The Singers


Contemplation by Candlelight

All Saints Church, Quayside
Saturday, 30 November 2002, 9 pm

The Singers
conducted by Donald Halliday

Harriet Bisson and Jeremy Thomas - readers

Lighting - Paul Bisson
Projection - Kim Bartlett

Open Thy gates - Julius Harrison

Open thy gates to him, who weeping waits,
And might come in, but that held back by sin.
Let mercy be so kind to set me free,
And I will strait come in.

from Job, chapter 10

"I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why thou dost contend against me. Does it seem good to thee to oppress, to despise the work of thy hands and favour the designs of the wicked? Hast thou eyes of flesh? Dost thou see as man sees? Are thy days as the days of man, or thy years as man's years, that thou dost seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although thou knowest that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of thy hand? Thy hands fashioned and made me; and now thou dost turn about and destroy me.

Are not the days of my life few? Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort before I go whence I shall not return, to the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is as darkness."

Victoria - Mass for the Dead - Introit & Kyrie

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem. O hear my prayer, all flesh shall come to Thee.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

from The Wisdom of Solomon

But the souls of the just are in God's hand and torment shall not touch them. In the eyes of foolish men they seemed to be dead; their departure was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us a disaster. But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may be punished, they have sure hope of immortality; and after a little chastisement they will receive great blessing, because God has tested them and found them worthy to be his. Those who have put their trust in him shall understand that he is true, and the faithful shall attend upon him in love; they are his chosen, and grace and mercy shall be theirs.

Victoria - Mass for the Dead - Gradual & Offertory

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.
The just shall be in everlasting remembrance, he shall not fear the evil hearing.

O Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the deep pit: deliver them from the lion's mouth, that hell may not swallow them up, and may they not fall into darkness; but may the holy standard-bearer, Michael, lead them into the holy light: which Thou didst promise to Abraham and to his seed.
Sacrifices and prayers we offer to Thee, O Lord; receive them for those souls for whom we make memorial this day; let them, O Lord, pass from death unto life. Which Thou didst promise to Abraham . . .

from The Pilgrims Progress - John Bunyan

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back. He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, "He hath given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death." Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, "Peace be to thee." So the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee,", the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment, the third also set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing.

Victoria - Mass for the Dead - Sanctus & Angus Dei

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them eternal rest.

The Angel from The Dream of Gerontius - John Henry Cardinal Newman

Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul,
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And o'er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.
And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance.
Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,
Shall aid thee at the throne of the Most Highest.
Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.

Victoria - Mass for the Dead - Communion

May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord. With Thy Saints for ever, for Thou art merciful. Eternal rest give them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them. With Thy Saints forever, for Thou art merciful. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Love bade we welcome - George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.
A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, you shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful: Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat.
So I did sit and eat.

Victoria - Mass for the Dead - Responsory

Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death in that awful day: When the heavens and the earth shall be moved: When Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. Dread and trembling have laid hold of me, and I fear exceedingly because of the judgement and the wrath, of sore distress, and of all wretchedness, that great and exceeding bitter day. When Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. Eternal rest grant upon them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death in that awful day: When the heavens and the earth shall be moved: When Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Toward the Unknown region - Walt Whitman

Darest thou now O soul
Walk out with me towards the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, not eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undreamed of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, time and space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In time and space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equip't at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.

Immortal Bach - Knut Nystedt
a meditation on Bach's Komm susser Tod

Come, sweet death; come, blessed calm;
Come lead me to peace.

Composer notes

Tomás Luis de Victoria was a Spanish priest/composer from Avila. He had worked for some twenty years in Rome but had returned to Madrid to be chaplain and choirmaster to the Empress Maria, widow of Maximilian II and sister of Philp II. His second Requiem was written following her death in 1603. The music glows with passion, ecstacy and fervour but within a serene and spiritual framework. Published in 1605, it is a masterpiece which marks the end of the Renaissance and Spain's golden age. Whether he knew it or not, it was also to be Victoria's swansong; it was the last work he published, and he died in 1611, aged 63.

Knut Nystedt is a contemporary Norwegian composer born in Oslo in 1915. Immortal Bach was written to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. It is essentially a contemplation on Bach's harmonisation of the chorale Komm SusserTod [Come Sweet Death]. The composer recommends that the five 4 part choirs stand 'in a long row round the hall'. The circular interior of All Saints provides the ideal space and acoustic to perform this piece. The effect is remarkable - a slow-moving soundscape of shimmering, dissonant beauty.