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Hyperion Records

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Christ in the Sepulchre, Guarded by Angels by William Blake (1757-1827)
Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67835
Recording details: April 2005
St Saviour's Church, Riga, Latvia
Produced by Sigvards Klava
Engineered by Andris Uze
Release date: April 2011
Total duration: 5 minutes 3 seconds

The Angels
1994; unaccompanied choir; composed for the 1994 Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Cambridge
author of text

The Angels  [5'03] English

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Harvey’s first experience of performing music came as a boy chorister at St Michael’s College, Tenbury, where he sang two services every day. This early immersion in the Anglican choral tradition clearly informs the dozen or so pieces he composed during the 1970s and early 1980s for the choir of Winchester Cathedral under its then Organist, Martin Neary. The culmination of Harvey’s involvement with the musical life of the Cathedral came in 1981 with the composition of a ‘church opera’, Passion and Resurrection. This project involved numerous members of the Winchester community, amateur as well as professional, galvanized by the direction of Bishop John Taylor, whose poetry Harvey sets in The Angels.

Written for the Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, The Angels (1994) shares with Harvey’s earlier liturgical music an essential simplicity, resulting from an intuitive understanding of what sounds work best in the inward-facing choir-stalls and massive acoustics of buildings such as Winchester and King’s. For most of the piece, the humming and vowel sounds produced by half of the choir rotate around the same few pentatonic cluster chords, most of whose notes are in common. The sense of eternal calm that this conveys perfectly illuminates Taylor’s words, sung by the other half of the choir in a fluid setting which moves between two-part canon and unison. Complexity of texture is reserved for the approach to the climax, where the introduction of contrary motion illustrates ‘the spiralling turn of a dance’; homophony returns, however, for the final, hushed repetitions of the word ‘holy’.

from notes by Michael Downes © 2011

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