Among Angels is a new commission by the Genesis Foundation from composer Will Todd and writer Ben Dunwell. It was given its world premiere on 19 March 2006, the occasion of the 50th birthday of Genesis Founder and Chairman, John Studzinski in the Parish and Pilgrimage Church, St Wolfgang, near Salzburg. There was a further performances in London in June.
Will and Ben accepted this commission with alacrity because they were already interested in “angel sounds” and saw this as an opportunity for further exploration using multi-voiced textures.
From the start, the piece was to be performed by The Sixteen. Harry Christophers, founder and director of The Sixteen, became involved in conceptualizing the piece even before a note was written and he worked with Will and Ben as appropriate throughout the period of creation.
When asked about the meaning of the angels in this piece, Will Todd said, “It is about their encircling you, supporting you, and clothing you in strength; and for me the dreamlike quality of the textures are as if you are being gently carried by angels.”
Will Todd believes in angels, but not in a simplistic fashion. “It is about forces and messengers. It is also about people that undertake God’s work in various ways. And perhaps there are human beings walking on this earth that become angels for a period of time. A spirit descends upon them and they don’t even necessarily know they are, for the moment, conduits for good and for progress.”
“In this piece, I hesitate to talk about a choir of angels. I want people simply to focus on the sound of angels in flight. Angels are all about listening. You have to listen carefully to hear these things.”
“So the piece begins quietly and a lot of it is hushed. You have to strain to hear the peaceful, life-affirming, creative sounds of angels. When you lose focus, the sounds go away and you have to re-focus.”
“Angels are omnipresent. They are there to support, protect and inspire. If you can tap into the sound, then you will hear them – in everyday life, normally, we cannot hear them through the veil of noise that surrounds us.”
Among Angels is part of a suite of pieces written by Will Todd and Ben Dunwell about angels. It continues and develops the ideas from their work Angel Song. That was a response to a very specific event – thinking about Angel Song on Christmas night, about shepherds hearing the angel song and imagining what that would be like.
Among Angels is not specific, not clearly about one event such as the Incarnation or the Christmas story. It is more generalized. It’s a contemplation about the universal presence of angels in all our lives.