Notes: The Three Motets are a cappella settings of three short poems (see below) by Welsh physician, translator, and poet, Henry Vaughan. Vaughan's poetry is sacred in nature and heavily influenced by the Anglican poet, George Herbert. Vaughan was studying law at Oxford when the English Civil War broke out. A royalist, Vaughan returned to the much less tumultuous Welsh countryside where he lived out his quiet and contemplative life.
The Motets may be performed separately if desired (see entries on the individual works elsewhere on this site) or together as follows: The Eclipse, The Revival, and Peace.
The composer views this poetry as representative of 1) The Passion 2) Easter 3) Heaven.
The Motets were composed between 1999 and 2001 and were grouped together by the composer upon completion of Peace in early 2001.
All of the performances that follow are from My Soul, There Is a Country, by the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers, Dr. Leonard Ratzlaff, conductor. This recording was made shortly after the first performance of the work by this award-winning Canadian university choir. This CD is available thru the CMC. See also the separate entries on each of the three pieces below.
Voicing: SATB unaccompanied
Text: Henry Vaughan (1662-1695)
Neal W. Woodruff provided this substantial review of the Three Motets in the May, 2007 issue of The Choral Journal:
"Award-winning Canadian composer Allan Bevan has set a marvelous triptych of texts by the seventeenth-century metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan. Texts of the first two motets are chosen from Vaughan's late publication, Thalia Redivivam, 1678 (revival of the muse of comic poetry), while the final text is culled from his most well-known collection entitled Silex Scintillans, 1650 (Flashing Flint). Specifically, the title of the 1650 work represents the "stony heart against which Divine flint strikes and produces fire." The fervor reflected in the poetry was stirred into flame during the various outbreaks of religious dissent and war in England.
"The Eclipse" begins with lower voices in a divided quasi-cantus firmus pattern. The imitative upper voices share an oblique four-note motive, eventually passing to all voices. The texture changes mid-rhyme, utilizing duetting, duet fragments passed among multiple voices, and imitation. The imitation becomes pervasive at the outset of the closing rhyme, returning finally to the oblique motion and treble-dominant texture. Range, tessitura, and rhythms are generally accessible, although basses are asked for a low C and an optional B below low C.
"The Revival" divides naturally into three sections. The opening third follows a pattern of treble-voice melodies adding male voices only at the cadences. Bevan then spends almost the entire second section on two lines of text, tossing the eighth-note melody back and forth in duets and trios, finally cadencing with soprano voices in imitation. The final section returns to the opening of the first movement an upper voice imitative trio with an underlay of lower voices moving in slower, cantus firmus-like fashion.
The final movement of the set, "Peace," was published prior to the first two movements, and was selected as the 2002 winner of the Ruth Watson Henderson award. One of the unifying characteristics of the set is its use of duetting, and that feature is certainly emblematic in Peace, as well as the use of text painting and imitation in upper and lower voice pairs and trios, a hint of the opening oblique motion, and a hint of the treble-dominant texture.
This set succeeds in its collaboration of strong sacred texts, motet-like features, and contemporary harmonies. Intonation within the relaxed tempos of each piece will require work. These will be of interest separately or as a set to mature high school and college choirs. The web site [classica Music Publishers] offers a discounted pricing for the set, and offers sound clips of the first and final movements".