Oratorio


The Mysteries of Joy

The Mysteries of Joy is an oratorio with the subtitle Scenes from the early life of Christ. It is in five scenes:

 

I    The Annunciation - the angel Gabriel tells Mary she is to bear the Messiah.

II   The Visitation - Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is carrying John the Baptist in her womb.

III The Nativity - angels, shepherds and wise men celebrate the birth of Jesus.

IV  The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple - old Simeon salutes the young Jesus

V    The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple - Mary and Joseph find their son talking with the elders

 

The libretto of the oratorio is by Christopher Loveless, and was originally conceived as part one of a larger work based on the Rosary. It was first performed in 2010.

 

The work is scored for SATB chorus, six soloists (two sopranos, contralto, tenor, baritone and boy treble), and a chamber ensemble consisting of piano, violin, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet and timpani.

Excerpts from The Mysteries of Joy, recorded live in July 2012 (complete with authentic coughing from audience):

Speak, Mary, speak

The journey to Bethlehem

Instrumental interlude

 

Speak, Mary, speak; the depths below

    groan for release.

Speak, Mary, for the sea restrains its waves,

    hoping for peace.

The winds are silent, birds forget to sing,

    waiting your word.

all human hearts and each created thing

    long for the Lord.

Adam and Eve and all their progeny

    languish in death.

And every age of human history

    hangs on your breath.

Speak, Mary, speak.




No Sadness of Farewell

No Sadness of Farewell is a 'memorial sequence' for chorus, soprano and tenor soli and orchestra.

 

Its text is taken partly from scriptural and liturgical sources, and partly from English poets (Tennyson and Stevenson). It serves some of the same functions as a Requiem in that it is a meditation on living, dying and what may come after.

 

The title is taken from the first movement of the work, a setting of Tennyson's Crossing the Bar:

 

And let there be no sadness of farewell

When I depart.

 

There isn't a recording of this yet, but here is a computer-generated version of the opening of Crossing the Bar to give a flavour of it.

The photo on the cover of the score (pictured) is of Salcombe harbour (photo by Jane Dalgliesh). The bar referred to in Tennyson's poem is a ridge of sand below the surface of the water that stretches across the entrance to this harbour. In certain conditions of wind and tide it can be quite dangerous, and will also emit a sound: this is the 'moaning of the bar' to which Tennyson refers.

 

The trumpet melody in the excerpt below is based on a hymn tune, St Catherine's Court, which is sung to the hymn 'In our day of thanksgiving'. This hymn was sung at my father's funeral in 2005, and this setting of Crossing the Bar is dedicated to his memory.