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Corpus Christi Carol

2011; commissioned by Friends of Cathedral Music for The Choir for the Queen celebrating the diamond jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012
author of text

Repetition’s rhetorical power and affecting melodic emblems find common cause in Bingham’s sublime Corpus Christi Carol, commissioned for inclusion in The Choirbook for the Queen, a collection of contemporary anthems published in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The text, arguably the most famous and among the finest of all late medieval lyrics, has been read as everything from a political allegory ‘on the displacement of Catherine of Aragon from the affections of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn, whose heraldic badge … was a white falcon’ to a song informed by the story of King Arthur and the perpetually wounded Fisher King, protector of the Holy Grail.

‘I’d always wanted to set the text’, recalls Bingham, who interprets the carol as a late fifteenth-century lament for the heavy loss of life unleashed by the Wars of the Roses. ‘A knight, always bleeding, lies in a chapel, a young woman weeping at his side. The chapel is decked out in funereal colours and at the side of the knight are written the words Corpus Christi [the body of Christ], as if the crucifixion is being played out over and over again. The music is a series of canons which overlap—and the atmosphere of the music is like a sunny and fresh English landscape that gradually clouds over. More than anything I wanted to create an intensely atmospheric sound.’ Wisps of Bingham’s dark ‘clouds’ emerge early in the piece, suggested by the sighing melody of ‘the falcon’ and the soprano part’s slow descending setting of ‘Lulley, lulla’.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013


Bingham: Choral Music
Studio Master: CDA67909Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 11 on CDA67909 [4'08]

Track-specific metadata for CDA67909 track 11

Recording date
20 June 2012
Recording venue
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Jeremy Summerly
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Bingham: Choral Music (CDA67909)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: August 2013
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