To mark the silver jubilee of his Vasari Singers in 2004, Jeremy Backhouse commissioned ten composers each, as he put it, ‘to write an anthem that might reflect the state of our world at the start of the new millennium’. Backhouse invited Gabriel Jackson to set a sacred but non-liturgical text. The composer chose Arthur John Arberry’s translation of verse by the tenth-century Sufi mystic Al-Junaid of Baghdad, searing in its blend of sensual and spiritual imagery. Now I have known, O Lord
arises from the composer’s knowledge of the textural transparency, timbral refinement and expressive fervour of the Vasari Singers. The anthem makes a cardinal virtue of stillness, at first unfolding the essence of a ravishing melody for divided sopranos above slow-moving, almost static harmonies. Gentle choral murmurings, formed from multiple repetitions of melodic cells, underpin the erotic intimacy of paired soprano and tenor solos, to the words ‘My tongue hath talked with my Adored’; the effect is recalled, albeit with choral parts transposed and the solos assigned to alto and bass, to express ‘Yet otherwise disunion is our estate eternally’. Jackson frames the work’s florid climax with a chorale for double choir and a sublime chordal postlude.
from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013