Author: Peter Broadbent
Performance: I Was Glad
Gabriel Jackson is already one of the most recorded and performed composers of his generation. He is known principally for his choral music but that is only one part of his output. However, it was inevitable that writing for choirs should be a starting point, since he was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral under Alan Wicks and singing great music in that great building was an inspiration for him. He too studied at the Royal College of Music, winning the R. O. Morris composition prize twice.
Jackson has been Associate Composer to the BBC Singers since 2009. Cecilia Virgo was the first piece he wrote for the BBC Singers as long ago as 2000 and appropriately it received its premiere in Canterbury Cathedral in a programme featuring a great deal of English Renaissance music. It is a virtuoso piece, basically for 12-part choir, but with most parts divided into 6 at times. The imitative descending scales of the F major opening, the contrasting of men’s and women’s voices together with a beautiful section in D flat major for the sopranos before the return of the opening idea, are united by some complex rhythms which combine to make this a really celebratory piece for the patron saint of music.
Salve Regina I (there is a more recent setting for the BBC Singers) was written for the choir of Truro Cathedral and first performed there in 2001. It is marked “Tenderly”, and that reflects the straightforward and lyrical approach to this hymn to the Mother of God – a brief Soprano solo leading to the final ecstatic “O Clemens, o pia…”. Salus Aeterna was commissioned by Oakham School, where it was given its first hearing in 2002. It is a lively piece, contrasting harmonised passages with plainsong-like unison but with constantly changing metres. There is a short reflective middle section but the rhythmic drive soon returns.
To Music is a setting of a poem (described as a song) by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) and was written to a commission from the BBC to celebrate Stephen Cleobury’s 60th birthday in 2009. Once again it is marked by great rhythmical energy, mostly in 5/8 time until the final section “Fall down, down…” which has a steadier flow, leading to delightfully lush harmony for the closing passage.