for mixed voices (SATB div) & organ
Text: English (Gerard Manley Hopkins)
This setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem Pied Beauty ('Glory be to God for dappled things') was commissioned by the Rev Jim Bates, Vicar of Kingston, for the service in Kingston Parish Church celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The first performance was given by the combined choirs of the Kingston Parish Church and Twickenham Choral Society on the 2nd June 2002.
The Vicar particularly requested the use of Hopkins’s famous poem which celebrates all manner of ‘dappled things’. It is a difficult poem for the composer (as are many of Hopkins’s poems) and a good proportion of the text is reflective or descriptive. The poem winds through a number of examples of dappled things: ‘skies of couple-colour’, ‘rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim’, ‘fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls’ and so on winding down to a centrally peaceful section in which Hopkins writes of ‘all things counter, original, spare, strange’. However, being a celebratory service, I wanted to bring out as much of that element within the poem as possible and so repeated the first three lines of the poem at the end as a lively dance, finishing with many injunctions to ‘praise him’.
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Gerard Manley Hopkins
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.