[Photo: Sebastian Thomson]
Francis Pott’s most recent organ composition is his Passacaglia, commissioned by Sebastian Thomson as part of his evolving Angels of Creation project. The Passacaglia was completed in August 2017 and will receive its world premiere performance from Sebastian Thomson in Westminster Abbey, London, on Sunday 15th July 2018. The score will be published by Edition Peters thereafter. Francis Pott had been keen to write an organ work which distanced itself from the overt virtuosity of some of his other recent essays in the medium. Contemplation of a passacaglia gave rise to thoughts of a solemn processional music, and hence of the plight of 21st-century migrants struggling across Europe. The phrase ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’, from Psalm 137, began to repeat itself in the composer’s mind, and suddenly the music acquired a life of its own. The result is a densely chromatic and contrapuntal work that emulates Purcell by employing a five-bar, asymmetric repeating ground bass after the fashion of Dido’s Lament, and that also pays homage to Bach in two ways: first, the developing argument incorporates a fugue after the fashion of Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor; and, secondly, the final stages of the new work include a brief reference to Bach’s chorale prelude ,Aus Wasserflussen Babylon’ (By the Waters of Babylon), heard over the continuing ground bass.