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|Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens (conductor), Jonathan Vaughn (organ)|
Judith Bingham was born in Nottingham in 1952, entering the Royal Academy of Music in 1970 to study composition and singing. At the Academy her teachers were Alan Bush and Eric Fenby. She later undertook further vocal studies with Eric Vietheer and composition with Hans Keller, who exerted a strong influence upon her development. She won the BBC Young Composer Award in 1977. In the years following her graduation from the Royal Academy she pursued her singing career (notably with The BBC Singers between 1983 and 1996), as well as undertaking composition work. Much of her composition output began in the late 1980s. Her work includes Chartres (1988) for orchestra, Passagio—Bassoon Concerto (1998), The Shooting Star (a trumpet concerto, 1998–9), Prague (1991) and The Stars above, the Earth below (1991) for brass band. Since writing these pieces she has undertaken many important commissions and now has a substantial portfolio of works written for voices, including some for liturgical use. She is now one of the most sought-after contemporary British composers.
Epiphany was written in 1995 in response to a commission from the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral. The Cathedral Choir, conducted by David Hill, gave the first performance at the enthronement of the new bishop on 6 January 1996. The composer has kindly provided a note about her work for this recording:
Epiphany was written in 1995 for the enthronement of Bishop Michael in Winchester Cathedral. The brief of the commission was to write a short anthem that would link prayers with the actual enthronement, but still be about Epiphany with all its connotations of a journey and a new ministry. In my mind the shape of the piece formed as a gradual crescendo starting from the silent prayerful atmosphere of a full cathedral to the solemn grandeur of the bishop’s ascension. Searching around for a suitable text, I happened upon Ode to Night by George Herbert, and was powerfully struck by the line ‘There is in God, some say, / A deep but dazzling darkness’. I decided to write a poem myself that would integrate this line, while placing the journey of the Magi in an English winter landscape. The star in their hearts leads them, full of doubt and fear, to the deepest darkest heart of winter, where they encounter the dazzling atavistic force of God. The final rising organ roulade is the new life, buried yet growing in the hard earth.
from notes by William McVicker © 2002
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