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Music at St Machar’s Cathedral


St. Machar Cathedral.

Music for February 26th.2017


Anthem: Wash me throughly    S.S.Wesley(1810-76)

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness, and forgive me all my sin. For I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is eve before me. Wash me thoroughly…


Offertory: Thou shalt not kill    Ronald Stevenson (1926-2015)

Thou shalt not kill


Communion: Blessed are the Peacemakers  Ronald Stevenson

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.



Music before the Service:

Chorale Preludes: Nun lob, mein Seel,den Herren, BuxWV 214,215.

D.Buxtehude(1637-1707)


Music at end of the Service:

Les Anges Encerclant     Peter Relph(b.1992)



The Anthem is a deservedly well known piece for organ and four-part choir by S.S.Wesley, a vitally important figure in the history of British music.  With his great interest in and enthusiasm for the organ works of J.S.Bach, Wesley was the first British organist to master the pedals parts of these complex but rewarding works.  The interest in Bach works its way through Wesley’s music in its disciplined contrapuntal writing, despite the romantic vocabulary used.  The words set verses 2 and 3 from Psalm 51, and are the mainspring of the musical inspiration. From the soaring opening, through the central fugue, (‘for I acknowledge my sins’) set, democratically, as a fugue for each voice in turn, to the tranquil conclusion, this is one of Wesley’s most memorable works.


The motets for the Offertory and the Communion are the first and last of Four Peace Motets, a work that was premiered in 1988. The text of the first is one of the Ten Commandments quoted in The Bible as  the 17th.verse of the book of Deuteronomy. There is just the one line of text but two musical ideas - the first, a descending arpeggio hurled out by the voices used in pairs, the second a gently sinuous line in a suave quiet dynamic.  The Communion motet, is a setting of verse 7 of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel. It opens with a beautifully descending melodic line at the top of the texture, and it is worth noting that each time the word ‘peace’ is sung, it rises a tone – an emphasis built into the very fabric of the music. The second verbal phrase ‘For they shall be called the children of God’ contrasts, by both being in unison and by using triplets.  These two motets show something of the range of this remarkable composer, an adopted Scot, whose interests were both keen and diverse.


The music before the Service is a pair of Chorale Preludes by the North German composer Dietrich Buxtehude. Taking a well known Chorale to the words ‘now praise God my soul’, the first opens with a small fughetta before the tune is heard in the pedals. In the second Prelude the tune is kept at the top of the texture.  Throughout the composer weaves an open and inventive series of counterpoints.


At the end of the Service we shall hear a piece written last year.  The title is translated as Circling Angels, and the piece takes its inspiration from an illustration from Dante’s Paradiso.  Musically the piece take its cue from a spectral analysis of a low F on the pedals, and through chords and arpeggio-type figures, develops a sense of high harmonic patterning in a strikingly dramatic way.


(RBW February 2017)