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McCarthy, James: Peaceful was the Night (PRINTED VERSION)


SATB unaccompanied (with divisions)

As well as traditional genres, Richard Bullen’s music embraces several contemporary ones including video and electronics, and shows a keen interest in location both in its formal possibilities and in its genius loci – its spirit of place. A five-minute stand-alone piece for SATB chorus, The Seven Arches was written for a site-specific project at the Dartington International Summer School: an invocation of the rich cultural and mythic past of the celebrated gardens. In poet Steve Willey’s multi-layered text the remaining seven arches of the medieval courtyard become metaphors for this continuing presence. Bold arched melodies springing from resilient, purposeful chords likewise animate the music, a sonic tableau of the sites / sights and sounds of history. Click video tab for the premiere performance conducted by David Lardi with the Finchley Chamber Choir, and view the full text as presented in Willey’s intriguing original visual conception of his poem about Dartington Hall.

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James McCarthy’s Peaceful was the Night was also a commission, this time by Sonero. It’s a brave man who thinks he can enhance Milton’s words, but McCarthy succeeds by doing just enough with his sensitive setting. Beginning and end are largely homophonic, the harmonies expanding and contracting with stepwise melodic motion. This contrasts with a middle section in which energetic altos propel the music forwards. Although this is clearly relevant to Christmas, it would not be inappropriate to sing this at other times of the year.

Choir & Organ

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