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Nunc dimittis in B flat

25 March 1916; 6vv SSATBB; commissioned for Westminster Cathedral by RR Terry where it was first performed on 7 September 1916
author of text
Luke 2: 29-32

A one-time pupil of Stanford, Charles Wood was also a colleague to both Stanford and Gray at Cambridge, where he directed chapel music at Gonville and Caius College. A fastidious student of counterpoint, modal harmony and old melody, he took a great interest in the development of A H Mann’s choir at King’s College for which he produced several significant pieces for double choir such as Hail, gladdening Light and the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F ‘Collegium Regale’. He was also fascinated by R R Terry’s new choir at the new Roman Catholic cathedral in Westminster, which was hungry for new liturgical commissions. Wood produced no fewer than three settings of the Nunc dimittis in Latin, two of which, scored for SSATBB, were for Westminster. The first of these, in B flat major, is dated 25 March 1916 and was first sung at Compline in the cathedral on Saturday 7 September that same year. It, along with its A minor counterpart, was not published until 1927, a year after Wood’s death. Although the demeanour of the voices betrays more antique influences (which include the plainsong of the Gloria), the harmony is strikingly inventive in its treatment of dissonance, not least in the luminous central section, in D flat (‘lumen ad revelationem gentium’).

In terms of scoring and treatment the six pieces fall into three groups. ‘My soul, there is a country’ and ‘I know my soul hath power’ are written for four voices in a predominantly chordal style. ‘Never weather-beaten sail’ and ‘There is an old belief’, for five and six voices respectively, introduce a certain amount of contrapuntal interest. Finally, in ‘At the round earth’s imagined corners’ for seven voices, and ‘Lord, let me know mine end’, for eight, Parry takes full advantage of the flexibility of treatment available with these scorings in his use of contrasting registers, a variety of contrapuntal techniques, and rich choral sonorities.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2020


From the vaults of Westminster Cathedral
O sacrum convivium
SIGCD127Download only
Parry: Songs of farewell & works by Stanford, Gray & Wood
Studio Master: CDA68301Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 24 on CDA67707 [3'17]
Track 7 on CDA68301 [3'17]
Track 9 on SIGCD127 [3'12] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD127 track 9

Recording date
1 May 2006
Recording venue
Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Orphic Recordings
Recording engineer
Orphic Recordings
Hyperion usage
  1. O sacrum convivium (SIGCD127)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: March 2008
    Download only
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