This great hymn of praise is one of the four canticles prescribed (two are sung at any given Matins), and has attracted the imagination of many composers. Benjamin Britten wrote two settings. This Festival Te Deum was composed in 1944 for the choir of St Mark’s Church, Swindon. The opening section ‘We praise thee, O God’ creates an almost trance-like, unworldly effect as the unison voices sing in apparently free time against strictly regular organ chords decorated with pseudo-Baroque ornaments. At ‘Thou art the King of glory’ the music abruptly changes character; now it is driving and rhythmic and the organ part kinetic. The trebles reach a climactic high B at ‘in glory everlasting’, and then the music quickly subsides into the dreamy atmosphere of the opening. The next few lines of the text are taken by a treble soloist, who briefly re-emerges at the very end (‘let me never be confounded’) to bring the canticle to a serene conclusion.
from notes by James O'Donnell © 2008