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Chapel & Choir: The Merton Choirbook

The Merton Choirbook is one of the most exciting projects that form part of the College’s 750th anniversary celebrations in 2014. Whilst some works have already been premièred, the choir will sing from the collection throughout 2014, and a number of specific works will receive their premières at significant occasions throughout the year.

In the Merton Choirbook, many of the leading composers of the day are represented. They include Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who has set a text by Sir Geoffrey Hill, Oxford’s Professor of Poetry, James MacMillan, Jonathan Dove and Julian Anderson. Within the collection, there are some interesting groups of pieces. Four female composers, including Judith Weir, have each set one of the Marian Antiphons; seven composers have each written one of the Advent Antiphons, with John Tavener and Cecilia McDowall heading the list. The 'Evening Canticles' appear both in Latin and in English, and a number of anthems suitable for the different seasons of the liturgical calendar make this collection something that we will draw on through the year. The arrival of the new Dobson organ has inspired some of the music, including David Briggs’s Messe Solennelle and Chorale Preludes by John Caldwell and Gabriel Jackson.

Another distinguishing feature of the Choirbook is the inclusion of composers from further afield. Reflecting the popularity of choral music from the Baltic States, Rihards Dubra and Ēriks Ešenvalds have both been commissioned by the College, as has Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, whose setting of Northern Lights has been widely performed. James Lavino, a native American composer, has set Beati quorum via and Richard Pantcheff, currently based in South Africa, has included various African musical influences in his contribution.

As befits an institution at the cutting edge of teaching and research, the Merton Choirbook will be both a reflection of the College’s dynamic role as a nexus for creativity and new thought, and a lasting musical resource.

Performances & Premieres

2014

Date & time Event Venue Piece(s) being performed
Sunday 19 January
5:45pm
Epiphany Carol Service Merton College Chapel Richard Allain The King’s Gifts
Daniel Saleeb Deus, qui hodierna
Thursday 23 January
6:15pm
Choral Evensong Merton College Chapel John Joubert In the bleak midwinter
Sunday 2 February
5:45pm
Sung Eucharist Merton College Chapel David Briggs Messe Solennelle
Thursday 13 March
6:15pm
Choral Evensong - Choirbook launch Merton College Chapel John Caldwell O wir armen Sünder
Matthew Martin Preces & Responses
Ēriks Ešenvalds Merton College Service
John Caldwell Sancte, venite
Gabriel Jackson Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen
Friday 4 April
7:30pm
Passiontide at Merton Concert Merton College Chapel Stephen Hough Chorale Prelude (Orgelbuchlein Project)
Gabriel Jackson The Passion of the Lord
Sunday 13 April
5:00pm
  Trinity Wall Street, New York, USA Gabriel Jackson The Passion of the Lord
Friday 25 April
6:00pm
Choral Evensong Merton College Chapel Ēriks Ešenvalds Merton College Service
Sunday 26 April
11:00am
Sung Eucharist - Opening of the Organ Merton College Chapel David Briggs Messe Solennelle
Friday 9 May
8:00pm
Music at Oxford Concert Merton College Chapel Christopher Fox The Waterfall
Carlos Michans Apostrophe
Tuesday 8 July
7:30pm
Cheltenham Music Festival Gloucester Cathedral Judith Weir Ave Regina Coelorum
Hannah Kendall Regina Caeli
Kerry Andrew Salve Regina
Dobrinka Tabakova Alma redemptoris mater
Saturday 13 September
5:45pm
Foundation Service - 750th Celebrations Merton College Chapel

Jonathan Dove Te Deum
Robert Saxton Vexilla Regis

Sunday 26 October
5:45pm
Commemoration of Benefactors Merton College Chapel Andrew Gant Locus Iste
Saturday 22 November
7:30pm
750th Anniversary Concert Merton College Chapel Harrison Birtwistle Chorale Preludes (for unaccompanied choir)
Saturday 29 November
5:45pm
Advent Carol Service I Merton College Chapel James Lark Advent Calendar
Matthew Martin O Rex Gentium
Sunday 30 November
5:45pm
Advent Carol Service II Merton College Chapel James Lark Advent Calendar
Matthew Martin O Rex Gentium
Thursday 4 December
8:30pm
Christmas Carol Service Merton College Chapel Bob Chilcott A Carol
Friday 12 December
6:00pm
Carol Service St Paul’s, Knightsbridge Bob Chilcott A Carol

2015

Date & time Event Venue Piece(s) being performed
Saturday 7 February
4:00pm
The Merton Choirbook Concert Merton College Chapel John Joubert Northumbrian Triptych – Three Settings of Bede
Francis Pott Word and Hymn Fantasias
Sunday 8 February
5:45pm
Choral Evensong Merton College Chapel Richard Sisson Pied Beauty
Friday 27 March
7:30pm
Passiontide at Merton: Stabat Mater Merton College Chapel Emily Levy In Paradisum