Works > Songs of Stone

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Programme note

"Songs of Stone", commissioned by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, is an exciting celebration of Liverpool's Anglican and Metropolitan Cathedrals, and Hope Street which links them. It is scored for unaccompanied upper-voice choir, and comprises of three movements featuring texts from Psalm 122 & 127, poet Ian McMillan and the Laudes Regiae.

Sandstone, the first movement, starts the journey at the Anglican Cathedral, and acts as a soft introduction to what is to come. The movement features important biblical texts (Psalms 122 and 127) from the Anglican tradition, and leads on nicely to the next movement.

Hope Street starts with the use of quiet multiphonics, reflecting on the many cultures which call Liverpool home. From these multiphonics emerges an Alto soloist, who introduces us to the wonder that is this significant road. From there, the music takes off with a constant motor rhythm as we move through the bustling heart of the city, until we reach the Metropolitan cathedral, where the Alto soloist concludes the journey.

Movement 3 concludes the journey climactically with a text taken from Laudes Regiae, originally used for the laying of the foundation stone at the site of the Metropolitan Cathedral. It features several Soprano solos, accompanied by ‘bell-like’ clusters, with much of its melodic content drawn from plainchant.

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Movement 1 (Psalms 122 and 127):
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city.

Movement 2 (Hope Street by Ian McMillan *):
Imagine an axis; imagine a washing line
Hung across a city. Cathedrals, a theatre
And a hotel hang from the line
And flap in the century’s breeze…
This is Hope Street; imagine an artery
Pumping life through a city, imagine
A walk from one end of Hope to the other end
Of Hope on a moonlit evening…
Yes, that’s right. You’re walking through Hope.
Imagine a street where the soul is brightened
And the coffee is the best you can get in a city
That loves to keep itself awake.
Hope Street. Aptly named. See you there.

Movement 3 (parts of Laudes Regiae):
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Exaudi Christe ecclesiae santae Dei salus perpetua.
Redemptor mundi, tu illam adiuva.
Pax Christi veniat!
Regnum Christi veniat!
Deo gratias!

* used by permission of the author

Many thanks for your interest in purchasing the score for Songs of Stone.
Choral scores can be obtained from the Universal Edition website.