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Awake my Glory

Awake my Glory cover picture

The Choirs of Jesus College, Cambridge

Organ Scholars: Greg Morris and Julian Thomas
Awake my Glory Kenneth Leighton
Te Deum in C Benjamin Britten
Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks Herbert Howells
Magnificat "Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense" Kenneth Leighton
Five Negro Spirituals from "Child of Our Time" Michael Tippett
Steal Away
Nobody knows
Go down, Moses
By and by
Deep river
Nunc Dimittis "Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense" Kenneth Leighton
Two Hymns to the Mother of God John Tavener
In you, O woman full of grace O ye apostles

Rejoice in the Lamb Benjamin Britten

Total playing time 59m 43s

Awake my Glory

Awake my Glory

Kenneth Leighton was commissioned to write Awake my Glory by St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh for the centenary celebrations in October 1979. It is the first of two pieces on this recording to set a text by the eighteenth-century poet Christopher Smart, who suffered from a severe mental illness, but maintained a strong faith which shines through in his writings.

Leighton follows the syntactical structure of the text, dividing it into three main sections. The work opens with a gradual awakening in the organ before a solo soprano heralds the appearance of the choir with a rhythmically-charged dialogue between voices and organ. The second section of the piece introduces bird-like characteristics for the lines "Soon as the stately, night-exploding bird, In lively lay, sings welcome to the dawn." This passage builds to a magnificent climax at the words which form the central message of the text: "My fellow subjects of the eternal King, I gladly join your matins and with you confess his Presence and report his praise". The work ends with a development of the soprano solo phrase from the opening, this time for the full choir, bringing it to a peaceful conclusion.

This setting of the Te Deum was written for the choir of St. Mark's, North Audley Street, London. Britten divides the long text into three sections. The excitement of the unusual opening, generated entirely by the rhythmic interplay of choir and organ, reaches a climax at the words 'Heaven and earth are full of your glory'. As Britten modulates to A major for the central section, each voice is highlighted in turn, climaxing in a unison phrase for full choir, 'The Father of an infinite majesty'. The lyrical writing for treble solo in the middle section contrasts sharply with what has gone before, as the text concentrates on the redeeming work of Christ. The return to C major introduces a build-up in a similar vein to the opening. But the climax reaches one note higher, and the music drives on into an Animato development. The piece ends quietly with the supplication, 'Let me never be confounded', recalling the start of the treble solo. Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks is the third of Herbert Howells' four anthems for choir and organ, written in January 1941. (The text, taken from Psalm 42, is perhaps all the more poignant when viewed in the context of the Second World War.) This anthem, like many of Howells' choral and organ works, is in an arch form: opening quietly, building to a climax and subsiding to a quiet end. The tenors and basses introduce the main pining melody which leads into the pleading question "When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?" This is answered by the sopranos with a melancholy phrase "My tears have been my meat day and night'; which builds to the central question "Where is now thy God?" At the return of the opening melody, the sopranos embellish it with a floating descant, and this idea is continued with a solo soprano at "When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?"

Kenneth Leighton's Evening Canticles are characterised by a strong rhythmical energy and textural contrasts. For the most part the organ plays a supporting role, but it is also used to punctuate the different sections of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to great effect, for instance before "For he that is mighty" and the diminuendo into "He remembering his mercy". The Gloria of the Magnificat begins like a recapitulation of the opening but it soon moves into a new idea, with cascading entries at "world without end" mirroring the strong upward movement of many of the phrases in the Magnificat. In the Nunc Dimittis, after a tranquil opening, the music builds in texture and dynamic towards the soaring phrase "and to be the glory of thy people Israel." This is then contrasted with a graceful, scherzo-like Gloria which fades away into silence. The popularity of these canticles undoubtedly stems from their vibrancy of text-setting and the stylistic diversity within Leighton's unmistakable musical voice.

Tippett's Oratorio A Child of our Time was written during the early years of the Second World War. Its composition was prompted by an event of 1938 in which a young Polish Jew sheltering in Paris disappeared after murdering a minor Nazi diplomat in protest against the persecution of his parents. The oratorio is an impassioned plea against what Tippett saw as the senseless brutality of war, and the Five Negro Spirituals play a central role in his overall plan. Not only are they a brilliantly imaginative substitute for the chorales in Baroque Passions, but they also give expression to an important message of the oratorio; by mixing music from such different cultures in one piece, Tippett is emphasising that people from different backgrounds can learn to live with greater mutual respect and tolerance. In the oratorio, the spirituals are incorporated seamlessly into the musical fabric of the work, a process aided by their orchestral accompaniment and the style of the settings. In arranging the spirituals for unaccompanied choir, Tippett gave them clearer beginnings, and incorporated many of the original orchestral counterpoints into the choral sound. What the settings lose in orchestral colour they easily regain in the increased intimacy which unaccompanied performance gives to them. Tippett, always a very deep-thinking composer, once said, 'I have to sing songs for those who can't sing themselves.' In these spirituals, with the help of another tradition, he achieves just that.

Tavener's Two Hymns to the Mother of God were written in 1985 in memory of his own mother. The first, a canon for double choir, sets a text from the liturgy of St. Basil. The words of the second come from the Vigil Service of the Dormition of the Mother of God. It consists of a chant-like melody repeated three times with different accompaniments. Both pieces are full of the mystical quality typical of so much of Tavener's work. This is created by the use of very simple melodic and harmonic material, simple construction and extremely slow tempi.

In composing Rejoice in the Lamb, Britten took ten of the finest portions of Smart's poem, Jubilate Agno, the main theme of which is the worship of God by the whole of creation, and grouped them into four larger sections. The opening sequence starts with a subdued invocation to worship, which leads into a lively section in which various Old Testament characters are recalled. A beautiful 'Hallelujah Chorus' closes this sequence, and makes passing reference to an idea which becomes of central importance later on; the place of art in the worship of God. A sequence of three solos tells how nature, represented here by the cat, the mouse and the flower, gives glory to God by its very being. Each melody is a miniature gem, encapsulating perfectly the mood of the words. The following section sets the most poignant part of the text, in which Smart identifies his position with that of Christ: "For I am under the same accusation with my Saviour - For they said, he is besides himself "A. but he that was born of a virgin shall deliver me out of all". Starting with the most intense music of the cantata, with some abrupt changes of harmony, the music reaches a glorious climax and, eventually, a sense of rest at the words 'shall deliver me out of all'. The final words of the ensuing Bass solo introduce the important theme for the closing sequence: 'For M is Music, and therefore he is God'. The energy of the penultimate chorus subsides into calm, 'the devils themselves are at rest', and a repeat of the 'Hallelujah chorus' brings the work to an exquisite conclusion.
Greg Morris and Julian Thomas

Jesus College and the Chapel Choirs

The Chapel of Jesus College and the adjacent Cloister Court are some of the oldest buildings in Cambridge, dating back to the twelfth century. They were built as part of a Benedictine nunnery to St. Radegund. It is said, however, that by the last years of the fifteenth century, only two nuns remained: one of great age, the other pregnant! In 1496, John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, dissolved the convent and founded his own chantry, grammar school and university college on the site.

Music played a part in Chapel worship until 1570, when the grammar school was closed. Apart from a brief period between 1634 and 1642, services were spoken until 1849, when a choir of boys and men, on the Cathedral model, was introduced on the initiative of one of the Fellows, Sir John Sutton, who also made a gift of a new organ by Bishop.

Since that date, there has been an unbroken history of music enhancing the worship in the college chapel. The College's decision to become co-residential in the late 1970's led to the formation of the Mixed Choir in 1982, to operate in conjunction with the choir of boys and men; the gentlemen being common to both. The Mixed Choir is made up of Choral Exhibitioners of the college, supplemented by volunteers from throughout the University and Town. Two Organ Scholars share the duties of recruiting, training, conducting and accompanying the choirs, as well as studying for a degree at the university.

Although the main duty of both choirs is to maintain the chapel services, they regularly undertake a variety of concerts, cathedral evensongs, recordings and tours. In recent years, the choirs have sung in St. Paul's, Canterbury, Lincoln, St. Alban's, Rochester and Blackburn Cathedrals, and have toured USA, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Scotland. To celebrate the College's quincentenary in 1996, the Chapel Choirs produced a commemorative recording, including a cantata for choir and orchestra commissioned from the English composer, Francis Grier.

The Organ Scholars

Greg Morris

Greg Morris, A.R.C.O. was born in Manchester in 1976. He started his musical career with the Manchester Cathedral Voluntary Choir, and later with the Manchester Grammar School Choir, with whom he appeared several times with the Hall=E9 Orchestra. He started to study the organ under Andrew Dean at Manchester Grammar School, and was organist there between 1991 and 1994. On leaving the school he had a year as Organ Scholar at the Queen's Free Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle, before arriving at Jesus College in 1995. He gained his Associateship of the Royal College of Organists in the Summer of 1994. He currently studies the organ with Paul Stubbings, Director of Music at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, where he is now Organ Scholar (having graduated in June 1998), a post which he combines with post-graduate study at Royal Holloway College, London. Tours with choirs, whether singing, accompanying or conducting have taken him to Sweden, Scotland, Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Spain and USA.

Julian Thomas

Julian Thomas, A.R.C.O. gained his early musical training as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, and in 1985 began organ lessons with David Halls, the Assistant Organist there. From 1990 to 1995 he was a music and academic scholar at Charterhouse, participating in and organising a wide range of musical activities both in the school and beyond. Whilst there he became an Associate of the Royal College of Organists, in January 1995. After leaving school, Julian held the Organ Scholarship at Lincoln Cathedral, regularly playing for services and taking choir practices, as well as teaching music at the Cathedral School. As Organ Scholar at Jesus College he has directed the Mixed Choir for the last two years during which time they have toured the East Coast of the USA, Belgium and Holland, and given numerous events in this country. He is studying for a degree in Music and currently learns the organ with David Sanger.

Recorded in Jesus College Chapel in June 1998
Produced by Barry Rose
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews