Written in 1997, A New Song
was first performed in St Bride’s Episcopal Church, Glasgow, in March of the following year. It was commissioned by Nicholas Russell in memory of his mother Kath, and to celebrate the seventieth birthday of his father. The words are taken from Coverdale’s translation of Psalm 96, of which the first two verses and the last verse are set. The work combines simplicity with grandeur and saves the greatest acclamation of majesty for the end, when the organ part emerges in a thrilling blaze of glory.
The words of the psalm’s opening verse, sung to a simple melody reminiscent of an antiphon, is heard three times, progressively ornamented. The melody is followed on the first two occasions by a choral response with the words of verse 2 and then of verse 13. After the third hearing of the opening melody, this time in canon, the organ takes over the choral response to end in wordless but glorious instrumental song.
from notes by James Whitbourn © 2001