Blessed City, heavenly Salem
exemplifies two characteristics of Bairstow's choral music: an attention to detail in his organ parts, and the use of a plainsong theme, in this case Urbs beata
. Bairstow's music is a curious and fascinating mix of Brahmsian harmony with plainsong, Elizabethan and Jacobean musical influences. The bold opening of this work eventually gives way to unison passages for trebles, then tenors and basses. A short organ interlude leads to the climactic central section before a longer interlude heralds the final portion of the work scored for chorus and treble solo.
from notes by William McVicker © 1990