Four Passiontide motets
Op.95 a

for SATB a cappella
2004
|

1. Vidit suum dulcem natum
2. Eia, mater!
3. Fac me cruce custodiri
4. Dona nobis pacem

Programme note

These motets are taken from my Stabat Mater, which was composed in 2003-4 and first performed at the 2004 Bath Festival by Bath Camerata under their conductor Nigel Perrin. The first, third and fourth of the Four Passiontide Motetswere premiered at Tewkesbury Abbey on 17th August 2004 by the National Youth Choir of Great Britain under Michael Brewer. The complete set was first performed on 18th December 2004 at Christ Church, Spitalfields, by the Choir of London conducted by Jeremy Summerly. In 2006 the Four Passiontide Motets were recorded on the Delphian label by the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and Laudibus under their conductor Michael Brewer.

Stabat Mater incorporates into the Latin poem the Aramaic & Hebrew text of Kaddish, and the Arabic of the Salaat al-Jinaaza(the Muslim burial service), inserting them between the stanzas of the Latin poem to create a communal ritual of grief.

The words of the first three motets are taken from the Latin poem.  Vidit suum dulcem natum refers to the moment when Christ stops breathing, as seen through his mother’s eyes. Solo soprano and alto weave a pained lament above a short and simple chorale which expires into inarticulate humming and then silence.  Eia, Mater! places four solo voices in relief against the choir, using the two words of the title as a recurring but varied refrain to explore the mother’s grief.  Fac me cruce custodiri is a prayer for redemption of man through Christ’s death on the cross. It too uses four solo voices; but the end focuses again on Mary, who (in the guise of a solo alto) pours out a grief-stricken but confident appeal for his reward in Paradise – as do the mothers of Palestinian suicide-bombers today. The fourth motet, Dona nobis pacem sets this plea for peace in Latin, Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic: Salaam . . . shalom . . . ye he shalama.

The Four Passiontide Motets are not so much religious pieces as meditations on humanity and inhumanity. Golgotha is re-enacted today, a stone’s throw from its original site, every time a Palestinian or Israeli life is sacrificed. As with Mary then, it is women who still make the greatest sacrifices – and who are left behind to grieve.

Giles Swayne 2009

Recordings

Giles Swayne: Convocation
The National Youth Choir of Great Britain, Laudibus
Mike Brewer (conductor)
Michael Bonaventure (organ)
Stephen Wallace (counter-tenor)
Delphian: DCD34033
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
The coming of Saskia Hawkins
Convocation of worms
The Tiglet
Winter solstice carol
Midwinter
Four Passiontide motets

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