Plain Chants

Listen to preview (or download) on iTunes

Buy the Mapping Wales, Plain Chants, Cello Symphony CD

Length / year

13' - 2001


SATB a cappella with sop./mezzo soli

Performance history

World Premiere
Eglise Saint-Leon de Westmount Montreal
23rd April 2001
Cardiff Ardwyn Singers
Helena Braithwaite - cond.
(Recorded for subsequent broadcast by CBC)

European Premiere
St. Sofia's Church, Sofia, Bulgaria
15th May 2001
Vivian Choir
(Recorded for subsequent broadcast by Bulgarian National Radio)

UK Premiere
Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff
9th June 2001
Cardiff Ardwyn Singers
Helena Braithwaite - cond.

London Premiere
St Saviour's Church, Pimlico, London
24th March 2007
Morley College Choir
Robert Hanson - cond.

Programme note

I first had the idea for this extended choral piece in January of 2001. The decision to use only fragments of biblical text in Latin released me from the normal concerns in setting text, including many decisions on the balance between melismatic and syllabic setting. The work flowed easily and was swiftly completed. 2001 was, of course, the first year of the new millennium and the title relects the influence in the piece of plainsong, both in its simple step-wise singing and in the short, unadorned phrases which introduce each section.

The material is minimal, not only in the use of words but also musically, hence the separation of the words in the title. There is much play around and within the interval of the third and a contrasting harmonic scheme which is expanded in a ethereal ending. The three sections of the work - Benedictus, Agnus Dei and Hosanna - are designed to be sung without a break but may also be performed as individual pieces.

'Plain Chants' was commissioned by the Ardwyn Singers with funds made available by the Arts Council of Wales and Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music, for a world premiere in Montreal as part of the choir's 2001 North American Tour and a UK premiere in Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff.