Our very own lay clerk Timothy Peters shares the process of composing ‘The Golden Hour’ for Classical Sheffield’s Classical Weekend 2019.
Back in autumn, Classical Sheffield asked me to write a piece for the ‘Sounds of Heaven’ concert on 10th March at Sheffield Cathedral in which Sheffield Chamber Choir, Sheffield Chorale, the Sterndale Singers and the Abbeydale Singers will perform. The brief for the commission was to write a piece with a celestial theme where the four choirs perform in different areas of the cathedral with their own conductor and no central conductor.
I found the process of finding a solution to this brief very exciting. Half the time it took to complete this piece was in fact spent on trying to find this solution. It was only a few weeks before the deadline when I managed to put the first note down on paper. The piece is called ‘The Golden Hour’ composed for Text choir, Obbligato choir, Anticipation choir, Reaction choir, suspended cymbal and tam tam.
As a lay clerk at the cathedral, I am well acquainted with the space and its acoustics. I wanted to take advantage of this familiarity when composing ‘The Golden Hour’. I knew that, at the cathedral, instruments with high frequencies cut through the texture, and so slotted in a suspended cymbal and tam-tam (like a gong) to the instrumentation. These two instruments provide points of synchronisation for the choirs, and signal certain passages in each of the choirs’ scores. Each of the choirs have their own musical material independent of the other choirs. The main choir is the Text choir with the other choirs providing atmospheric musical material reflective of the text being sung.
The text for this piece comes from a few scraps of poetry that I’ve written in my journals over the last two years. It is a description of the way Sheffield appears to radiate in the ‘golden hour’ as the sun rises and sets. The third and fourth lines refer to the view of Sheffield from the Parkhill side of the train station (see photo). The final two lines refer to the gap between Western Bank Library and The Arts Tower, a passageway which never ceases to ruin your immaculate hair-do or turn your umbrella inside-out. Here you can witness the vast shadow of The Arts Tower.