a spine-tingling emotional journey. Barnes has a gift for matching composers and texts with his choir; Pott is another fine find. …[and] there is not a better choir in St Louis.

Sarah Bryan Miller, Classical Music Critic, St Louis Post-Dispatch, Tuesday 15 April 2008


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