Canticles of Light - Bob Chilcott (1955 - )


1. Te lucis ante terminum

2. Christe qui splendor et dies

3. O nata lux de lumine


Bob Chilcott’s musical career began with the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, where he was a boy chorister and then a choral scholar. He later sang with and composed for The King’s Singers for twelve years. Since 1997 he has worked as a full-time composer, teacher and choral consultant, spending much of his time promoting choral music in this country and abroad, especially in the U.S.A. He is Conductor of the Royal College of Music Chorus and Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers.  

Canticles of Light was commissioned in 2000 by Winchester Music Club in celebration of the 75th anniversary of its foundation by Sir George Dyson. The piece comprises three ancient Latin hymns that were in widespread use at least as early as the 10th century. The first two are evening hymns that ask for God’s protection and comfort through the night. The third hymn is a song for the morning, anticipating the renewed strength and hope that the day will bring.
The work is written for chorus and small orchestra, with a significant part for a choir of trebles or young voices, who in the two outer movements chant plainsong-like phrases above the main chorus. There are further parallels with the ancient and timeless art of plainsong in the scale-wise melodic contours and rhythmic independence of the main choral writing, whilst, at the other end of the musical timeline, Chilcott’s experience as a member of the King’s Singers is readily apparent in his skilful use of close-harmony techniques. His expert synthesis of these seemingly disparate elements has resulted in a musical language of considerable expressive power, eloquently conveying in these three short pieces a reassuring message of hope and renewal.


John Bawden


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