The contemporary English composer Patrick Gowers is best known for his music for television and films, but his large output also contains several sacred choral works, of which the Ascensiontide anthem Viri Galilaei is the best known. Gowers paints a vividly dramatic and emotional picture of the Ascension of Jesus: one can almost visualize the scene as the dumbfounded apostles gaze up in amazement while high-pitched swirling organ figurations and ethereal overlapping choral ‘Alleluias’ convey the literal other-worldliness of what they are witnessing. Gradually the chordal writing for the choir assumes a more solid, less disembodied character, and the music becomes punchier and more rhythmic (‘God is gone up with a merry noise’). The build-up continues inexorably, leading to a thrilling glissando on the full organ and an elated verse of Christopher Wordsworth’s Ascension hymn ‘See the Conqueror mounts in triumph’, underpinned by a jazzy, propulsive organ part and dramatically interspersed with forceful ‘Alleluias’ and the swirling organ figurations heard at the start, but now louder and more prominent. After this, the music gradually subsides into the mystical mood of the opening and eventually disappears into nothing.
from notes by James O'Donnell © 2008