The productive partnership between The Sixteen and the Genesis Foundation continued in May 2011 with the release of a CD of six new choral works from three of Britain’s most exciting contemporary composers: Ruth Byrchmore, Tarik O’Regan and Roderick Williams.
Ruth Byrchmore’s setting of The Dark Night opens with a dramatic organ prelude, its mood suggestive of fiery inner conflict, and composed with the magnificent sound of the Westminster Cathedral organ in mind. Over a steady bass line which preserves, the composer says, ‘a feeling of stasis’, the sopranos launch sublimely with a lithe rising pattern which the organ decorates with short flutters, like piquant arabesques, engendering ‘a kind of dance between the voices and accompaniment.’ Below, lower voices introduce a recurrent falling semiquaver motif, soon taken up by all: this creates a jostling, excitable forward momentum, resumed more calmly, even hypnotisingly, after a forceful organ interlude.
At ‘O guiding night’ comes a magical change: the choir embarks on a seraphic chorale, until the accompaniment, now becalmed, lures the voices into an exquisite, lilting canon. The organ terrifyingly harks back to the start, and initiates a massive declamatory passage for the choir (‘I abandoned and forgot myself ’).
Finally the choir’s gorgeous opening music returns: a hint, as the composer remarks, that ‘this may be not the end, but rather the beginning of a recurring cycle that goes on forever.’
To learn more about this project, please visit The Sixteen’s partner page.
To listen to an excerpt from The Dark Night, please visit the Audio page.