Piece of the Week 21: ‘Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire’

I wrote the original version of this anthem almost 30 years ago, and for some years we sang it at our church at Pentecost.  It was, structurally, the simplest anthem I’ve ever written, with the four verses set to exactly the same music, in three parts (SABar) and linked by a refrain sung by unison voice(s), in a different key each time.  But somehow I was never completely satisfied with it, even though it seemed to work.

I’m not generally one of those composers who continually revises things, but this piece proved to be the exception. At one point, following a request for a version for a book which never happened, I made an upper voice version with accompaniment – then, later, for one of the Flexible Anthems books, I made a version for any number of voices with optional keyboard – we didn’t use this either!  Then, a little more recently, I slightly revised the original, modernised the words, aiming to retain their seventeenth-century flavour while making them more approachable for a modern choir or congregation, and added an optional tenor part. I’m happy with this result, and this is the version that was recorded by Selwyn College Choir on my ‘Wondrous Cross’ CD, and which I’ve recently decided to publish myself, in Colne Edition.  I shan’t change it again, and I think the mood of simple calm that the piece now has is beautifully captured by Selwyn College Choir with its blended sound for the verses and its young solo voices in the refrain.

The words are by Bishop John Cosin, and are themselves a translation of the ninth-century plainsong text ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ – and it is wonderful to think of all the generations who have sung these words, to so many different musical settings.

You can hear and see the music here:

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