Pigeons

A greyscale pencil drawing of a city seen from a hill, with pigeons in foreground and background. Artwork by Evan Jacques.

I do get the best texts to work with sometimes. I love this poem by Marnanel Thurman, which I set as part of my Stations of the Cross but also works well as a stand-alone piece:

Pigeons, to me, were always signs of hope:
even the whirl of wings against the air
would right me, show me once again the scope
of who I was and whose I was and where;
as when, in one deep shock of vertigo
I saw the city lie beneath my ledge
as flocks of pigeons played a mile below
and kept my feet from straying near the edge;
as blinking blinding water from my eyes
I rose again to reach the air above
and from the sundered sky, to my surprise
there flew from heights uncountable a dove;
as here, a final time, I watch them fly
and heal my hope as I am lifted high.

The poem references three incidents in the life of Christ — his baptism, temptation and crucifixion — told from the perspective of Jesus. The pigeons are an imaginative development of the traditional Christian symbolism of a dove signifying the Holy Spirit as advocate and comforter. In substituting pigeons – animals that are usually scorned as unclean and unwelcome – for doves, Thurman movingly articulates an affirming and welcoming vision of Christ, who greets the pigeons as signs of hope. I think this is an important message of comfort for people who have traditionally been marginalised, and a call to conscience for oppressors who aspire to Christian virtue.

Here are the robots singing:

Here is the SATB score:
Pigeons 2019-04-30

As usual, this work is free to download and copy under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. You can find a copy of Pigeons at the CPDL website, and if you want to support me in continuing to compose music like this please consider sponsoring my work.

Ave Maria

Vierge Marie -- A 12th-century Romanesque stained glass window of Virgin Mary in the Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

It was Refreshment Sunday today, and we had at least one of my favourite Marian hymns. Here’s my setting of the Ave Maria, then, played by robots:

Ave Maria PDF for download.

This is part of my Stations of the Cross, premiered in Aberdeen on 7th March; but I’m releasing it online now. Other pieces from the Stations that will work as stand-alone pieces will also be released in due course.

As usual, the sheet music for this is also available from my page at CPDL. The music is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike, or CC by-SA, which means you can sing it for free — but you must attribute it to me and mention the license, and you must allow recordings to be made.

If you would like to support me in sharing more music like this, you may get a warm fuzzy feeling from knowing you are doing good in the world, and I will definitely get a warm fuzzy feeling from getting closer to being able to support myself on my earnings.

There Is No Rose

Here is my setting of an anonymous text from around 1420:

It was wonderful to compose this for the Cathedral Singers of Ontario, who I’ve sung with for many years on their visits to the UK, and to sing it with them at Canterbury Cathedral early this month.

1. There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu;
Alleluia.

2. For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space;
Res miranda.

3. And by that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three,
Pari forma.

4. The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis deo:
Gaudeamus.

5. Now leave we all this worldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth;
Transeamus.

6. Alleluia, res miranda,
Pari forma, gaudeamus,
Transeamus.

Res miranda — ‘wonderful thing’ or ‘miracle’
Pari forma — ‘equal in form’ — some sources use “pares forma” here, which is what we sang in Canterbury
Gaudeamus — ‘let us rejoice.’
Transeamus — ‘let us follow’ or ‘let us turn [from earth to heaven]‘

As usual, the sheet music for this is available from my page at CPDL — or you can download a pdf directly. I won’t trouble you with the singing robots this time since there is a choral version above! The music is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike, or CC by-SA, which means you can sing it for free — but you must attribute it to me and mention the license, and you must allow recordings to be made.

If you would like to support me in sharing more music like this, you will get a warm fuzzy feeling from knowing you are doing good in the world, and if you choose the appropriate support tier you will also receive a postcard of the rose below, which I commissioned from Delyth Williams.

A stained-glass style drawing of a red rose with green leaves, by Delyth Williams, used by permission

O Nata Lux

I’ve had my head down a lot recently with PhD work but here is one I wrote earlier: an a cappella SSA setting of O nata lux. It’s traditionally a text used for the Transfiguration — 6th August, but the readings also come up at the last Sunday before Lent.

No recording yet, but there is a .pdf:
O nata lux PDF
and, as usual, robot flutes:

O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
Dignare clemens supplicum
Laudes precesque sumere.

Qui carne quondam contegi
Dignatus es pro perditis,
Nos membra confer effici
Tui beati corporis.

English translation:

O Light born of Light,
Jesus, redeemer of the world,
with loving-kindness deign to receive
suppliant praise and prayer.

Thou who once deigned to be clothed in flesh
for the sake of the lost,
grant us to be members
of thy blessed body.

As usual, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, which means you can download, print, perform and record it for free without requiring further permission from me (but you must in turn share any derivative works, such as recordings, under similar terms: you can charge money if you like, you just cannot prohibit copying). This gift of music is made possible by my generous patrons, both on Patreon and through other channels.

Meanwhile — this week I am in Canterbury with the Cathedral Singers of Ontario, who are providing the music for Canterbury Cathedral. This will include the world premiere of my setting of There Is No Rose of Such Virtue at Evensong on Wednesday, 2nd January: do come along if you are in the area!

Christ Church, Southgate, London N14 - Window depicting the Transfiguration of Jesus

Just in time for Christmas: Gift Sponsorship Subscriptions

Some time ago, someone I know from Twitter got in touch to ask if she could purchase a gift subscription — and if so, would there be something to unwrap?

The answer was yes; in due course, I made a sponsorship subscription card and it’s currently with her, waiting to be unwrapped. It says:

Hurrah!
Someone lovely has given us both a gift by sponsoring me at the Crotchet level
on your behalf!
I compose sacred and secular choral music and put it online under a CC by-SA license so choirs can sing it for free. This gift of music is supported by my generous patrons.

And then there’s some information about how to find my music, and how to get in touch with me, and so on.

I like this idea a lot, so I’ve created four levels of yearly gift sponsorship which you can purchase through Payhip. You get a .pdf of the sponsorship card, which you can either print out or e-mail to your intended recipient; they can then send me their address by e-mail or post if they want to receive the rewards, or not if they are happy merely knowing that I’m being supported in my work of composing music and sharing it online. The rewards are the same as for my existing subscriptions, posted quarterly. All the gift sponsorships are for one year of support.

Quaver

Purchase Gift Sponsorship: Quaver
Reward: a postcard, or occasionally a sticker. Some of the postcards and stickers are art commissioned by me from independent artists; others are public domain art I like the look of and have printed; others are hand-drawn by me, usually of music I’ve written. Occasionally, you will get a folding notecard instead of a postcard, but it will be something new every quarter.

Crotchet

Purchase Gift Sponsorship: Crotchet
Reward: two postcards (one written to the recipient of the gift sponsorship, and a clean one for someone else), or a postcard and a sticker.

Minim (UK only)

Purchase Gift Sponsorship: Minim
Reward: a printed score of every new choral piece I put online for a year. This is usually going to be three works per quarter, but sometimes it will be more than that, and occasionally less. Shorter pieces are printed on heavy card, and longer ones I send off to have printed in saddle-stitch booklets with glossy covers, and I always use board-backed envelopes to prevent music being damaged in transit. I’ll throw in a postcard or two and some stickers, as well. All my choral music is legal for to photocopy and share, so getting it posted to you is a great way to build your choral library without having to think about it too hard or remember which website you found it on.

Dotted Minim (like Minim but international)

Purchase Gift Sponsorship: Dotted Minim
For international postage, my costs are significantly higher, so the Minim package costs £24/month.

For now, all the sponsorships have a second page with this Christmas tree artwork by Rose Gerard.

Description: A treble clef worked into a tree of celtic knotwork, adorned with musical-note baubles.

Musical tree

Vintry

I’ve actually finished a fair amount of music this month: a setting of the beginning of Psalm 19, which was one of the pieces featured in my MPhil upgrade (which I passed, hurrah!), and also a setting of “There Is No Rose of Such Virtue” to have its world premiere in January, all being well. Obviously I can’t put something I’ve promised as a world premiere online before then; and in the meantme, I’d like to leave the setting of Psalm 19 to sit for a while before I put it online.

Instead, here’s a setting of some words by James Merrick:

VINTRY 77 77 77 pdf file

And here it is played by robot clarionets:

1. Lift your voice, and thankful sing
Praises to our Heavenly King.
Be the Lord our only theme,
Who of Gods is God supreme;
For his blessings far extend,
And his mercy knows no end.

2. He asserts his just command,
By the wonders of his hand,
He whose wisdom thron’d on high,
built the mansions of the sky;
For his blessings far extend,
And his mercy knows no end.

3. He who bade the watery deep,
Under earth’s foundation sleep;
And the orbs that gild the pole,
Through the boundless ether roll;
For his blessings far extend,
And his mercy knows no end.

4. Thou, O sun, whose powerful ray
Rules the empire of the day;
You, O moon and stars, whose light
Gilds the darkness of the night:
For his blessings far extend,
And his mercy knows no end.

5. He with food sustains, O earth,
All who claim from thee their birth;
Yield the homage that his name
From a creature’s lips may claim;
For his blessings far extend,
And his mercy knows no end.

As usual, it’s available over at the Choral Public Domain Library, and it’s under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.

Many thanks to everyone who supports me in making my compositions available for free likes this: here’s how you can help.

Another Double Psalm Chant

I was asked to compose a psalm chant for Psalm 91, for the University of London Church Choir to sing on our tour to Ripon Cathedral last week.

I can’t share the recording with you yet, as I haven’t heard it; but I hope to be able to eventually. In the meantime, the PDF and midi file are on the Choral Public Domain Library as usual. Also as usual, it’s under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, so you can use it for free as long as you clearly attribute me and you don’t prevent anyone else from copying and sharing it. If you like having access to my compositions in this way, you could support me in a number of ways; thanks ever so much to those of you who already do.

What else have I been up to this summer? There was the week in Ely, singing, toward the end of which I came down with a stinkin’ cold; there was part of a week in Somerset with my beloved spreadsheet mining husband, during which I attempted to recover from said cold; there was a week at home in which we both attempted to recover from said cold (sigh…), and then the week in Ripon, for much of which I wasn’t feeling at all well. I got through it, though, and had almost recovered my usual vocal range by the end. I’m sure the clean air up there helped!

Ripon Cathedral Choir (43048528371)

These next few months will be fearsomely busy. I need to do my MPhil upgrade (no, really, I have to actually do it), and I need to compose all the music for my Big Final Project, as well as getting back into the swing of Cecilia’s List and various commissions. At the moment I’m trying not to feel too overwhelmed, and instead have spent some time this week trying to get my ducks* in a row so that I can prioritise that work and not worry too much about other stuff. The ducks think this is a wonderful game, and keep swimming off in other directions.

*Not real ducks. It’s probably just as well.

Waterbeach

I’m singing in Ely Cathedral this week, and staying in a guest house in Waterbeach, so I wrote a hymn tune today.

Here are the words, by Nathaniel Cotton:

1. Affliction is a stormy deep,
Where wave resounds to wave;
Though o’er my head the billows roll,
I know the Lord can save.

2. The hand that now withholds my joys
Can reinstate my peace:
And He who bade the tempest roar,
Can bid that tempest cease.

3. When darkness and when sorrows rose
And pressed on every side,
The Lord has still sustained my steps,
And still has been my Guide.

4. Here will I rest, and build my hopes,
Nor murmur at His rod;
He’s more than all the world to me,
My Health, my Life, my God!

(I left out one verse because it had the emphasis on the wrong syllable.)

The software I use to make the robots sing isn’t working with the midi file of this for some reason, and as I’m not at home I can’t put it into the big computer to see if that helps. But here’s the .pdf:

Waterbeach PDF

You can also download the pdf and also the midi file at the Choral Public Domain Library, as usual.

Ely Cathedral Choir, Cambridgeshire, UK - Photo by David Liff, License: CC BY-SA

Immigrant Jesus

I’m not an American citizen.

I don’t have a lot of spare money at the moment.

What I can do is write hymn tunes.

So I’ve written one to this text by Gary Alderson:

1. You ran from oppression,
Crossed the baking sand;
Found your own safety
In an alien land.

And Rachel’s still weeping, weeping,
Weeping for her children.

2. And you found a haven
In that far off place;
Shielded and welcomed
By a foreign race,

And Rachel’s still weeping, weeping,
Weeping for her children.

3. Fled here as a stranger;
Ran in hope and fear.
What kind of welcome
Shall this child find here?

And Rachel’s still weeping, weeping,
Weeping for her children.

4. Now torn from my mother,
Caged in a free land,
Immigrant Jesus,
Come and take my hand.

And Rachel’s still weeping, weeping,
Weeping for her children.

It’s available on CPDL and here. CC by-SA as usual. I’ll try to get an underlaid version up by tomorrow morning, too, for people who prefer hymns with the words under the dots.

IMMIGRANT JESUS in pdf format

Robot clarionets:

Me singing:

My Patreon patrons are paying me for this, but I’m donating a portion of the funds to RAICES at the beginning of next month. I don’t know how much that will be yet, because I’ve committed other funds to some commissions, but it’ll probably be half of whatever’s left after that.

Please consider making a donation if you can.

Painting by Fra Angelico - Flight into Egypt