Piece of the Week 64: We Thank You, Lord

This anthem for SATB and organ or piano is a setting of words that begin: ‘We thank you, Lord, for this fair earth, the glittering sky, the silver sea’ and later continue: ‘Help us to cherish all the world, from sea to sky, from earth to heaven’. The words, a little modernised, are by Bishop G.E.L. Cotton (1813-66) and this is actually the second time that I’ve set them (the first was for solo voice) – they paint a lovely vision of earth’s beauty and our role as its guardians.

I wrote it for a collection of ten anthems called ‘Alan Bullard Anthems’ published by Oxford University Press in 2010; it contained a mixture of earlier pieces and some new ones. The collection is still in stock with some dealers, but I think may be going out of print shortly, as all the anthems that were in it are becoming available separately as digital downloads (pdfs).

We Thank You, Lord is simply structured, with an easily flowing melody which later goes into canon and finally appears with a descant. I’d not heard a performance of it until very recently when it was sung at an ‘Earth Sunday’ service at Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, which was live-streamed on YouTube. The director of music there is Philip Brunelle – a very well known and respected conductor who manages to work all over the world and yet still be at his church organ, in front of his choir, most Sundays! (now aged 80, he has held that post for 55 years).  He has performed several pieces of mine and commissioned ‘A Light in the Stable’ for his choir VocalEssence, in 2014. So I am delighted to hear We Thank You, Lord used in worship and sung so beautifully – thank you Philip!

You can hear the performance with a scrolling score here, or on SoundCloud here; and the complete service here (We Thank You, Lord, is sung during the offertory, 55 minutes in.)

And for more details of the music, please go here.

The image of ‘The glittering sky, the silver sea’ was taken by me at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast.