Johnson, Sebastian: Norwich Service
SATB and organ (with divisions)
The mystical, reflective aspects of the time-honoured Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are to the fore in Sebastian Johnson’s Norwich Service, winner of the 2022 Lord Mayor’s Composition Prize. Carefully resolved dissonance in a graceful, expressive polyphony coloured by whole-tone and chromatic elements is key to this new piece, praised by the judges for the clarity of its word-setting and suitability to the needs of a capable parish choir with minimal divisions. The music moves unhurriedly yet purposefully between well-plotted transitions of tempo, with clear points of tonal reference. Both Glorias proceed seamlessly from their preceding canticle, concluding in a luminous B major. Not merely supportive, the organ adds incandescence to the music, and dramatic impact in response to the promptings of the text. The work of a young composer already steeped in twentieth-century English choral music, yet adding his own voice to those of Howells, Leighton and other icons of the cathedral tradition, the Norwich Service is a compellingly fresh addition to the contemporary repertoire for the Anglican rite.
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