And I saw a new Heaven       Edgar Bainton 

And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth:

For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away;

And there was no more sea.

And I, John, saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem,

coming down from God out of heaven,

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying;

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,

and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people,

and God Himself shall be with them and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;

And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying,

Neither shall there be any more pain,

for the former things are passed away.

Revelations, Ch 21, vv 1-4

This wonderful miniature, a staple of Anglican choral repertoire, has endured as the only known sacred piece which Bainton wrote for choir. The word setting is sublime, and the ebb and flow of the music as it rises and falls harmonically and melodically, make for a sequence of separate musical climaxes through the text, each slightly more intense than the last. Bainton uses the choir as a four-part texture throughout, with subtle imitation evident between the parts, but always within the texture, save for the line ‘And God shall wipe away all tears’ which, on both occasions, he gives most prominently to the tenors. The choir is supported discreetly by the organ and, harmonically, Bainton resists the temptation to colour his music with the type of modality found in folksong or Tudor music, like many of his peers. Instead, he indulges, within the confines of a perfect miniature framework, a deep understanding of late romantic harmony, such as is found in the music of composers like Brahms or Wagner on a vast and much more extended scale. 

A pupil of Stanford at the RCM, Edgar Bainton was a native of Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he taught and was highly regarded as an organ virtuoso. At the outbreak of World War I, he happened to be travelling on holiday, in Germany, with his friend and contemporary Australian composer, Arthur Benjamin. The two men were detained and interned in a prisoner of war camp in Ruhleben, just west of Berlin. Conditions were very bleak and Bainton was held there throughout the war, returning to Newcastle in 1918 and in poor health. He gradually recovered and resumed his career as a musician, eventually becoming Director of the Newcastle Conservatoire. In 1933 he left England for Australia and lived there for the rest of his days as Musical Director of the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney. The University of Durham awarded him an honorary degree for his services to music in the north east of England, and he was also elected as a Fellow of the RCM. Although largely overlooked as a composer in England, he did have some success with chamber music and operas in Australia, notably operettas for children to perform.