Sunday, May 16, 2010
John Rutter is perhaps the best known and most prolific living composer. Although his works include music for orchestra and other instrumental ensembles, his choral works are the best known. In 2003 Rutter was featured in a 60 Minutes segment. During the interview he admitted that he is “not a particularly religious man” but that he is “deeply spiritual and inspired by the spirituality of sacred verses and prayers”.
And his work is proof of that inspiration. Rutter’s choral works include several dozen anthems and motets, the vast number of which use sacred texts and are intended for use during religious services. Included in his writings are several major works including ‘Requiem’.
Like Brahms and Faure before him, Rutter does not adhere strictly to the Catholic liturgical Requiem text but also includes some of the seven texts that appear in the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer and are known collectively as “funeral sentences”. You can hear three of the “sentences” woven through the ‘Agnus Dei’ movement and the final movement, ‘Lux Aeterna’ which opens with a fourth text from the sentences. According to Rutter, “The seven sections of the work form an arch-like meditation on the themes of life and death: the first and last movements are prayers on behalf of all humanity, movements 2 and 6 are psalms, 3 and 5 are personal prayers to Christ, and the central Sanctus is an affirmation of divine glory.” These texts combined with Rutter’s gift for melody and orchestration have made his ‘Requiem’ a twentieth-century classic of choral literature.
One of Rutter’s earliest visits to the US was in 1974 at the invitation of Mr. Olson who’s ‘Mel Olson Chorale’ commissioned and premiered the major work ‘Gloria’. ‘A Gaelic Blessing’ was commissioned in 1978 by the Chancel Choir of the First United Methodist Church of Omaha, Nebraska in honor of minister of music Mel Olson.
Having studied music as an undergraduate at Clare College, he spent the last half of the 1970’s directing the choir there, leading them to international prominence. As a result of that and other early contributions to choral literature and practice, Rutter was made an honorary Fellow of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. The anthem ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ was also written in 1980 for the Texas Choral Directors’ Association.
‘Musica Dei donum’ was written in 1998 using text from a musical setting Lassus published in 1594. The work was originally commissioned by Clare College Cambridge and was contributed by the composer for an album in honor of Linda McCartney who died from breast cancer in 1998. The composer contributed the work because “of its theme of the power of music, to uplift sad minds”.
‘Creation’s Alleluia’ was commissioned in 1989 in honor of Lowell Lacey, the music minister oat Second Congregational Church I Greenwich, Connecticut.
In 1981 Rutter founded his own choral group, the Cambridge Singers largely to record definitive versions of his own work. That same year he honored the memory of choral director and composer Edward T. Chapman with our closing work ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You”.