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Track(s) taken from CDA67020

Vital spark of heav'nly flame

composer
A Set of Hymn and Psalm Tunes, London, c1765
author of text
The Dying Christian to his Soul

Claire Tomlin (soprano), Jennie Cassidy (alto), Adrian Peacock (bass), The Parley of Instruments, Peter Holman (conductor)
Recording details: September 1997
St Mary the Virgin, Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: March 1998
Total duration: 4 minutes 10 seconds

Cover artwork: The Ancient of Days by William Blake (1757-1827)
The Whitworth Gallery, The University of Manchester
 
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Reviews

'Once again Peter Holman's scholarship offers a fascinating glimpse of a neglected repertoire' (BBC Music Magazine)

'An infectious CD bringing to life a neglected period and its forgotten music. What fun parish music must have been for the likes of Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Blake or Thackeray' (Classic CD)
Vital spark of heav’nly flame, a setting of Pope’s poem ‘The Dying Christian to his Soul’ by Edward Harwood, is one of the most famous pieces of psalmody. Harwood was a weaver from Hoddlesdon near Darwen in Lancashire who supposedly ‘went to Liverpool to sing in one of the churches there, and sang until he burst a blood vessel’; he is buried at St Peter’s Church, Liverpool. ‘Vital spark’ was often performed by nineteenth-century parish choirs in four-part adaptations, though Harwood’s original uses the three-part ‘trio sonata’ writing associated with Nonconformists. Much of the vocal writing is surprisingly sophisticated and elaborate for a provincial amateur, and suggests the influence of the ‘sensibility’ style of German composers such as C P E Bach. For this reason we have allocated most of the piece to solo voices with organ continuo, interpreting a mysterious change to four-part writing at the end as the entrance of a choir.

from notes by Peter Holman 1998

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