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Truro Service

composer
author of text
Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55; Nunc dimittis: Luke 2: 29-32

 
Gabriel Jackson (born 1962) is a former chorister of Canterbury Cathedral. His Truro Service (2001) was commissioned to commemorate the life of a former chorister at Truro Cathedral, Peter Rowe. It is common for liturgical commissions to be pieces which take large amounts of rehearsal time and which, therefore, can’t be performed often. I asked Gabriel to write something which would be straightforward enough to enter the regular repertoires of many Cathedral choirs, constrained as they are by minimal rehearsal time. He fulfilled the brief perfectly, and the work is widely performed.

The centuries-old verse-by-verse alternation of monody and full choir lends this setting a hypnotic quality. In this case the full choir verses are homophonic rather than polyphonic, which enhances the feeling of simplicity. I wonder whether Jackson had the same experience as me when a Cathedral chorister—I was asked to be a ‘server’ once a week at the 7am said services; through this the experience of hearing psalm verses read alternately by one person, and then by the others, became deeply rooted. I initially suggested a standard plainsong psalm tone for the odd-numbered verses; in fact, the composer wrote a different type of non-metric monody with small, exotic decorations. The homophonic passages are beautifully spaced, with telling changes of tessitura for different verses. There are some evocative performance indications, of which my favourite occurs at 'He hath shewed strength': 'piano, Urgent (but not too fast)'. The unexpected shifts of tonality at the start of each Gloria create a pleasing frisson. The two Glorias conclude at opposite ends of the dynamic spectrum.

In the Nunc dimittis, the light of revelation ignites explosively, rather than as the peak of a long build-up. The end of the Nunc dimittis makes me think of Russian nesting dolls—hidden within the big sound of 'thy people Israel' is the smaller scale (and unexpectedly coloured) 'Glory be to the Father'. Hidden within that (softer still, and again in a different key) is 'As it was in the beginning'. The whole thing ends suspended on a second inversion chord—not so as to seem positively inconclusive, but so as to lead your attention on to the next prayer in the service; it’s a beautiful piece of liturgical writing.

from notes by Andrew Nethsingha © 2019

Recordings

Magnificat
Studio Master: SIGCD588Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Canticle 1: Magnificat  My soul doth magnify the Lord
Track 9 on SIGCD588 [4'51] Download only
Canticle 2: Nunc dimittis  Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace
Track 10 on SIGCD588 [2'46] Download only

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