Skip to content

Veni, Sancte Spiritus - Choral and Organ music of Patrick Gowers

Veni, Sancte Spiritus - Choral and Organ music of Patrick Gowers cover picture

Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra Guildford Camerata Guildford Cathedral Choir

Director: David Hill and Stephen Farr
Organ: David Davies and Stephen Farr
Veni, Sancte Spiritus

No. 1: Each inmost peece
No. 2: But loe, thy love
No. 3: To shunn thy notice

No. 4: O Lord, thou hast searched me out
No. 5: Ev’n before Kings

Adagio organ

Chester Lullaby

Toccata organ

Fugue organ

Libera me

An Occasional Trumpet Voluntary organ

Total playing time 69m 48s

Veni, Sancte Spiritus - Choral and Organ music of Patrick Gowers

Veni, Sancte Spiritus - Choral and Organ music of Patrick Gowers

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

This anthem is a joyful celebration of two magnificent hymns, The Golden Sequence, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, and the office hymn Nocte Surgentes, generally sung at Sunday Nocturns from Trinity to Advent. The first has been attributed to Archbishop Stephen Langton of Canterbury (d. 1228), and the second to Pope Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 604). Their musical settings are based on two superb French Church melodies, Prompto gentes animo (E.H.653) from the Rouen processional (1729) and Christe, quem sedes/Coelites Plaudant (E.H.242) from the Rouen Antiphoner (1728). Though very different in character, they rather surprisingly share their first six notes. It is not known who wrote them.

I first fell in love with French Church Melodies as a boy, from their use in the English Hymnal (see above), researched and edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Later, when I was well stricken in years, I had the delightful privilege of meeting the late Canon Derek Ingram Hill of Canterbury, a great scholar and expert on these melodies, and one-time colleague of the compilers and editors of the English Hymnal. As a young man in the 1930s he used to bicycle round northern France each summer collecting French Church Melodies, and the two in this anthem, which is dedicated to him, were particular favourites of his.

The anthem is written so there are two places where the congregation can loudly join in the second, slower melody. This is to make it particularly suitable for schools. There are also optional parts for two trumpets, two trombones and a bass trombone (all of big band jazz experience and expertise). The setting of the first melody may seem rather fast; but that is more or less how Canon Ingram Hill used to sing it, as he remembered having heard it in Rouen cathedral.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus was commissioned by the Federation of Old Choristers’ Associations for their Congress at Canterbury in July 2000.


This solo organ piece was written for Christopher Nickol. The copy is marked to be played “remote but bright a la cathedral sound”.

Chester Lullaby

This piece started out as a setting of Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament. But I wanted a version that could be used as a carol in a conventional carol service, so I hunted around until I came across these very suitable 16th century words by the nuns of Chester. Their origin suggests that the solo line is somewhat more appropriately sung by a female than by a boy.

Toccata and Fugue

The Toccata was commissioned by Simon Preston for the 1970 Cheltenham Festival. He asked for a flashy piece with which to end recitals, featuring some (Count) Basie chords. When he gave his magnificent first performance in the Festival Hall, the author of the programme note thought Basie chords must be a misprint; so he changed it to the totally inappropriate Basic chords.

Years later I chanced to hear it as a closing voluntary in Worcester Cathedral, played by Adrian Partington. When I spoke to him afterwards, he commissioned a Fugue to go with it. It is probably quite an oddity to have a fugue written 18 years after its toccata. It means that while the toccata is very definitely young man’s music, the fugue is more staid and middle-aged. Nevertheless, the best way to understand either of them is to try to beat time, which is harder than usual because this music does not have a regular metre. It is not based on singing, dancing, walking, running, heartbeats (or even machines!) but on a boulder falling down the side of a steep mountain, sometimes spinning round in the air, and between whiles, coming down to earth with a bump. This can be heard in the manuals-only passage starting at 1m 20. Later on, the pedals come in with far slower notes that polarise the manual music into a gradually accelerating series of regular metres. This process can be heard beginning at 2m 14s. From here on the music gets steadily louder and some way through the piece its tempo suddenly drops at a type of climax and then switches backwards and forwards between the original breathless pace and this new, more measured one.

In the places where one can easily beat 3 in the fugue, it is usually because the fugue subject is going on somewhere. In between, the music is in the same irregular metre as the Toccata (at the slower tempo). This piece gets softer and softer as it goes on, and it ends with a full counter exposition, which is to say that the subject and countersubject appear in each voice in turn; and this section is combined all the way through with a very quiet echo of the start of the Toccata, which is not too blindingly obvious until the pedal entry at the very end.

Libera Me

Libera Me was first written as a piece of background music for a TV realisation of the Sherlock Holmes story The Priory School in which a little boy is kidnapped from school. In this production it was made a choir school and they needed something to sing. So I made this version of the title music in the style of a 16th century motet, and the words “Libera Me” seemed very germane.

An Occasional Trumpet Voluntary

This piece was commissioned by Nicholas Danby. It owes its melody to Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary and its rhythm to a jazzed-up version of Widor’s Toccata.

Patrick Gowers


Richard Seal (organist of Salisbury Cathedral 1968-97) writes:

Inspired by Patrick Gowers’ magnificent setting of Viri Galilaei, which he wrote in 1987 for the consecration of Richard Harries as Bishop of Oxford, I asked him to write something for the Southern Cathedrals Festival in 1991 in Salisbury. This resulted in his Cantata which was first performed on 23rd July 1991. Knowing that he was most sensitive to the needs of an SCF commission, I gave him an entirely free hand as to the choice of subject and text. It was his idea to base it on the Psalms, especially Psalm 139, that most wonderful of Psalms which expresses so completely the omnipresence of God, and to combine Miles Coverdale’s text (which dates from the 1530s and 1540s) with a metrical version of it written about fifty years later by Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, and her brother, Sir Philip Sidney. In Viri Galilaei, Patrick had already shown the power of an original chorale or hymn tune, and such was his interest in metrical psalms that here was another opportunity for him to develop the idea, as J. S. Bach had done in his cantatas. The Cantata was a great success, well received by performers and listeners alike, and I am delighted that it is has been recorded.

The Cantata begins with a slow orchestral prelude, dark, searching and intense, which leads on to a sad and reflective fugue, Purcellean in style. This meditative mood prevails throughout the work. The first choral entry emerges from this introduction, with the chorale upon which the whole work is based. The metrical text is set to the chorale and is interspersed with duets and trios which use Coverdale’s words. In several places the choral writing expands into three four-part choirs. Three verses from Psalm 51 (Miserere mei), in their metrical version, provide the text for the second movement. The purging of the sinful soul with hyssop, depicted by acciaccaturas and augmented seconds, leads into a lively, haunting dance as the broken bones of the text ‘daunce awaie their sadness’. This dance gradually fades into the distance. The third movement follows the format of the first. The original chorale is now in an intense and chromatic form and the movement gradually builds up into a new chorale that is majestic, strong in rhythm and has rich harmonic cadences. The text for this chorale is taken from Psalm 18 verses 10-12. The mood of the fourth movement is quietly meditative. The duets have a plainsong feel about them as they mysteriously weave Coverdale’s words. At the words “and laid thine hand upon me” the music reaches a powerful climax, which is followed by a very soft coda as the Psalmist reflects on man’s incapacity to comprehend the works of God, so reminiscent of Job’s humble acceptance of God’s omnipotence. As in all Bach’s cantatas, the final movement is a strong (here slightly extended) declaration of the main chorale. The text is the metrical version of part of Psalm 138 in which our Saviour receives due honour and praise.

Richard Seal

Patrick Gowers

Patrick Gowers (born 1936) read music at Cambridge. While completing his doctorate, he taught composition part-time at the university. He was also jazz critic on the Financial Times and assistant conductor of Bill Russo’s London Jazz Orchestra as well as being music director of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Marat/Sade for its two seasons at the Aldwych Theatre and one in New York.

In the late 1960s, he started scoring feature and documentary films, first in Denmark and then in this country. His music for Stevie, featuring John Williams on guitar, was itself the subject of the documentary How to Score, which was subsequently broadcast by the BBC. In the 1970s, he directed the electronic music studio at Dartington and played keyboards for the New Swingle Singers. Later in the 1970s, Patrick Gowers started writing for television and in 1982 he won the BAFTA original music award for his scores for Smiley’s People, The Woman in White and I Remember Nelson.

His concert and religious music includes two concertos, a serenade, a rhapsody and a suite The Death of Loma, all for guitar and orchestra. For the organ, he has written a Toccata and a Fugue, an extended Trio Sonata and some other shorter works. Other compositions include four anthems for cathedral choir, Viri Galilaei, Holy holy, Libera Me and Aveto Augustine, two suites for solo violin and orchestra as well as the Cantata for triple choir, organ and strings being performed on this recording.

David Hill

Widely recognised as one of the leading choral directors in the UK, David Hill is Director of Music at St John’s College, Cambridge. He also holds the posts of Musical Director of The Bach Choir, Chief Conductor of The Southern Sinfonia, Director of Florilegium Choir and Orchestra and Music Director of Leeds Philharmonic Society.

Born in Carlisle in 1957 and educated at Chetham’s School of Music he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the age of 17. David took an organ scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge under the direction of Dr George Guest. Alongside organ studies with tutors including Gillian Weir and Peter Hurford, David conducted the University Opera Society and Cambridge University Music Society’s orchestra. He has recently been awarded an honorary Doctorate by the University of Southampton in recognition of his services to Music.

David Hill’s previous posts have included Master of the Music at Winchester Cathedral (1987-2002), Music Director of The Waynflete Singers (1987-2002) Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral, Musical Director of the Alexandra Choir (1980-87), Associate Conductor and then Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Chorus (1986-1997). He regularly gives choral training workshops and summer schools in the UK and overseas, his handbook on the subject Giving Voice was published in 1995 and he is a choral advisor to music publishers Novello for whom he has edited the carol book Noël.

David Hill has long-standing relationships with The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers with whom he has conducted a wide range of repertoire. He has also appeared with The London Philharmonic, The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, English Chamber Orchestra, The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sinfonia 21, the Northern Sinfonia, The New Queen’s Hall Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Choir and RIAS Kammerchor, Berlin. He made his BBC Proms debut with the world premiere of Sir John Tavener’s Song of the Cosmos with The Bach Choir and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2001.

Stephen Farr

Stephen Farr has been Organist and Master of the Choristers at Guildford Cathedral since 1999. He read Music at Cambridge as Organ Scholar of Clare College, and after graduating with first class honours, undertook postgraduate study for the degree of MPhil. He subsequently held the post of Sub Organist at Christ Church Oxford and at Winchester Cathedral. In addition to his work at Guildford, he has an established international reputation as a soloist and continuo player of wide experience, working with many leading conductors and ensembles and making frequent appearances on television, radio and CD. He is a Fellow and Council Member of the Royal College of Organists, and was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

David Davies

David Davies has been Sub Organist of Guildford Cathedral since 2003 and became Director of the Girl Choristers in 2004. Originally from north Wales, he was organ scholar of Magdalen College, Oxford, and previously a sixth form music scholar at Eton College. Following three years as assistant organist at St Asaph Cathedral, David worked at Hampstead Parish Church, London, and, in 1999, embarked on a two-year graduate course in organ performance at Yale University. He lived and worked for a further two years in the United States, and served in the music departments of Christ Church, New Haven, Connecticut, and St Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta, Georgia. His organ teachers have been John Wellingham, Nicolas Kynaston, Thomas Murray and Dr Martin Jean.

Guildford Cathedral Choir

Guildford Cathedral - the only new cathedral to be built in the South of England since the Reformation - is also unique among Anglican cathedrals in having established an entirely new music foundation at the completion of the building. The new cathedral choir sang for the first time at the service of Consecration in May 1961, and under the direction of the four Organists and Masters of the Choristers since that date it has established an impressive international reputation. This reputation for excellence has been founded on the tremendous commitment, energy and enthusiasm of parents, choristers and adult singers alike. In 2002 the establishment of the Girl Choristers, who also now enjoy a considerable reputation, augmented the cathedral’s music foundation. Between them the boy and girl choristers and the lay clerks provide music for seven fully choral services each week, and also participate in a wide variety of musical activities away from the cathedral, which include recordings, tours, and frequent broadcast appearances on national television and radio.

Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra

Guildford Philharmonic is at the heart of music-making in the south east, with a huge repertoire extending from the 17th century to the present day. The main concert season runs from October to July in a variety of venues including Guildford Cathedral, the Electric Theatre, Holy Trinity Church, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Shalford Park and the Abbot’s Hospital. In addition, the orchestra is invited to give concerts throughout London and the south of England in a number of venues.

Guildford Philharmonic’s scope ranges from concerts for children and with children, via chamber concerts in more intimate venues, to large-scale choral and orchestral works. The repertoire covers everything from jazz and light music to new music, and the emphasis is to work with young soloists at the outset of their careers. The orchestra continues its work of attracting new audiences for all types of classical music and of making concert-going an exciting experience.

Guildford Borough Council has funded and managed the Philharmonic as part of its arts provision for the Borough since the orchestra’s inception in 1945 (when it was the Guildford Municipal Orchestra). The orchestra is grateful to South East Music Trust for its continued support of the orchestra’s work, including the making of this CD.

Guildford Camerata

Guildford Camerata is committed to the highest standards of ensemble singing. The choir’s musical experience is wide and varied, its members having sung in cathedral choirs, college ensembles, professional choruses, oratorio and opera. The repertoire is large, from the 16th century to the present day, with the emphasis on the baroque period and on British music. The choir gives concerts throughout London and the south-east. It has combined with the choir of Guildford Cathedral for Messiah and John Rutter's Magnificat,and has given highly acclaimed performances of Bach's St John Passion and B minor Mass with Nicholas Kraemer in Guildford Cathedral.

The choir has worked frequently with John Rutter (in recent seasons, the choir has given the UK premières of two of his works - Feel the Spirit and Mass of the Children, both conducted by the composer); Barry Rose (in 2004 the choir sang in his 70th birthday concert in Guildford Cathedral) and Nicholas Cleobury.

In March 2001, Guildford Camerata performed in the world première of Barry Rose’s orchestration of Stainer’s Crucifixion with Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra. Their recording of the work was released on the Lammas label at Easter 2003; Gramophone magazine (August 2003) said “The CD deserves nothing but praise: it is a finely conceived, sensitively accomplished performance”, and BBC Radio 3’s CD Review (May 2003) said “The well-drilled Guildford Camerata score a bull’s-eye in a new recording of Stainer’s Crucifixion ... The Crucifixion glows brighter the more care and attention is lavished on it. Everyone here performs with passionate conviction. This is a hugely enjoyable CD”.

In 2004, the Guildford Camerata and Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra performed Patrick Gowers’ Cantata in concert in Guildford Cathedral, conducted by David Hill (who had previously conducted the work in Winchester Cathedral); and that performance was the catalyst for this recording of Patrick Gowers’ sacred music.

Recorded in Guildford Cathedral on 9th May 2005 4th, 5th and 31st January 2006 by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter

Produced by Barry Rose and David Davies (31st)
Front cover photograph of Patrick Gowers
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews