Piece of the week 20 – ‘Hail the day that sees him rise’

More ‘alleluias’ this week – this time as the refrain to my exuberant anthem ‘Hail the day that sees him rise’, which I wrote about 20 years ago to the well-known text by Charles Wesley. Here I aimed to celebrate Ascensiontide with a fast-moving and dance like anthem, bouncing along in a jaunty 6/8 time.

For me, the Lydian mode has a feeling of brightness to it, owing to the sharpened fourth in the scale, and much of this short anthem makes use of that – the ‘extra’ leading note pulling the music inexorably heavenwards.  It’s quite straightforward – a short phrase rises (forte), and the alleluia responds to it (piano). It’s repeated, and then the next phrase, still in Lydian mode, is treated sequentially, and then a bunch of joyous alleluias round off the verse. Two more verses follow, with the same material presented in different textures, keys and dynamics, and with a descant in the last verse.  There is a slightly medieval flavour to the rhythms and harmonies (parallel fifths, contrary motion patterns), but the organ concludes the anthem with a chromatic contrary motion passage which is reminiscent of the end of Ravel’s Piano Concerto!

So there is nothing complex about it, but I hope that the fast-moving and joyous music will lift the spirits.  The performance on this scrolling score is by the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, director Sarah MacDonald, and the music is published by Oxford University Press – in ‘Epiphany to All Saints for Choirs’, in ‘Alan Bullard Anthems’, and as a handy digital download here.

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