This collection of pieces was written to conclude a concert in June 2015 entitled ‘Teachers and Pupils’, which presented music by composers who had a direct link, either as teacher or pupil, to other composers in the concert.
John Moseley, Chairman of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Concerts Society, provided the following explanation in the programme for the concert:-
‘Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), as well as being a distinguished composer, was a teacher of enormous influence. Among his pupils were Farrar, Holst, Howells, Ireland and Vaughan Williams whose music is being heard tonight. His favourite though, was Herbert Howells (1892-1983) whose choral and organ music is a staple of churches and cathedrals around the world. I was one of Howells’ last pupils at the Royal College of Music and when I was appointed Director of Music at St Edward’s College, the cathedral choir school, I encouraged the pupils to compose. Step-in Michael Stubbs. Now that he is also teaching, he is doing the same. Such continuity over 150 years is both gratifying and intriguing.’
The programme notes about the music from the 2015 concert, provided by John Moseley and Mike Stubbs, were as follows:-
It was a mutual decision, some months back, to write a joint piece to conclude this concert. Gradually a scheme evolved, based largely on the different spaces within this cathedral, in which a series of short pieces would constitute a coherent whole but whose individual parts could be detached for use on other occasions. Individual movements will sound very different from each other but all are based on a very few short motifs.
Introduction – John Moseley
Choir, Children’s Choir and Organ
This is an invitation, largely boldly stated, but with some contemplative moments, to enter God’s house with confidence.
Tantum Ergo – Mike Stubbs Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Sopranos and Altos
The hymn ‘Tantum Ergo’ is actually the last two verses of ‘Pange Lingua’, a Medieval hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas. It is traditionally sung during veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. The setting here is for unaccompanied upper voices. The first, more reverential, verse is set simply and quietly for two parts. This then blooms out into four parts for the second verse, giving glory and praise to God.
Today, Tonight and Forever – Mike Stubbs St Columba Chapel
Choir and Organ
This piece is based on two texts reputed to be written by the 6th Century Irish monk and founder of the Christian community on Iona, Saint Colmcille (or St Columba, as he is more commonly known). It reflects the practice, common in western Scotland for many centuries – and still found today – of ornamenting melodies being sung with trills and turns, and of singing heterophonically, where the same melody is sung simultaneously with slight variations of rhythm, tempo, or ornament. It was also written with the contrast of using ancient words in a modern setting, hence the use of note clusters and non-diatonic melodies in both the choral and organ parts.
Ave Maria – Mike Stubbs Lady Chapel
At the end of choral vespers each Sunday at the Cathedral, the choir processes over to the Lady Chapel to sing a hymn to Mary. This is generally sung unaccompanied, and hence the setting here is also of a similar nature. The music reflects my love of music of the 13th and 14th Century – the ‘Ars Nova’ style – and also the church music of the late 20th and early 21st Century composers such as James MacMillan and Arvo Part.
A strident opening gives way to a more lyrical section with sopranos and basses singing in parallel to a dance-like accompaniment from the altos and tenors. This finishes with the hushed proclamation of the name of Jesus. The second half of the motet echoes the first, but this time with a more urgent note (and stringent harmonies) as we implore Mary to ‘pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death’.
Joseph – John Moseley St Joseph’s Chapel
Tenors and Basses
For such an important figure, we know very little about St. Joseph. He must have been a remarkable man. Compared with Mary, there is very little written about him. In this piece the singers intone the narrative, sometimes dividing into four parts, acting as both the narrator and Joseph himself.
Remembrance – John Moseley Chapel of Remembrance
Choir and Organ
The title implies something quiet and reflective and there are such moments as the piece progresses, but there is also a sense of urgency, even of anxiety, particularly at the end which is questioning and even inconclusive. Most pieces end with a definite conclusion but memories, remembrances cannot always be resolved.
Lantern – Mike Stubbs
This piece was inspired by the Cathedral Lantern – the largest stained glass window in Europe. Just as the window goes through all the colours of the spectrum, so this organ piece explores the different tonal colours of the instrument, starting with the flutes, moving through the reeds, foundation stops and strings, and ending up back at the flutes. It also matches the abstract nature of the window. The piece is in three sections, each exploring the light at a different time of day. The initial playful light of the early morning is soon replaced by the fiery midday sun. This in turn gives way to the warmth of a bright afternoon, reaching a climax before dying away, with the music disappearing back up into the heavens from where it initially came.
Jesus Welcomes the Children – Mike Stubbs Children’s Chapel
Children’s Choir and Organ
The text is taken from two places in Matthew’s Gospel, and includes his version of the encounter in Mark’s Gospel which appears on the wall of the Children’s Chapel.
After a brief introduction, the piece settles into a simple verse and chorus structure. The verses have a lilting melody, while the chorus is more expansive. The organ accompaniment is based on a couple of motifs taken from Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A (BWV536) which I played as a voluntary after the service of dedication for the sculpture in the Children’s Chapel.
Baptism – John Moseley Baptistry
Cantata Choir and Children’s Choir (unaccompanied)
A lyrical setting of the words, particularly for the sopranos. The choral texture contrasts unison passages with phrases in five parts until, at the end, the children, welcomed in the previous piece, sing.
Worthy Is The Lamb – Mike Stubbs Conclusion
Choir, Children’s Choir and Organ
This text is taken from the Entrance Antiphon for the Feast of Christ the King. The organ opens with a series of fanfares and flourishes. The fanfares are then taken up by the choir, while the organ continues to provide the flourishes to counter the choral proclamation. The initial statement is then reiterated by the Children’s Choir along with the tenor section of the Cantata Choir to the accompaniment of both organ and choral fanfares, before this leads into a short burst of canonic writing designed to wash around the reverberant acoustic of the Cathedral building. The piece concludes with a reiteration of the fanfares and flourishes.