Viri Galilæi       Patrick Gowers


And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which said unto them, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? In like manner as ye have seen Him going up into heaven, so shall He come again.”

God is gone up with a merry noise and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Alleluia.

Christ to highest heaven ascending led captivity captive. Sing ye to the Lord, who ascended to the heaven of the heavens, to the sun rising.

See the conqueror mounts in triumph,

see the king in royal state. Alleluia.

Riding on the clouds His chariot,

to His heavenly portal gate. Alleluia.

Hark! The choirs of angel voices joyful alleluias sing.

God is gone up with a merry noise and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Alleluia.

And the portals high are lifted 

to receive their heavenly king. Alleluia.

Various – Proper for the Mass on Ascension Day

The first part of the text for this anthem is taken from the Proper for the Mass on Ascension Day. It combines verses from the Acts of the Apostles (1:10-11) with verse 5 of Psalm 47 and part of verse 8 from Chapter 4 of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The second stanza is a verse from a popular Victorian hymn by Bishop Christopher Wordsworth. Wordsworth was the youngest brother of the poet William Wordsworth. Amongst the appointments he held during his lifetime were those of Headmaster of Harrow, Archdeacon of Westminster and Bishop of Lincoln. This anthem, for organ duet and double choir, was commissioned for the consecration of the Rt Rev. Richard Harries as Bishop of Oxford in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1993. Organ part 1 is aleatoric, in the sense that it is improvised around loose guidelines provided by the composer. It is meant to create a glittering, bell-like effect, reminiscent of a Zimbelstern – a mechanical device found on some organs, particularly in Germany and Switzerland, which consists of a star-shaped device hung with small bells, like a child’s mobile, and external to the organ case, which rotates when turned on, creating both a visual and an aural effect. This colourful anthem, which is both reflective and explosive in turn, experiments with a range of different choral textures, and some of the chordal progressions and rhythmic patterns in the music betray the influence on Gowers of having worked in the field of jazz. As a modern, and somewhat difficult and experimental contribution to choral sacred repertoire, it very quickly became popular and has established itself as a piece which is firmly in the mainstream. The two figures in white apparel, mentioned in the text, are represented by a solo tenor and a solo bass. The piece was conceived through inspiration from Renaissance paintings of the Ascension, and the overall structure of the piece is meant to represent the lowering, opening, rising and closing of a cloud. As such the piece starts as if out of nowhere, builds up, dies away and concludes as it began. Much of the harmony is built around cluster chords (chords where the notes are spaced very closely together). The choir begins in 8 parts and builds into ten parts in the middle, reduces to four parts and eventually condenses down to a single unison note.

Patrick Gowers, born in London in 1936, is a composer who is not usually associated with sacred music, but with the modern media. He taught composition at Cambridge University (whilst completing his doctorate under the supervision of Patrick Hadley), wrote music for the Cambridge Footlights and was the assistant conductor of Bill Russo’s London Jazz Orchestra. In the mid-1960s, he was Musical Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Marat/Sade productions in the West End and in New York. In the 1970s he directed the electronic music studio at Dartington and played the keyboard for the New Swingle Singers. Gowers started writing for television later in that decade, and he won the BAFTA original music award in 1982 for his scores for Smiley’s People, The Woman in White and I Remember Nelson. Other credits for film or television scores are for a number of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, Forever Green, The Boy Who Turned Yellow and Anna Karenina. He also wrote a guitar concerto for John Williams. As an academic he is known for his research and writings on the French composer Erik Satie.