A Brief Introduction…
Hugh Benham is organist and choir director at St. Boniface Anglican Church in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, and active in The Guild of Church Musicians. He is a writer of academic and educational articles and books, and a chair of examiners for GCE Music.
Some of the choral items on this disc were composed for St Boniface Church Choir, a mixed choir of about 20 voices, and are intended to be useful to other parish choirs including quite small ones, to chapel choirs in schools and colleges, and in such joint events as diocesan choral festivals. Four pieces (A Triumph Song, Love’s redeeming work, Ave verum corpus and Divinum mysterium) are in particular suitable for larger forces and larger buildings. The music was composed between 2005 and 2011 unless otherwise stated.
(Executive Producer, Convivium Records)
Recorded at St Alban the Martyr, Highgate, Birmingham by Convivium Singers.
Directed by Neil Ferris, with Organ by Michael Higgins.
Engineered by Adaq Khan and Adrian Green.
Photography by Tom Kuglin.
Produced by Hugh Benham and Adrian Green.
Tracks 2, 5, 10 and 12–13 were composed for the choir of St Boniface Church, Chandler’s Ford, and these in particular should prove accessible to many church choirs, to school and college chapel choirs, and in such events as diocesan choral festivals.
The accessibility for the listener of the choral tracks stems partly from links with the repeating (strophic) structure of traditional English hymns, and from use of other simple structural patterns.
In Behold the Lamb of God all three verses have the same music, in unison, with variety achieved by use in verse 2 of high voices only. On the other hand, the tune of A Triumph Song is treated differently each time: verse 1 is unison, verse 2 is in four parts, unaccompanied, and verse 3 has a descant.
In Love came down at Christmas the strophic structure is loosened, with a contrasting middle verse. Love’s redeeming work has the main melody in unison in verse 1, with some harmony and contrapuntal extension in verse 2. Verse 5, with descant, extends the contrapuntal passage from verse 2. Verse 3 is partly based on the main melody, but verse 4 has independent rising ideas suggested by the text (‘soaring’, ‘following our exalted Head’, ‘the skies’).
Divinum mysterium begins with a setting of the medieval lyric ‘There is no rose’. An original tune is heard in verses 1–3 before the freer treatment of verses 4–5. This original tune hints at the 16th-century melody ‘Divinum mysterium’ (‘Of the Father’s love’) which finally emerges at ‘O that birth for ever blessed’, the last word ‘evermore’ prompting a coda based largely on the alternating D and E major chords of the preceding cadence.
Blest are the pure in heart and Ave, verum corpus, although so different in text and style, share a structural scheme that has several well-known precedents – there are two sections for upper voices both repeated in harmony. The unison refrains of Let my prayer rise before you are separated by two different verses for cantor. Each refrain is a tone higher, the key changes being effected gradually not by sudden ‘gear shifts’.
Aside from influences from hymnody, there are echoes of plainsong in parts of Let my prayer. Elsewhere, underlying musical ideas or styles have sometimes been transmuted beyond easy recognition. For example, O sacrum convivium was a ‘response’ to Fauré, Evening Voluntary to some early music by Howells. Mysterium fidei, Chorale and Melody with variations are all indebted in different ways to 20th-century French organ music. Connections or parallels with hymnody may also be detected in the organ pieces, as suggested by the title of Chorale and the essentially strophic structure of Melody with variations.
01 A Triumph Song
For Fiona, my wife
02 Love Came Down at Christmas
For Rose, my Daughter
03 Love’s Redeeming Work
For John Hill
04 Chorale (Organ)
05 Let My Prayer Rise Before You
For Richard and Rosemary Warburton
06 Evening Voluntary (Organist: Michael Higgins)
07 O Sacrum Convivium
08 Ave, Verum Corpus
09 Mysterium Fidei (Organist: Michael Higgins)
10 Behold the Lamb of God
Dedicated to the memory of my parents
11 Melody with Variations (Organist: Michael Higgins)
For Ian Robertson, organist
12 Blest are the Pure in Heart
13 The Lord’s Prayer
14 Allegro Scherzando (Organist: Michael Higgins)
15 Divinum Mysterium
For Geoffrey P. Lanham, artist