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Wilberforce: My Musick Shine

Wilberforce: My Musick Shine

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£2.95

Publisher: RSCM Press
ISBN: A3712
When invited to set a poem written by an alumni of Westminster School, I was thrilled to have an excuse to delve into such literary giants as Robert Herrick, Ben Jonson and John Dryden. What led me to hone in on metaphysical poet George Herbert was his exquisite balance of poignant piety and intimate self-contemplation, and through the intertwining of his soul’s devotion with the succour of God’s light, it is this very balance that is at the heart of the text I have set. My Musick Shine (I chose to keep Herbert ’s 17th Century spelling throughout) takes its words from the second of two poems entitled Christmas, from his posthumously published collection, The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. The words are homophonically set to a wistful melody that lilts with the natural spoken rhythm of the poem. As the middle section gathers pace and becomes more rhapsodic in its polyphonic lines, the music drives towards an intimate and personal creed that the choir softly affirms in unison: We sing one common Lord. The title is taken from the last line of the poem, and as well as bookending the sections as a short refrain, it is this music that underpins the softly undulating coda. Here, the soprano and tenor melodies thread themselves around each other in an exchange suggestive of the poem’s central conceit, of God’s light singing and of the poet’s music shining. Much of the poetry in Herbert’s The Temple evokes the architectural space of the church; so, as My Musick Shine concludes, the vocal lines rise up one by one to a warm, meditative chord that hangs in the upper recesses of the building, drawing our ears and minds upwards to bask in its radiant, acoustic afterglow.

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