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Phos hilaron

2017; A solo + SSAATTBB; written for Stephen Layton and Trinity College Choir Cambridge
author of text
Part 1: Psalms 27: 1 & 18: 28
translator of text
Part 2
author of text

Written in 2017 for Trinity College Choir, this spacious and evocative composition (its title is Greek for ‘gladdening light’) forms a tripartite meditation on, and celebration of, evening—part of the liturgy of the Orthodox Church since earliest times. The words of the second part, heard here in John Keble’s renowned translation, are believed to be the earliest known Christian hymn. The three sections of Park’s setting each deploy different resources, to telling effect:

Part I: a brief, solemn introduction, mystical in character, for standard SATB choir. The texture is enriched with divided basses, the lowest of them sustaining a drone on E.
Part II: Keble’s translation of the Phos hilaron hymn, sung by a soloist to a simple chant-like melody supported by hummed chords from the choir.
Part III: the longest and most elaborate section, centred on verses from St Symeon’s ‘Mystic Prayer to the Holy Spirit’. The voices are divided into two groups, sometimes consisting of two equal antiphonal choirs, sometimes of a small semi-chorus pitted against the main choir, and within each group the voices are further divided, creating a rich texture and resplendent sonority. At the words ‘Come, alone to the alone’ the soloist reappears, at first supported by simple chords but then with the semi-chorus floating above, after which the full resources of both choirs come into play again, leading to a tranquil conclusion.

To some, the combination of big, rich, slow chords and drone basses allied to solemn liturgical texts might appear to be an excursion into territory that John Tavener made his own in recent years, but Park speaks with his own distinctive voice, coloured by echoes of a tradition that can enrich our own.

from notes by John Rutter © 2018


Studio Master: CDA68285Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Park: Choral works
Studio Master: CDA68191Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 6 on CDA68191 [9'01]
Part 2: Phos hilaron  Hail, gladdening light
Track 4 on CDA68285 [2'12]

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