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Five Poems of the Spirit


The Five Poems of the Spirit were completed in 1944. In a letter to Dr Francis Jackson dated 17 August 1943 Bairstow writes that ‘the Dean has chosen a set of religious poems which he wants me to set en suite for solo and chorus’. Later he writes that ‘I have been working at “Six Songs of the Spirit” … I have set them for Baritone Solo and chorus. One has women’s chorus, one none at all, one is all chorus and two are mixed. I sweated at them to get them out in my 70th year, but alas! No publisher will take things on that scale now.’ With the assistance of Sir Ernest Bullock, who orchestrated the last three movements, they were published eight years after Bairstow’s death. It was Bullock who felt that a setting of Francis Thompson’s poem The Veteran of Heaven should not be included because he considered the words, written more than two hundred years after the other poems, to be incompatible with the rest of the work. The first performance of the Five Poems was given by the York Musical Society in York Minster on 9 November 1955.

Come, lovely Name has a gentle and flowing accompaniment and is for upper voices and soloist. There are moments where the composer uses melodies and harmonies based on the whole tone scale. O Lord, in me there lieth naught, a paraphrase of Psalm 139, is for soloist only. The music is thoughtful and pensive. Praise, the third movement, is for chorus alone and has a fine sense of energy and forward movement. The fourth, Purse and Scrip, begins with a wistful and atmospheric chordal accompaniment, possibly suggesting the weary tread of a traveller. The melodic lines of the soloist are full of invention, and contain a rare and remarkable melisma on the word ‘glory’. The chorus enters only towards the end of the movement and the music subsides to a quiet and reflective close. The final movement, L’Envoy, is also contemplative in nature with memorable use of the chords of G and B flat major in close proximity. The accompaniment contains plangent and wistful melodies and the work finishes on a D that fades almost to nothing.

from notes by Philip Moore © 2007


Bairstow: Choral Music


No 1: Come, lovely Name
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Track 10 on CDA67497 [2'23]
No 2: O Lord, in me there lieth naught
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Track 11 on CDA67497 [2'25]
No 3: Praise  Lord, I will mean an speak thy praise
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Track 12 on CDA67497 [1'53]
No 4: Purse and Scrip  Give me my scallop-shell of quiet
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Track 13 on CDA67497 [4'35]
No 5: L'Envoy  King of Glorie, King of Peace
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Track 14 on CDA67497 [2'27]

Track-specific metadata for CDA67497 track 10

Come, lovely Name
Recording date
14 January 2007
Recording venue
St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Bairstow: Choral Music (CDA67497)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: July 2007
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