During an open forum at the Annual Festival of New Organ Music in October 2006, we discussed the topic of collaboration between composer and performer. Later, at the evening concert, I particularly enjoyed the performance given by Emma Gibbins. I wrote to Emma straight away to ask if she would be willing to collaborate with me on the composition of a new work for organ.
Christe qui lux es et dies is the result of this collaboration. The plainsong theme is one of Emma’s favourites and forms the basis of the composition. The work is made up of eight versets, each of which reflects a different stanza of this fine Lenten hymn. In each verset the plainsong melody is played complete, but always transformed. Only in the final statement of the theme (verset VII) does the melody appear in its original mode.
I. O Christ who art the Light and Day A figure taken from the second phrase of the plainsong gradually leads towards the Light and the first complete statement of the theme in the pedals.
II. Grant us, dear Lord, in Thee to rest The plainsong is accompanied by delicate chords and later appears in canon with a gentle 4’ pedal stop.
III. Still be the heart to Thee awake The plainsong is highly ornamented in this more passionate verset. It is played on a solo cremona/clarinet over a pulsating string accompaniment. The verset ends with an echo of verset II.
IV. The Tempter with his wiles A scherzo and trio. In the scherzo the Tempter perverts the plainsong into a gnarly and snappy chromatic fugal subject and treats it to some devious contrapuntal and rhythmic play. The trio is the Tempter’s wild and obscene dance of triumph. The scherzo returns briefly with further contrapuntal manipulation and mocking figures, but is stopped in its tracks by……
V. Bid the powers of darkness fly The Strong Defender comes to our aid with tuba and clarion call in the pedal.
VI. Remember us, dear Lord, we pray Echoes of earlier material, over which the plainsong is presented as a gentle, dancing figure on a soft reed.
VII. Blest Three in One and One in Three The triumphant final statement of the plainsong in its original mode and in canon with the pedals, with a running figure in the left hand, drawn from the very opening of the work.
VIII. Amen A mighty climax leaving our prayer echoing into eternity.
The overall structure can be seen as being in four larger sections: 1. verset I 2. versets II and III 3. verset IV 4. versets V-VIII.
However, the work should be performed as a single, continuous movement, without breaks between versets.
Duration: c.18 minutes.