11:45am, Sunday 12 May 2019
St Pancras Parish Church, NW1 2BA

Léon Charles performs a new O Antiphon Sequence by Cecilia McDowall and excerpts from The Everlasting Crown by Judith Bingham.

Programme Notes

O Antiphon Sequence
Cecilia McDowall

Each of these seven O Antiphons is structured on one of the seven notes of the diatonic scale in a ‘circle of fifths’ formation. Each movement is a response to a short extract of the O Antiphon text.

In O Sapienta I have taken the phrase, ‘… ordering all things mightily and sweetly’; this antiphon moves steadily onwards, alternating between dolce melodies and more robust passages. I have based O Adonai on ‘… in the flame of the burning bush’. Lively, flickering and capricious, in contrast with the previous movement. Thoughtful and meditative, O Radix Jesse draws on the text, ‘… to you the Nations will make their prayer’. The continuum of the offbeat pedal D is set against falling and rising expressive chromatic phrases. The words, ‘… You open and none may close’ ushers in a bright, open and uplifting toccata, O Clavis David. O Oriens is allied to my a cappella choral setting of this antiphon. In the luminous key of E Major, the block, sometimes dissonant, chords progress to a forte climax, then the texture pulls back to a more thoughtful conclusion; ‘… come and enlighten those that dwell in darkness’. Rooted and firm, O Rex Gentium ‘… the cornerstone making both one’, moves at a steady pace, overlaid with a highly decorated melodic line. I have used another plainchant, O come, O come, Emmanuel, in this final O Antiphon and bound the beautiful ancient melody to the text, ‘… come to save us, O Lord God’. The opening motif, based on the opening notes of the hymn, makes a repeated appearance throughout this movement. Below this, the re-harmonised chords of the hymn advance, haltingly at times. The short motif concludes the Sequence, suspended in mid-air.

O Antiphon Sequence was commissioned and generously funded by the American Guild of Organists for the 2018 AGO National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

Programme note by the composer