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Track(s) taken from SIGCD845

Church bells beyond the stars


Norman Harper (organ)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Recording details: April 2019
St George’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Southwark, United Kingdom
Produced by Alistair Dixon
Engineered by Dave Rowell
Release date: July 2022
Total duration: 5 minutes 36 seconds

Cover artwork: The East Window of St George’s Cathedral – Crucifixion Scene. Harry Clarke

Church bells beyond the stars is in effect a toccata, evoking the sound of pealing bells, capturing the melodic changes and rhythmic irregularities which are characteristic of church bell-ringing. The music falls into three sections, the middle being a contrasting, gentle recitative with arpeggiated chords in between. The return of the bells culminates in a triumphant gathering of the notes in a dramatic downward peal, sustained on full organ.

Cecilia McDowall writes:

Church bells beyond the stars was commissioned by the Edinburgh Society of Organists and first performed by John Kitchen on 18 May 2013 at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. It is the third in a trilogy of works inspired by the metaphysical poet, George Herbert. As with Sounding heaven and earth, the first of the trilogy, Church bells beyond the stars draws its title from George Herbert’s Prayer (I):
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth.
Engine against th’Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear.
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise.
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

Church bells beyond the stars is published by Oxford University Press.

from notes by Signum Classics © 2022

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