The Sequence is a big piece effectively in three sections, the central one being a sensuous tenor solo which mirrors the ‘censer of gold’ in its sinuous musical line which seems to waft like the incense which rises from it. The heart of the poem is the image to which Howells will have felt instinctively drawn: ‘Then was there a great silence in heaven, And a thousand thousand saying “Glory to the Lord King”’. It is the feeling of vastness, space, silence and mystery conjured up by that image which never fails to impress. Howells’s musical response is to begin the words of those ‘thousand thousand’ like a quiet rumour, beginning very low with the basses and tenors in counterpoint and placing the sopranos high above like hovering angels. This is arch-Impressionism of a high order.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005