for mixed voices (SATB div) a cappella
Text: English (Phineas Fletcher)
This work was commissioned by Ralph Allwood for the Radio 3 broadcast from the Eton Choral Course in 1987. The choice of Phineas Fletcher’s matchless poem was a daring one given the timeless beauty of Gibbons’ hymn and the popularity of Walton’s early setting. But this setting is quite different. It is harmonically complex and not especially easy to sing, but when the idiom is mastered it seems to convey the essential passion of Fletcher’s words. The poem is arch-shaped with the central verse being truly impassioned at ‘to cry for vengeance sin doth never cease’. The final verse is consolatory and I found myself quoting the opening of Gibbons’ setting which came out of nowhere almost as a blessing.
Recommended recording: Come out, Lazar – The shorter choral works of Paul Spicer (Regent REGCD280) by The Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge and Claire Innes-Hopkins (organ), directed by Sarah MacDonald.
"Here's stuff for the ambitious choir to get its teeth into, with plangent harmonic challenges, and a demanding dynamic, expressive range, all requiring excellent ears and the technical security that can maintain an energised sostenuto. Powerful yet sensitive stuff which needs strong and committed performance." (Rebecca Tavener, Organists' Review, June 2016)
Drop, drop, slow tears,
And bathe those beauteous feet,
Which brought from heav’n
The news and Prince of Peace.
Cease not, wet eyes,
His mercies to entreat;
To cry for vengeance
Sin doth never cease.
In your deep floods
Drown all my faults and fears;
Nor let His eye
See sin, but through my tears.
Paul Spicer is one of the UK’s most widely respected choral conductors. He studied at the Royal College of Music where he was a composition student of Herbert Howells. As director of the Finzi Singers, he made many recordings on the Chandos label focusing on his specialist area of 20th century British music, and he currently conducts the Birmingham Bach Choir and the Whitehall Choir in London. He teaches choral conducting at Oxford and Durham Universities, and at the Birmingham Conservatoire, where he also directs the Chamber Choir which has an increasing reputation through its regular recordings. Paul’s choral workshops take him all over the world and his English Choral Experience foundation runs choral courses in the UK and Europe. He has written biographies of Herbert Howells and Sir George Dyson and his compositional output includes the large-scale Easter Oratorio and Advent Oratorio, a choral symphony Unfinished Remembering, and The Deciduous Cross, a five movement work for choir and wind instruments, as well as many smaller-scale works.