Tenebrae Responsories




45 minutes


  • Choral Music


SSATBB a cappella

"I have conceived these motets more as a musical offering than as a sequence designed for liturgical use, though this would be possible. My interest has been to create a cycle of motets with a common theme, divided into three parts. In performance of the whole sequence, longer breaks might separate each group of six motets, rather as if they were symphonic movements. It has been my intention to create cohesion throughout by the use of recurring thematic and textural material, and there is a strong extrovert interpretation of the most dramatic texts. My intention in making these settings is similar to that which inspired my oratorio Christus Requiem – to create from the tragic story of Easter an inspired mood for the contemplation of what is called the Pascal Mystery, and hopefully an uplifting experience for sympathetic listeners of any creed.

The choir is separated at most into six parts, sopranos and basses being divided for many of the motets in the first and third ‘movements’; the music for Good Friday is in four parts. The motets may be performed separately or in smaller groups.

I discussed the possibility of a complete setting of the Responses many years ago with Edmund Rubbra, who guided my studies and was a valuable mentor for a long time afterwards. He advocated writing out and even recomposing much late 16th century polyphonic work as a means of improving contrapuntal craftsmanship and insight, and thus I came to know the settings of Gesualdo and Victoria. At that time and with him I formed the concept of a ‘symphonic’ adhesion for the cycle, yet it was only during 2009 that something moved me to fulfil this intention.  The Tenebræ Responses were completed in February 2010."