for mixed voices (SATB div) a cappella
Text: English (Evelyn Underhill)
Duration: c5 minutes
The Holy Spirit was commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Guildford, for a concert held on on 21 May 2011, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral. It is dedicated to the Organist and Master of the Choristers, Katherine Dienes-Williams, Paul Provost, Sub Organist and the Choir of the Cathedral.
Evelyn Underhill was a poet and novelist, a pacifist and a mystic. She described her early mystical insights as "abrupt experiences of the peaceful, undifferentiated plane of reality—like the "still desert" of the mystic—in which there was no multiplicity nor need of explanation." The meaning of these experiences became a lifelong quest and a source of private angst, provoking her to research and write.
I was invited to compose words of my own choosing. Guildford Cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, so that words reflecting the dedication seemed an obvious starting point. In the music I have tried to reflect Underhill’s mysticism. On a more practical level I have also borne in mind certain characteristics of the Cathedral. The main organ is situated in the North Transept Gallery, a position from where it is easy to drown the sounds of the choir – hence the dialogues between organ and choir. It is only towards the end of the anthem that the two elements are heard together.
Come with birds’ voices when the light grows dim
Yet lovelier in departure and more dear:
While the warm flush hangs yet at heavens’ rim,
And the one star shines clear.
Though the swift night haste to approaching day
Stay thou and stir not, brooding on the deep:
Thy secret love, Thy silent word let say
Within the senses’ sleep.
Softer than dew. But where the morning wind
Blows down the world, O Spirit! show Thy power:
Quicken the dreams within the languid mind
And bring Thy seed to flower!
from the letters of Evelyn Underhill
Philip Moore has held posts at Eton College, Canterbury and Guildford Cathedrals, and York Minster. Although much of his music is for choirs and organs, he has also written song cycles and chamber, piano and orchestral music. His pieces are sung in cathedrals, churches and concert halls throughout the world, and he is frequently featured on BBC broadcasts of Choral Evensong. One of his recent compositions, At the round earth’s imagined corners, a choral setting of a religious sonnet by John Donne, had its US premiere in Chicago in May 2014 with the St Charles Singers. The work has just been recorded by the Choir of Winchester Cathedral, with the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble, conducted by Andrew Lumsden. Moore has received a variety of honours and awards, the most recent being an honorary doctorate from the University of York. In 2014 he won second prize in a competition promoted by St Thomas, Fifth Avenue, New York, for a set of evening canticles for treble voices and organ. In addition he was the prize winner in a competition for a Christmas anthem, organised by St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. He is organist emeritus of York Minster and will serve as president of the Royal College of Organists from 2015.