Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
Choral level of difficulty: 2 (5 greatest)
This is a fairly straightforward setting of verses from Psalm 127 about the blessing of children, written for the Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury to mark the 400th anniversary of Hatfield House, where the issue of the succession through the generations is obviously of great significance.
MacMillan here writes an essentially chordal setting with double sopranos giving an added richness to the texture. When the text reaches the words ‘Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord’ the soprano parts diverge and the upper line goes its own way with a wholly separate part which feels ornamental over the top of a continuing chorale-like progression for the rest of the choir. The importance of this separate part is taken all the way to the end where it finishes alone. The final nine bars require some agility from these sopranos – agility as a reflection perhaps of the energy of youth.
The challenges in the work are the usual ones of blend and balance in the chordal parts, and the clarity, accuracy and sufficient technique to deal with the upper soprano line’s leaps and bounds.
Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer