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Malcolm Archer - Cathedral Music

Malcolm Archer - Cathedral Music cover picture

Wells Cathedral Choir

Director: Malcolm Archer
Organ: Rupert Gough
The Desert shall Rejoice

The Wells Service
Nunc Dimittis

Blest are the pure in heart

The Clifton Service
Nunc Dimittis

Missa Brevis
Agnus Dei

The Son of the most high

O where can I go from your Spirit

A Hymn to Wisdom Organ played by David Bednall

O magnum mysterium

Total playing time 64m 17s

Malcolm Archer - Cathedral Music

Malcolm Archer - Cathedral Music

All of the music on this disc was composed in a five year period between the years 1998 and 2003, many works being commissions.

The Desert shall Rejoice is the final movement of a five movement work called The Coming of the Kingdom, which was a Millennium commission from Lichfield Cathedral Special Choir and its then conductor, Andrew Lumsden. Originally scored with accompaniment by chamber orchestra, I arranged this version for Cor Anglais (or oboe) and organ. The solo wind instrument imbues the music with a plaintiveness and expectancy, which suits this Advent text.

The Wells Service is a setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, also commissioned for the Millennium, this time by the Friends of Wells Cathedral. This essentially lyrical work begins with treble voices and has a wide range of mood and dynamic, from the quiet peacefulness of the treble and bass canon at "he remembering his mercy" to the bold and expansive ending to the Gloria.

Blest are the pure in heart sets words by John Keble and William John Hall, and was written at about 33,000 feet, after having been upgraded on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to London! It is undeniable that the glass of champagne, the large leather seats and the wide table which enabled me to lay out my manuscript score pad in comfort had a strong influence on the work. It is essentially a reflective 'a capella' setting of the words, and whilst the "fizz" is not a characteristic of the music, the lack of turbulence certainly is!

The Clifton Service was commissioned by my good friend David Blumlein for the choristers of Clifton Lodge School, Ealing. When I first met David, it was clear that we had much in common, not least a keen interest in choirs and choir training, and a passion for classic cars! The Magnificat is a through-composed and basically introvert setting, until the Gloria, when the music becomes more rousing. The ethereal opening, sung by divisi trebles, represents the innocence and astonishment of Mary, the chosen Mother of Jesus, and though the mood later changes in response to the words, the overall feeling is of stillness, with a quiet ending sung by a solo treble. The Nunc Dimittis is also through-composed and the Gloria (a different one from the Magnificat) returns to the use of divisi trebles, followed by a richer texture as the other voices enter, over a jazz inspired harmonic base. The solo treble returns for the final phrase.

The Missa Brevis is an 'a capella' setting commissioned by Kevin Clarke and the church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas. Its structure and length is similar to the model of many sixteenth century masses, though the musical language is definitely that of the twentieth century. In the traditional way, this work comprises all the main movements of the mass except the Creed. Although the American choir for which this was composed is a mixed voice choir, the sound of treble voices was never far from my mind.

The Son of the Most High sets a Marian text from Ephrem the Syrian, in an English translation from Syriac. It was written for Michael Tavinor, David Ireson and Musica Deo Sacra in July 2000, and first performed in Tewkesbury Abbey as part of the Musica Deo Sacra Festival that year. It is essentially an a capella piece for double choir, with a distant solo quartet, where the soprano soloist (who opens the work) has particular prominence. I sought a warm and full texture by use of the key of D flat major. The virgin, having given birth to Christ, puts on the mother's robe, the robe of God's glory.

O where can I go from your spirit was written in honour of Geoff Hasler's 60th year in the choir of All Saint's Church, Northampton, and was first performed at Evensong on 24th November 2002, conducted by Edward Whiting. The text is based on words from Psalm 139, and this short piece, designed as an introit, opens and closes with a treble solo.

A Hymn to Wisdom was commissioned by Jill Lewis to mark the retirement of The Very Revd. Richard Lewis as Dean of Wells in March 2003. It sets words from the book of Ecclesiasticus, and was first performed on the Richard Lewis's final weekend at Wells, its creation having been kept a well guarded secret! The text seemed particularly appropriate for Richard, who is himself a wise man, a fine priest and a great lover of music. The opening unison passage immediately captures the intensity and prayerfulness of the words, and this passage returns again at the end, superimposed by a semi chorus of upper voices. The previous section is however lyrically triumphant, as the music responds to the joyful words; "My heart was stirred to seek her, with my tongue will I send God's praise".

O magnum Mysterium is a very still and homophonic setting of arguably the most inspiring of Christmas texts, a text which I have wanted to set for some time. The piece was not a commission but a response to a feeling of the moment, where I wished to create a timeless mood where pulse loses significance and where the harmony unfolds slowly and voices are held in suspension rather than urged forward. It has always struck me that the great settings of Victoria and Poulenc managed this, in their own way, with consummate success and I wanted to try and achieve the same effect using my own language. These great words transport you from earth and give, for a moment at least, a glimpse of heaven.

Malcolm Archer

Malcolm Archer

Malcolm Archer was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at Wells Cathedral in 1996 where he directs and trains the Cathedral choir for its daily services in the Cathedral, as well as being the Musical Director for Wells Cathedral Oratorio Society. In addition to overseas tours and radio and TV broadcasts he has recorded with the Cathedral Choir a wide range of CDs and the choir now records regularly for several record companies.

Malcolm was educated at King Edward VII School, Lytham, the Royal College of Music (where he was an RCO scholar) and Jesus College Cambridge where he was organ scholar. He studied the organ with Ralph Downes, Gillian Weir and Nicolas Kynaston, and composition with Herbert Sumsion and Alan Ridout. He continues to study the organ with Daniel Roth in Paris. He has given organ concerts in nine European countries, Canada and the USA. Amongst other notable invitations, he has played for the IAO Congress on more than one occasion and given the Winston Churchill Memorial Concert at Blenheim Palace. He has also recorded for BBC Radio 2 and Radio 3, and played at most principal venues in the UK. He has recorded six organ CDs in repertoire as varied as J.S.Bach and Olivier Messiaen.

Malcolm Archer is also a prolific composer with well over 200 published works. His work Three Psalms of David was premiered in Wells Cathedral as part of the Classics West Festival, with the Classics West International Chorus and The Virtuosi of London. He has also written a five movement millennium work for Lichfield Cathedral, called The Coming of the Kingdom. He was commissioned to write works for The Southern Cathedrals' Festival, the Exeter Festival and the Musica Deo Sacra Festival. He has recently been commissioned to write a work for the 350th Sons of the Clergy Festival in 2004, which is held in St. Paul's Cathedral. His works receive regular performances on BBC Radio and TV.

Malcolm Archer is an examiner and council member for the Royal College of Organists and an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Rupert Gough

Rupert Gough enjoys a busy career as recitalist, conductor and accompanist. He has been involved in some twenty commercial recordings as an organ soloist, accompanist, harpsichordist and conductor on many labels. He won Third Prize in the 2000 St. Albans International Organ Competition and has previously been a finalist in the Royal College of Organists 'Performer of the year' competition. Since 1994 Rupert has been Assistant Organist at Wells Cathedral where he accompanies and assists in directing the nine sung services every week. He appears regularly with the choir in concerts all over the world, on the radio, television and can be heard on many different recordings. He also teaches organ at Wells Cathedral School where he has prepared a number of pupils for Oxbridge scholarships and study in Conservatoires. Rupert has also established a successful organ and violin duo with his wife Rachel. Recent engagements included premiering a new work by Timothy Salter in St. John's, Smith Square. They are now represented in the USA by Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists.

Recorded in Wells Cathedral on 1st, 7th and 8th July 2003 by kind permission of the Chapter.

Produced by Paul Brough
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by Lance Andrews