This page contains programme notes for various of my works. Similar notes for other works are available on request: please e-mail me at
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The Adoration of the Lamb
Much has been written concerning the advent of the new millennium. We cannot know what it will bring us, but it may serve as a point of reflection on the theme of eternity. For this reason, and in order to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, I have chosen to set passages from the Book of Revelation dealing with the eternal. Interspersed with these is the Trisagion, a prayer for mercy frequently used in the services of the Orthodox Church.
The Adoration of the Lamb was written for The Tallis Scholars, and was first performed by them, conducted by Peter Phillips, as part of the Dorset Summer Music Series, on 28th July, 2000.
Estoril, November 1999
Canticum Canticorum I
Canticum Canticorum I was written in 1985 and first performed by the Hilliard Ensemble in Vienna in 1987. It sets three brief texts from the Song of Songs in Latin. Though the Byzantine world is suggested by the drones of the third of the set, no actual chant is quoted, all three being free responses to the imagery of the poems.
Estoril, January, 1998
The four poems in this cycle are all jarchas, - a four-line verse in Mozarabic or popular Arabic which concludes a muwassaha, a more sophisticated form of Hebrew and Arabic poem. Linguistically the jarchas are important because they are the first-known lyrics in proto-Spanish, dating from the 10th century onwards. As poetry their power was well explained by Gerald Brenan in his book The Literature of the Spanish people:
"According to the thirteenth-century Egyptian poet, Ibn Sana al-Mulk, who composed an anthology of Spanish-Arabic muwassahas, the jarcha is a popular verse, written either in Arabic or Romance, but always in the idiom of the lowest dregs of the populace, and aiming at a searing, penetrating cri de coeur effect which shall deeply stir and move the hearer. That is to say not unlike the effect produced by those brief, three-lined poems, the soleares, that are sung in cante jondo Andalusia today."
The music, which was begun in Portugal and finished in Morocco between 1992 and 1993, attempts in some measure to parallel the apparent contradiction between the simplicity of the poems' vocabulary and the intensity of their effect.
Cantos Mozárabes are dedicated to Gregory Rose and Singcircle.
Estoril, 27th March, 1995
Cantos Mozárabes II
Soprano & Harpsichord
I had already worked with Mozarabic love lyrics (jarchas) in my cycle Cantos Mozárabes, written in 1993 for four voices. This second cycle continues my interest in these texts which, in spite of their astonishing simplicity, achieve a remarkable poetic intensity. Here I have chosen to explore the possibilities of a solo voice with accompaniment, the harpsichord perhaps providing a refracted memory of the flamenco guitar as used in the modern equivalent of the muwassaha, the solea.
Cantos Mozárabes II were written for Julia Gooding and Sophie Yates, and first performed by them at the Mafra International Festival in.October 1999.
Endechas y Canciones
The cycle Endechas y Canciones was written for the Hilliard Ensemble between August 1994 and January 1996, and is a sequel to my earlier cycle Cantos Mozárabes, which sets Arabic-Spanish poetry. The first song of the cycle, "No pueden dormir mis ojos", was also the first to be written, while I was composer-in-residence at the 1994 Hilliard Summer Festival, during which it was first performed. To this love song I added two more; all three of them are laments in the characteristically stylized verse of the Iberian Peninsula of the 15th and 16th centuries, whose ritualized structures, rhyme schemes and symbolic imagery have frequently suggested music to me. The second song, "Endechas a la muerte de Guillén Peraza", is a lament for the dead (or dirge) from the Canary Islands. Its remarkable imagery extends even further the interpenetration of the physical and metaphysical worlds present in the first song.
Lisbon, March 1996
Concerto for Violoncello and String Orchestra
Epitaphios was written during the course of 1993, in various European cities: Lisbon (Portugal), Tampere (Finland), and San Sebastián (Spain). At the heart of the piece is the reek Byzantine chant for Holy and Great Friday, "Simeron kematai epi xilou o en idasi tin ghin kremasas" which appears played virtually unadorned by the solo 'cello after an extensive but meditative introduction. The piece has a close connection with my work Passion & Resurrection, first performed in Tampere, and in which this chant appears sung by the bass soloist. The solo 'cello here could be seen as representing the voice of Christ. The introduction is recapitulated at the end of the work, but with a sense of transfiguration, since the opening of the chant "Christos anesti", "Christ is risen", appears after a musical representation of the harrowing of Hell.
Epitaphios is dedicated to Raphael Wallfisch and was commissioned by him with funds provided by the Arts Council of England. It was first performed by Raphael Wallfisch and La Camerata at the Megaron Mousikis, Athens, on 21st May 1995.
Viol consort (Tr, Tr, T, B)
In Nomine was written in February 1996 as a birthday present for Fretwork on their 10th anniversary. It relates somewhat obliquely to the English In nomine tradition in that it is not built upon the chant of that name as set by John Taverner in his Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas. Instead, I have taken a Russian Znamenny chant for the same words (In Slavonic: Blagosloven grady vo imya Gospodne. Osana v vyshnikh) from the Orthodox Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. More specifically, the piece relates to these words as sung on Palm Sunday, when the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on a donkey symbolizes the passing from darkness into light, and initiates the events leading to His Passion and Resurrection.
The first performance of In Nomine was given by Fretwork in Prokopio, Evia, Greece, on 31st August 1996.
Lament for Christ
SSAATTBB + Solo S, B
Lament for Christ sets an extended Greek poem dating probably from the early 15th century. In imagery it suggests the "Lamentations" sung on Holy Friday in the Orthodox Church, combining the lamentation of the Theotókos, the Mother of God, over her Son with prescience of the Resurrection - "Rise, Compassionate One, and raise us from the pit of Hades." The message is uncompromising, and made more so by the dramatic contrasts of images, which take us straight to the scene of the Crucifixion. The poem ends with the arrival of the myrrh-bearing women at the empty tomb and a prayer for peace and salvation. Lament for Christ was written on the windswept, sunlit island of Angistri, near Aegina, while on honeymoon, and is dedicated to my wife, Susana.
Estoril, January, 2001
Lamentations of the Myrrhbearer
String Quartet No. 1
Lamentations of the Myrrhbearer has as its starting point a work I wrote last year for the Norwegian group Trio Mediaeval, The Troparion of Kassianí, setting a liturgical poem sung at Matins of Wednesday in Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. The poem was written by the 9th century nun and hymnographer Kassia; in it she speaks in the voice of the woman who anointed the feet of Christ before His passion and burial, whom later tradition identified with Mary Magdalene. The poem traces the journey of the soul away from sin through repentance to salvation. Though it is intensely personal, it is yet universal – it has been said by the scholar HJW Tillyard that here "the need of one sinner is absorbed into the cry of a whole suffering world." Thus, though I did not employ it throughout, the music takes its cue from the Byzantine chant melody for this text in current Greek Orthodox usage, in this way constantly alternating between the personal and the universal.
In Lamentations of the Myrrhbearer I have attempted to portray the spiritual journey of which Kassia speaks. Thus, the entire setting of The Troparion of Kassianí is quoted during the course of the work, but in a fragmented fashion, glimpsed, as it were, through the "dark and moonless" night of sin. The previous life of the woman, recollected, so to speak, during the course of her journey, is symbolized by references to folk music from the Greek island of Karpathos, and the moment of conversion by the Greek chant Devte lavete to phos, "Come, and receive the light", which opens the service of the Anastasis, or Resurrection of Christ.
The first performance of Lamentations of the Myyrhbearer was given by soloists from the Gulbenkian Orchestra at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, on 10 December 2001.
Solo soprano and chamber orchestra
I first came across these ancient Lithuanian folk poems, translated into English by Arthur Paterson, in an article by Martin Lings which I read in 1986, and set them to music very soon afterwards. Lings points out, following the ideas of Guénon, that the apparently simple texts of these poems are a way of conveying, in more or less veiled form, an esoteric meaning. That is to say, they are symbolic of a spiritual message.
In these symbolic terms, all four of these songs speak of the loss of the Edenic state, the moment when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden. The mystic primordial marriage of the Sun and the Moon is broken, and the "day of singing" has yet to arrive. Nevertheless, the Alleluias of the Resurrection - which in the iconography of the Orthodox Church is represented by Christ pulling Adam and Eve out of Hell, whose locks lie shattered on the ground - may already be glimpsed in the third song. Of the last poem Lings asks: "Would it be an exaggeration to say that the fourth and last of those given here is one of the greatest lyrics in the world? And through it, do we not breathe some of the fresh air of a remote antiquity?" For it is with this poem that we are returned to the state of spiritual perfection, Man in harmony with God and Creation, before he was cast out of Paradise.
Lithuanian Songs is dedicated to the memory of Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986), who also knew the value of symbols of the sacred.
Lisbon, Holy and Great Thursday, 23rd April, 1992
Flute (movts. I & III)
Clarinet in B flat (movt. I)
2 Horns in F (Movts. III & IV)
1st & 2nd Violins
Ideally the Strings should comprise a minimum of six 1st violins, six 2nd violins, eight Violas, four Cellos, and two Double Basses. Of course, more may be used if available.
Duration = c. 30 minutes
A Carol for Christmas
This carol makes use of three complementary texts: the kontakion for the Nativity of the Orthodox Church, the children's carol Away in a Manger and the refrain "God is with us" from the Canticle of Isaiah sung at Orthodox Great Compline on Christmas Eve. The text of the kontakion expresses awe at the mystery of the Incarnation of the God of the Universe in the form of a helpless baby; and while the refrain "God is with us" reflects upon that awe, the carol Away in a Manger views the birth of Christ through a child's eyes. The Manger is dedicated to my children, Sebastian and Sofia.
The Manger was first performed by the English Chamber Choir, conducted by Guy Protheroe, in London on 19 December 2000.
The Meeting in the Garden
The Meeting in the Garden might be described as a sacred drama. Its text, from the Gospel of St John, concerns the moment when Mary the Mother of God realizes that the body of her Son is no longer lying in the tomb and the tremendous subsequent moment of recognition when she meets the Risen Lord face to face. Intercalated with the Gospel narrative is the opening hymn, sung to the appropriate chant, from the Office of the Resurrection as celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church, which is chanted as the Paschal light is distributed to the faithful.
The Meeting in the Garden was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the Grupo Vocal Olissipo.
Estoril, October, 1998
Flute & Piano
The title of this work is a Greek word meaning annointing oil, or myrrh. St John of Damascus, in his Homily on Great Saturday, writes that Christ is, as well as the Annointed One (the name Christ means "annointed"), also the annointing oil or myrrh itself, the "myrrh that is poured forth unto our restoration" (to kenothen myron eis imon anakainisin)). It is upon this idea that the music meditates, not only quoting two chants from the Orthodox Church ("Come ye and receive light, from the Unwaning Light", sung at the beginning of Matins of the Resurrection, and the Paschal hymn "Christ is risen from the dead"), but also employing heterophonic writing, at various points during the work, as a musical symbol for the pouring forth of streams of myrrh.
Myron is dedicated to João Pereira Coutinho.
Estoril, Saturday after the Exaltation of the Cross, 16th September, 2000
Viola and Marimba
This work was commissioned by André Cameron in memory of his sister, Toni. The Greek word penthos means "mourning". Mourning is something necessary, an indespensable element in the human condition, which may even imply frustration and rage. In the Orthodox Christian tradition, the texts of the funeral rites insist on the reality of the recpetion of the soul of the departed by God, the return to Paradise, whose memory has been all but lost on earth. The musical trajectory of Penthos is precisely a reflection on the return to Paradise, our true homeland, gradually leaving behind worldly concerns. Near the end, I quote the music of the kontakion for the dead, as sung in the Russian Orthodox Church: "With Thy Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Thy servant, where there is no pain, nor sorrowing, nor sighing, but life eternal."
Penthos was first performed by André Cameron (viola) and Pedro Carneiro (marimba) at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, on 9th May, 2000
Treble recorder and strings
"The spirit blows where it wishes; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it is going." (John 3.8)
This work may be considered as a meditation on the Holy Spirit ("Pnevma" is the Greek for "Spirit"), symbolized by the "spirit" of the solo recorder. Two Greek Byzantine chants are quoted during the piece: the megalynárion (hymn to the Mother of God) for Pentecost, in modally altered form, and the tropárion (hymn) for Theophany, quoted in fragment near the end.
Pnevma is dedicated to António José Carrilho, Vasco Azevedo and the Lisbon Sinfonietta, who gave the first performance of the work at the Mafra International Festival of Music in September, 1998.
Estoril, September, 1998
Polyeleos is a name used principally to refer to Psalms 134 and 135, which make up the third appointed reading from the Psalter at Matins on Great Feasts, as well as certain Sundays (or even, according to some uses, every Sunday), in the Orthodox Church. The name "polyeleos" means "much mercy", and arises from the frequent repetition of the word "mercy" in Psalm 135. These texts, insisting as they do on the eternal compassion of the Lord and striking simultaneously a note of praise, seem to me a suitable way to welcome the new Millennium. The music is derived from a Russian znamenny chant, clearly audible in the opening phrase of the piece.
Polyeleos was commissioned by Royal Holloway Chapel Choir, of which I had the pleasure and privilege of being a member from 1982-85. It is dedicated to the choir and to its conductor, Dr Lionel Pike, who gave the work’s first performance in the chapel of Royal Holloway on 11th June, 2000.
Estoril, 17th November, 1999
St Gregory the Wonderworker
The Prophecy of Symeon
The Prophecy of Symeon is an attempt to "visualize" musically the prohetic words of Symeon at the presentation of Christ in the temple. I chose two texts from the Gospels (of St John and St Luke). The first describes the vision of Symeon, in which he understands the divinity of Christ and foresees not onlt great events in the House of Israel, but the sword which will pierce the soul of Mary, the Mother of God. With the second text, we jump forward, to the moment of the Crucifixion: the sword has already pierced the soul of the Virgin. Between these texts, I have used the opening of the megalynarion of Theophany, from the Greek Orthodox liturgy, as a refrain.
This work was commissioned by Oporto European Capital of Culture 2001, and is dedicated to the Grupo Vocal Olisipo, faithful and unequalled performers of my music. The world première was given at the Claustro de São Bento, Oporto, on 14th October 2001.
Estoril, October 2001
Narrator, male choir, chamber organ, two trombones, two viols
Introduction for BBC radio broadcast
The Greek word Apokálypsis means "Revelation", and it is because the word "Apocalypse" in English nowadays tends to suggest only images of destruction that I have preferred to call this work Revelation. Apocalypses, both Christian and pre-Christian, were works written by visionaries, conveying a prophetic or ethical message in highly rich, symbolic language. Though the very nature of an Apocalypse demands a sudden, catastrophic change in order to modify an existing situation in which evil is predominant (and here a parallel may be drawn with the catharsis of ancient Greek tragedy), such change is the precursor of a new and glorious age, and the final message is consolatory and full of hope.
It is this positive, even joyful, aspect of Revelation which I have endeavoured to emphasize: Orthodox Christianity says that we cannot know what will happen after death, and similarly we cannot know what will occur at the end of time. The Revelation of St John is a mystical experience, highly personal and charged with the symbolism of his time, and was consequently not easily accepted into the Biblical canon; it would be unwise to take his every word literally. What resounds through the Book of Revelation, however, is the message of hope: "Surely I come quickly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus". I have emphasized this message by prefacing the score with a poem entitled "Mirrors" by the Greek poet Yiannis Ifantis, to whom the work is dedicated:
In most men you see
yourself "as in a glass darkly." Almost always
before you, narrow windows, cracked or blurred, stand
or pass. And I think that the presence of God
or, as they say, the Day Of Judgement, shall be
than a clear, large mirror where you shall see yourself
from head to toe, and rejoice
in the essence of your presence with crystal clarity.
That clear, large mirror will, one must suppose, show the negative as well as the positive - hence the prayers for mercy which I have incorporated into the text from Matins of Sunday of the Last Judgement, celebrated in the Orthodox Church two weeks before the beginning of Great Lent.
Structurally, Revelation is divided into four parts. The first is "Proclamation of the Revelation", using words from the beginning of the Book of Revelation describing in symbolic terms the majesty of the Lord, the Alpha and the Omega. The second part, which begins with words from Matins of the Last Judgement, is called "The Battle - War in Heaven", a battle which is described by the Narrator, using the awe-inspiring imagery of St John, and by the instrumental group (more specifically the organ). "The Victory", Part Three, is similarly conveyed by the Narrator and the instruments, which engage in a series of dialogues using musical material from Part Two, culminating in a heterophonic section which brings all the instruments together only at the end. The fourth part, "Epilogue", recalls the music of the opening of the work, the Alpha and the Omega, following the structure of the Book of Revelation, and finishes with the magnificent final words of St John, in English and in Greek:
"And the Spirit and the Bride say: Come. And let him that heareth say: Come. And let him that is athirst Come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. He which testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen."
The Book of Revelation seems to me eternally contemporary, and eternally full of hope.
Lisbon, 6th December, 1995
St Nicholas of Myra, Wonderworker
The Sea of Marmara
Virginals or Harpsichord
"On the day when the City was taken, the people hastened to place the altar on a ship for transport to the country of the Franks, to whom they hoped to entrust it. But on the Sea of Marmara the ship met with a sudden violent storm. As it had been equipped in haste and overloaded, it was unable to resist the waves and sank with its crew and its cargo.
Thus the altar of Aghia Sophia escaped sacrilege, not in the way that the Byzantines had hoped, but as God pleased.
The altar of Aghia Sophia rests at the bottom of the sea on its bed of sand and shells. But the place where the vessel sank is known to sailors and easily reached. In fact, even when the worst storms whip up the waves round about and make the sea rage, only calm and peace prevail in that place. Sweet odours rise from the smooth and shining surface of the waves, and echoes of angelic songs can be heard. Many skilled divers, collectors of red corals and sponge-fishers have tried to descend to see the wreckage of the vessel. None have reached it. The sea, which is very deep in this place, guards the altar and the relics from all desecration.
But when we recapture the city, the altar which is engulfed in the sands of the sea-bed will rise to the surface, as a diver rises. It will sail by itself to Byzantium and we shall receive it. We shall take it back to Aghia Sophia and reconsecrate it, amid hymns of joy, to the Divine Wisdom.
Then, in the cathedral built by the great Justinian, the gold mosaics will glitter once again, the holy images, the Gospels and the cross will reappear on the marble altar weathered by the waves…"
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The Sea of Marmara, commissioned by and dedicated to Sophie Yates, is a meditation upon the extraordinary idea of the altar of the cathedral of Aghia Sophia rising from the depths of the sea and sailing of its own accord back to the City. During the course of the piece I quote the Byzantine chant Ti ypermakho, which is dedicated to the Mother of God and whose text was written in thanks for the delivery of the City from siege. It is today sung in the Orthodox Church during Great Lent.
The first performance of The Sea of Marmara was given by Sophie Yates in London on 23 June 1999.
Estoril, October 1999
The Troparion of Kassianí
This troparion (liturgically speaking a sticheron doxasticon) is appointed to be sung during Matins of Wednesday in Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. It is a text much loved in the Greek Church, written by the 9th century nun and hymnographer Kassia, who, though born into a wealthy and aristocratic family, withdrew to a monastery after the Emperor Theophilos had rejected her as a possible bride. Here she speaks in the voice of the woman who anointed the feet of Christ before His passion and burial, whom later tradition identified with Mary Magdalene. The poem, surpassing every hymn in the Lenten service books in its directness and power, traces the journey of the soul away from sin through repentance to salvation. Though it is intensely personal, it is yet universal – it has been said by the scholar HJW Tillyard that here "the need of one sinner is absorbed into the cry of a whole suffering world." Thus, though I have not employed it throughout, the music takes its cue from the Byzantine chant melody for this text in current Greek Orthodox usage, in this way constantly alternating between the personal and the universal.
The Troparion of Kassianí was written for Trio Mediaeval, for whom I had previously written Words of the Angel, which they sing, of course, angelically. The Trio gave the first performance of the work in Sandefjord, Norway, on 26 March 2000.
Words of the Angel
Words of the Angel was written for Trio Mediaeval, whom I had the pleasure of hearing sing in Cambridge in August 1998. The text is the megalynárion (hymn to the Mother of God) as sung during the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom on Easter Day in the Greek Orthodox Church - the dramatic greeting from the angel to Mary the Mother of God outside the empty tomb.
The world première of Words of the Angel was given by Trio Mediaeval in Oslo, Norway, on 11 December 1998
© 2002 Ivan Moody
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