The Carmina Gadelica, known in Gaelic as Ortha nan Gaidheal, is a six-volume collection of orally-transmitted prayers, poems, blessings and other material, collected by the folklorist Alexander Carmichael in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Carmichael subsequently translated this material, and edited the first two volumes. The death dirge An Tuiream Bais was published in the third volume, edited by Alexander’s grandson, James Carmichael Watson. I have set the first, fourth, fifth and sixth verses in the original Gaelic language.
The text of this work comes from the 40-part motet of the same name by Alessandro Striggio (c1540-1592). His work was the likely inspiration for the better-known 40-part motet of Thomas Tallis “Spem in alium”. It is believed that Striggio wrote the text himself. Striggio wrote both sacred and secular music, and all his surviving music is vocal (although often with instrumental doublings clearly indicated).
“Ecce beatam lucem” is a hymn of praise to the sun and more generally to all of creation, and by analogy to the power of God shown through his creation.
This piece was written for Choralation (Westlake Girls’ and Westlake Boys’ High Schools) and conductor Rowan Johnston who had requested a ‘fireworks’ piece – something short, bold and dramatic.
O Magnum Mysterium was written in 2004 for the Big Sing Choral Composition Award, in which it received a ‘Highly Commended’ Award. It has been performed several times in the Wellington Cathedral Choir’s ‘Nine Lessons & Carols’ Service held at Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul.
O Vos Omnes was written for the choir in mid-2006 in the first year of the composer’s residency at the Cathedral, and is scored for SSATBB choir with soprano soloist creating a rich harmonic texture, and evoking a solemn mood. Hallmarks of the composer’s style are evident here: the use of the floating soprano solo; the doubling of the melodic material in soprano and tenor or alto and bass; the six part texture; the deft use of dark keys; the rather long musical phrases and paragraphs; modal harmonies with added tones; and an always palpable emotion in the music.