|About this Recording
8.573720 - HAWES, P.: Revelation / Beatitudes (The Elora Singers, Edison)
Patrick Hawes (b. 1958)
I have always felt that The Book of Revelation lends itself to musical interpretation. Its imagery and powerful messages of salvation and judgement are full of inspiration to the artist. The Beatitudes, of course, are much more gentle but no less powerful, and Christ’s words of comfort form the perfect partner to the Revelation text. It is my hope that, together with the standalone pieces on this recording, they offer a new way of exploring key sentences from the New Testament and a means of refreshing the soul. I am so grateful to Noel Edison and The Elora Singers who, through their musical expertise and commitment to my musical style, have brought these works alive.
The Book of Revelation is full of bizarre imagery alternating between darkness and light. The texts used mirror the structure in the Bible: a Prologue and Epilogue form outer pillars between which seven pieces (a significant number in Revelation) depict some of the main scenes in St John’s prophecy.
This Prophecy introduces the collection in a calm and prayerful manner with its quasi-plainsong lines and quiet sense of expectancy. In contrast, Coming with the Clouds reaches into the apocalyptic nature of Revelation with the antiphonal use of the choir and moments of intense climax. From the Throne uses more biting textures to portray flashes of lightning and peels of thunder, creating moments of excitement and awe as we gaze upon the throne. Worthy is the Lamb returns to a single-choir format and invokes a peaceful intimacy as the listener is drawn into the deep pain of looking upon ‘the lamb who was slain’. The Marian references in A Great and Wondrous Sign give rise to a piece which is pure and devotional in character. Fallen is Babylon the Great uses falling choral phrases and dissonant harmonies to create a feeling of falling into the abyss. Contrast follows with the jubilant fanfare rhythms of Hallelujah where interaction between the two choirs creates an increasing sense of majesty. As John gazes upon ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, so I Saw a New Heaven returns to intense prayerfulness, providing hope and security. The Epilogue views The Alpha and the Omega first as something too wonderful to bear, and then as the most magnificent revelation of all, before the hushed, deep chords which speak of the end of all things.
The eight Beatitude verses of St Matthew’s Gospel are some of Christ’s most comforting words. The recurrence of the word ‘blessed’ makes for a unified collection of pieces—closely linked but each with its own character.
The Poor in Spirit introduces the work in a mystical vein with its minor key and wave-like piano patterns. Those Who Mourn uses a falling piano melody and offbeat choir rhythms to evoke a sense of sighing and grief. The Meek is full of optimism and gradually builds to an intense climax with Christ’s promise that ‘they shall inherit the earth’. Those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness invokes a pulsating and insistent rhythm which underpins the message that those who hunger will be satisfied, and ends with a short piano postlude depicting an air of contentment. The Merciful uses dotted rhythms and rich choral harmonies, especially in the louder sections, to create the atmosphere of battle as Christ fights to offer mercy to those who are merciful themselves. In contrast, The Pure in Heart has uncomplex harmonies, with the choir delivering the words in a straightforward but emotive manner. The opening piano chords in The Peacemakers are almost floating, and prominence is given to the innocent soprano voices before a majestic section for full choir depicting the sons of God. Those who are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake draws the Beatitudes to a conclusion by referring to fragments from earlier sections, before the choir finally draws us towards the kingdom of heaven.
The opening words of St John’s Gospel used in The Word reach back to the beginning of creation, and the music is therefore mystical and subdued until the words ‘in him was life’—after which the feeling is one of confidence in the light of Christ.
Peace Beyond Thought asks the listener to dwell on ‘all that is pure’. Thus the music develops from simple unison singing through to rich harmonic textures, with restrained dynamics throughout.
The piano comes to the fore in Let Us Love. A lilting melody is introduced against which the independent choral parts call for love to pervade all that we do. A defiant middle section proclaiming that ‘no fear be known to us’ creates cohesion and contrast.
This simple version of The Lord’s Prayer is taken from The Edenham Eucharist—a communion setting written for parishes belonging to the composer’s brother Andrew. Some unexpected key changes help to sustain the momentum although the overriding approach is one of straightforward harmonies and rhythms.
Be Still is a setting of the well-known phrase from Psalm 46. The piano’s repeated chordal patterns flow gently throughout, and the long legato choral lines help the listener drift into a world of peace and beauty.
This piece had such a profound impact on the audience at the 2015 Elora Festival that the choir felt that they really wanted to record it as a bonus track for this album.
The words express a heartfelt longing for the joys of heaven—a happiness to be shared in a future moment of meeting. The ecstasy of this moment is certainly underlined by the soprano solo over the rich saxophone and vocal accompaniment. The repetition of key words mane, gaudia and conventus deepens the intensity of the yearning for bliss.
The world première performances of Revelation and Beatitudes were given by The Elora Sngers during the Elora Festival, Elora, Ontario, Canada, on 21st July, 2016.
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