Colwall 87 87 887 (Lo, in the wilderness a voice)

I have a new project, Cecilia’s List, where (among other things) I make weekly recommendations for music composed by women and other underrepresented groups that’s suitable for church use. I’ve only really just gotten started, and so I still have a lot of music to look through and add.

This week I’ve had a bit of a struggle trying to find something suitable for Advent II, which is very much John the Baptist oriented. It’s entirely possible that, in all the recommendations I’ve been sent, there was something suitable and I’ve missed it. But there comes a point for any composer where the easiest way to solve a problem is to write more music…

So here is Colwall, a tune to Percy Dearmer’s “Lo, in the wilderness a voice”. I’ve modified the words slightly to make them more inclusive, though I couldn’t work out a good way of dealing with “cruel men” so left it in there, since there are still quite a few of those about.

1 Lo, in the wilderness a voice
‘Make straight the way’ is crying:
When all are turning from the light,
And hope and love seem dying,
The prophet comes to make us clean:
‘There standeth one you have not seen,
Whose voice you are denying.’

2 God give us grace to hearken now
To those who come to warn us,
Give sight and strength, that we may kill
The vices that have torn us,
Lest love professed should disappear
In creeds of hate, contempt, and fear,
That crush and overturn us.

3 When from the vineyard cruel men
Cast out the heavenly powers
And all the world denies its Lord,
The earth in ruin cowers.
Now come, O God, in thy great might!
Unchanged, unchanging is thy right,
Unswayed thy justice towers.

I asked my friend the Revd Dr Catherine Dowland-Pillinger to name this tune, since I spent some time with her today and was thinking of her when I wrote it, and since I haven’t asked her to name a tune yet. She chose Colwall, a village in Herefordshire where her husband Eric’s ancestors lived for centuries.

Here are some robot clarionets playing it:

And here is a download of the sheet music in .pdf format: Colwall.pdf

PDF and mp3 also available for download from the Choral Public Domain Library.

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