Welcome to my ‘composer blog’. Readers who may be even remotely interested (!) will be able to see what I’m working on as time passes. Very little of my work is published as I am not confident about self-promotion but occasionally I pluck up the courage to share stuff which has been honed by usage.
Tuesday 22 September – Psalm 25 – 26th Sunday in Year A
I’ve just completed a setting of Psalm 25 for this Sunday. It wasn’t the easiest one to achieve as the middle (2nd verse) has 6 lines rather than the usual 4! I decided to change the key and musical material for that verse. It is conceived for organ accompaniment with the pedals taking the paired quarter-note (crotchet) figure.
Monday 14 September – Psalm 145 – 25th Sunday in Year A
The tricky thing about setting psalm texts from the Abbey Psalms and Canticles is not the psalm text itself but the Response. Currently the responses have not been published but we are told that they will be derived from the psalm itself. The current response for this psalm in USA is ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him’. The closest lines from the psalm are ‘The Lord is close to all who call him, who call on him in truth’. So I took a risk and considered that the response (when the Lectionary is finally published) might be ‘The Lord is close to all who call on him.’
The next task was to decide on a mood and metre. I went for 3/4 to a kind of smoky-blues-bar feel! I wanted to achieve a feeling of relaxation for the singing of this psalm and this style seemed appropriate.
Tuesday 8 September – Psalm 103 – 24th Sunday in Year A
It took me a while to find an appropriate metre for the refrain but once I’d erased all references to other settings of this psalm I came upon something that seemed to work. This however changed frequently and when it came to recording the finished product for my Cantors I realised that some parts were too low for me and therefore supposed the same for the Cantors and had to slightly alter the end of the refrain accordingly. I was surprised that where I felt I had to change the metre for a measure or two this was not a challenge for the Cantors. who felt that the whole thing sang easily. On the following Saturday I wrote a flute part.
Wednesday 2 September – Psalm 95
Today there are many opposing voices which beg for our attention. These must be filtered though our purposeful attention to the Word of God. So when I approached composing a setting I wanted to point up the invitation to listen to HIS voice! I managed to keep a 3+3+2 rhythm going for much of the piece but there were a few bits of the text which could not take this!
Ironically when it came to the Sunday run-through with Cantors they convinced me to change the refrain a little. The change was something I had already considered and was further endorsed by composer friends, some of whose voices one has to listen to also!
Tuesday 1 September – Psalm 1
On Wednesday 9 September the School mass will be a Memorial for St Peter Claver. The celebration falls in a week when the US bishops are requesting prayer for racial justice and within a context of increased racial tension in USA and elsewhere. Here in Florida Psalm 1 has been proposed as the psalm for the day. I first wrote this setting in 1984 while I was working as a music teacher at St Ignatius College, London. I further revised it when it was requested in 1991 for the 400th anniversary of the death of St Ignatius of Loyola. The choirs of many Jesuit schools and churches converged on Westminster Cathedral for the occasion. This latest revision was made to accommodate the new text from Abbey Psalms and Canticles. It rarely appears in the Lectionary so it has not had much use and, apart from the 6th Sunday in Year C, it is also recommended for Saints Days.
Saturday 22 August – Psalm 63
In planning the music for the 21st Sunday in Year A I realized that I had never composed a setting of this psalm myself, so here it is! The refrain and psalm alternate between major and minor tonalities but each are introduced by the same open 5th chords.
Wednesday 12 August – Blessed are the Clean of Heart
In 1994 I started working at St Marie’s Cathedral as Director of Music for the Diocese and its Cathedral. It was a turbulent time marked by the Bishop removing all three priests from the cathedral and even banishing one from the Diocese! When the new Cathedral Dean was appointed the gossip-mongers had already started on him and remarked that he had done nothing prior to his appointment! On the Sunday when Fr Kevin Thornton arrived at the Cathedral he introduced himself as ‘just a simple priest’. He was one of the wisest priests I ever had the pleasure of working alongside but he was no showman! Months later I wrote ‘Blessed are the Clean of heart’ and dedicated it to him. It is a refrain and verse setting of the Communion antiphon for all Saints with verses from Psalm 126. The piece became very popular in the Cathedral, particularly when its then Bishop John Rawsthorne spoke so frequently of seeking justice.
The intention is to have the Assembly sing the refrain, several times and then to add the verses once the refrain is established.
We sang this piece at a concert given by the Liturgical Composers Forum in January 2017. I played the piano and Laurence Rosania conducted. Later he was kind enough to make several suggestions about improving the piece. These included adding an introduction and a couple of bars between Refrain and verse. He also suggested re-working the choral texture in the second half of the verse. Previously this had been unison throughout with the men added at the key change in the second half of each verse. Something of this remains but then it opens into four part choral texture.
The arrival of the new Abbey Psalms and Canticles has led me to use that translation for the verses and to revise the setting.
Tuesday 11 August – Psalm 67
In 1996 I wrote a setting of Psalm 67 for the 20th Sunday of Year A. When I arrived in Tampa I had to update it with the text from Today’s Missal. Today I updated it again with the text from the Abbey Psalms and Canticles. It seems that the new text is closer to my original setting of the Grail Inclusive text which is a blessed relief!
Wednesday 5 August – SILENT NIGHT
During my time at St Marie’s Cathedral, Sheffield UK I created a version of the popular carol Silent Night and each year I improvised a piano accompaniment. The response to this was such that I thought that one day I would find the time to write down the accompaniment.
Years passed and during Christmas 2019 a friend from Sheffield visited me in Tampa. She wanted to attend the midnight Mass of Christmas and expressed the hope that I would play the version of Silent Night she always remembered and loved. I agreed and now months later have managed to write a new arrangement which includes the piano part I previously improvised and adds SATB choir for verse 2 and two instrumental parts for verses 2 and 3. The text seems to call for a more dramatic interpretation than the lullaby experience it often receives and the piano part reflects this. The addition of an optional organ part with soft chords and pedal notes provides the harmonic background for the rest of the arrangement.
Wednesday 29 July – NOTHING CAN KEEP US
I composed a setting of Paul’s familiar text which asserts that ‘nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’. It has a simple and largely stepwise melody over a strong harmonic rhythm. I see this as a ‘chant’ or refrain which bears repetition and can be used at several liturgical occasions. It is particularly suitable for the 18th Sunday in Year A which features the text as its second reading.
Days after writing it and having listened to some of our Cantors singing it I tweaked it a bit in measures 18 and 19.
Monday 20 July – PSALM 27: THE LORD IS MY LIGHT
In January 2020 I had presented a new setting of the psalm at the annual Liturgical Composers Forum in St Louis. It was well received and so I decided that I would work on this again when I found time. This arrived during July and today I completed versions for Sundays 3A and Lent 2C. I sent them to Rick Modlin at OCP who informed me that there was a further occasion when the psalm was used. I was unaware as this 7th Sunday of Easter is usually replaced by Ascension in the Dioceses where I have worked. The following day I created a third version incorporating those texts for Easter 7 and submitted them for consideration by publishers.
The general style is gospel and features piano, Cantor and choral arrangements of both refrain and later verses.
Tuesday 14 July – PSALM 86: O LORD, YOU ARE GOOD AND FORGIVING ..
I had composed this setting originally in 1996 but decided to revisit it following the publication of ‘Abbey Psalms & Canticles’ by USCCB. The melodic revisions were necessary to accommodate the new texts.
Tuesday 7 July – PSALM 65: SONG OF SPRINGTIME
I had composed this setting originally in 1996 but decided to revisit it following the publication of ‘Abbey Psalms & Canticles’ by USCCB. Over the years I had developed a more syncopated interpretation of the original piano accompaniment and this year I was able to include this in the printed version.
Tuesday 23 June – PSALM 89: FOREVER I WILL SING
I had composed this setting originally in 2017 but decided to revisit it following the publication of ‘Abbey Psalms & Canticles’ by USCCB.
Tuesday 16 June – PSALM 69: IN YOUR GREAT MERCY
I had originally composed this setting in 1996 and later revised it in 2002. With the recent publication of the ‘Abbey Psalms and Canticles’ by USCCB I needed to revisit it and use the new text. I took a gamble that when the revised Lectionary finally appears it will have a refrain which is drawn from the psalm itself. So I had to adapt the previously composed music for the whole setting.
Tuesday 9 June – CANTICLE OF DANIEL
I had become unhappy with my earlier unpublished setting of the Canticle of Daniel. The original version worked well enough for use during Sunday morning Prayer at the cathedral in Sheffield but I felt that the time for re-visiting this had arrived.
It appears in the ‘psalm slot’ for Trinity Sunday with a short refrain between the verses as you might expect. What is unusual is the inclusion of the phrase ‘praiseworthy and exalted above all for ever’ at the end of each one -line verse. I decided to set the verse to a brief psalm tone and then end the verse with a metrical setting of that phrase before returning to the refrain.