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Track(s) taken from CDA67909

Missa brevis 'Awake my soul'

2007; dedicated to Susan Slade and composed to mark the 50th anniversary of the re-building of Bromley Parish Church
author of text

Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens (conductor)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: June 2012
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: August 2013
Total duration: 10 minutes 4 seconds

Cover artwork: Cornfield by Moonlight (1830) by Samuel Palmer (1805-1881)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'This excellent disc from Wells Cathedral Choir looks back over 15 years of Bingham's choral works … there's a frankness to the Wells choral sound that suits music that has nothing precious or twee about it. It creates an underlying muscularity, even in the glowing cluster-chords of Cantate Domino and foregrounds the texts that Bingham sets with Britten-like care … this collection is the most representative yet of the composer's functional, liturgical works' (Gramophone)

'The setting of Cantate Domino memorably commingles an anxious, questing quality with glimpses of certitude and placidity, a balance sensitively struck in this assured Wells Cathedral Choir performance … Our faith is a light is a luminescent setting highlighting the bright, gleaming quality of tone the Wells top line is currently producing. The Hyperion recording is atmospheric and expertly balanced. Recommended' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Choral music is a sphere that welcomes the new. The Anglican (mainly) church is a leading source of new commissions for countless composers, among them Judith Bingham (b1952), who stands out not least because she spent her early career as a professional singer and knows the idiom. She favours rich, multilayered radiance, as heard in the two Wells service canticles—written for the excellent choir who perform here. Jonathan Vaughn provides spirited organ accompaniment and interludes. The lullaby setting of God be in my head, the abundant interpretation of Gerard Manley Hopkins's Harvest and the unexpectedness of the Bromley Missa brevis, written for an enlightened south London parish church, all play to Bingham's creative strengths' (The Observer)
Bromley Parish Church stands as a symbol of timeless stability in an urban landscape otherwise dominated by multi-storey car parks and the disposable trappings of modern consumerism. Its permanence, as with all things, is more illusion than reality: the medieval appearance of St Peter and St Paul’s masks the story of how ancient masonry was destroyed in April 1941 by the force of one German high explosive bomb and replaced post-war by a new church, albeit incorporating its predecessor’s original flintwork and tower. Bingham’s third Missa brevis setting (subtitled ‘Awake my soul’) and her anthem The Shepherd were created in 2007 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the phoenix building’s consecration. ‘I wanted the dramatic progression of the Mass to be about rebuilding’, notes the composer. The work’s Kyrie, she continues, evokes ‘walking amid the ruins of the church, desolation, despair’. Its Gloria unfolds from the ‘decision to rebuild—a sense of renewed hope’, while the Sanctus enshrines the solemnity of the new church’s consecration. The Agnus Dei (‘Lamb of God’), observes Bingham, turns to ‘the forgiveness of enemies’, a process led by the rebuilding of trust and recognition of mankind’s mutual interdependence.

Austere modal harmony and a fear-filled tritone conjure up images of a wasteland in the Kyrie, brief in duration but fathomless in its survey of life undermined by death. The Gloria retrieves material from a hazy world of medieval number symbolism to confront earthly imperfection in the form of a brassy march with the perfection of the Holy Trinity, the latter articulated by the organ’s long chains of triplet quavers and commingled in the rhythmic shifts and syncopations of the choral writing. Repetition is key to the affect established and maintained throughout the Sanctus. Bingham’s conception is tuned to the infinite grace implied by the word ‘Holy’, rather than to the projection of shining visions of the ‘God of power and might’ or of ecstatic ‘Hosannas’. The organ falls silent in ‘Lamb of God’: forgiveness is work for women and men, not machines.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013

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