Stone Songs

Written by Howard Moody
Commissioned by La Folia

‘We, like living stones, will make it sound again’

Written 800 years after the laying of the Cathedral’s foundation stone, Stone Songs is a work for soloists, chorus and orchestra, reflecting on the skill, vision and dedication that it took to build such a magnificent building, and inspired by the ancient chants that have resonated from the stones since the 13th century.

The piece was due to be premiered at Salisbury Cathedral in May 2020, produced in partnership with Wiltshire Creative, underpinned by the power of the newly-refurbished Cathedral organ and featuring the 120 voices of Salisbury Festival Chorus. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the concert was postponed. 

Stone Songs was eventually re-scheduled to open the 2022 Salisbury International Arts Festival with two performances on Friday 27th May at 7pm and 9pm

It was a HUGE success with a number of wonderful comments from audience and performers alike:

“A tremendous piece of music and spectacle – this was a triumph!”

“It has been truly an uplifting and positive experience. I have come home from every rehearsal on a complete high. Really wonderful emotional music. “

“The soloists were fabulous and David and the band, the stonemasons, the jazz, the blues – the beauty of the soloists’ chants and that violin absolutely heart rending ….. and of course the mediaeval madness wow, wow, wow …… !!”

“To me, it is always a privilege and joy having the chance to sing in our wonderful Cathedral.  Without doubt my experience on Friday was the most memorable; so exciting, emotional and uplifting.”

Howard Moody introduces Stone Songs in the clip below.
CLICK HERE to download a copy of the libretto or view below

Below is an extract from a rehearsal of Stone Songs: Camera: Pete Doherty | Stills: Finnbarr Webster

La Folia’s commissioning of Stone Songs was supported by Fawcetts Chartered Accountants, an anonymous trust, Mr and Mrs J Carvell, Lady Newbigging, Veronica Stewart Arts Trust and two La Folia Friends.

The performances are supported by Dick Clements, Penny Marland, Chris and Clem Martin, Veronica Stewart Arts Trust,  Michael Wade, and 3 La Folia Trustees.

Stone Songs is dedicated to Sue Kent, whose vision created so many transforming projects for La Folia and Salisbury Festival from 1994 to 2020.

Creative & Production Team

Composer/Conductor  HOWARD MOODY


Lighting Designer  SARAH BATH

Associate Producer  AMANDA BRUCE

Manager for La Folia  CESCA EATON

Festival Chorus Co-ordinator  JANE WILKINSON









La Folia Musicians



Tenor Trombone  DOMINIC HALES

Bass Trombone  ROSS JOHNSON

Percussion 1  ROBERT KENDELL

Percussion 2  OLIVER LOWE






Featuring the Salisbury Festival Chorus


Programme note by composer Howard Moody

Seven sections for large chorus and soloists are punctuated by six variations on original Gregorian chants from the ancient ritualistic manuscripts known as The Sarum Rite, stored in the Cathedral library since the 13th Century.

Stone Songs reflects on how the stones evolved over millions of years of geological time. Individual stones were quarried and then selected by tapping them with a brass rod in order to discover any fractures or fossilised air pockets that would weaken their strength.

References from the Bible express the human capacity for vision including references to the ancient archetypal stories of Jacob’s Ladder, Solomon’s Temple and Peter ‘The Rock’. The Latin texts include Nisi Dominus (‘The Builders’ Psalm’), encouraging quality and commitment in a craftsman’s pursuit of divine proportion. Their work ethic is articulated in The Regis Manuscript from the late 14th Century, demanding that workers trust and support each other.

A workers’ chorus and a Lacrimosa reflect on all those who sacrificed their lives during this treacherous pursuit of architectural perfection.

The 2018 fire at Notre Dame in Paris inspired a community responsibility to protect and preserve great architecture. As the Gregorian chant expresses – Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est – where there is charity and love, there God is. Visionary buildings of beautiful proportion are more than the sum of their parts, drawing us together as one.


CLICK HERE to download a copy of the libretto or view below:



Ancient time

Chant 1 – Tu es Petrus

Out of the Earth

Chant 2 – Nisi Dominus


Chant 3 – Tantum ergo


Chant 4 – Tota pulchra es

In memoriam

Chant 5 – Jesu dulcis memoria


Chant 6 – Ubi caritas




Ancient Time

Tu es Petrus.

Long still stone nights.
Long still stone days.
Stones buried under water and mud,
Millions of years to reappear and again to disappear
Only to re-emerge after unimaginable time,
A different time, in which a million years for us is a fraction of a second for a stone.
Stone time.

Silence is their lot, telling stories.
Memories from the beginning of the earth,
Messages from the past.

Respect the stones.
No two stones are the same.
The whole majesty of nature squeezed into the smallest space.
A masterpiece of creation.

Listen for their song.

Chant 1

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram
Aedificabo Ecclesiam meam.

Out of the Earth

Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Quarry out costly stones.
Tap them with a brass rod
And choose the ones that sing.

You, like living stones.
Lay the foundations of the house.
Turn the earth on its side.

Chant 2

Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum
in vanum laboraverunt, qui aedificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem
frustra vigilat, qui custodit eam.


The whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached the heavens: and
behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens: and let us make a name for
ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church: and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Mark you the floor? that square and speckled stone,
Which looks so fine and strong.

Speak of your fellow’s work with honest words, with the understanding God gave and assist him to
improve it in any way that you can.

Find the symmetry.
Construct perfect proportion.
Satisfy our quest for balance by the placement of stones.

Chant 3

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum,
Novo cedat ritui.


Nous ferons appel aux plus grands talents.

We will build
We will dream
We will work
We will wonder

Thousands of tonnes of limestone and marble,
Hundreds of tonnes of lead.
Three thousand oak trees from three thousand acorns,
An acre of glass.
Two master builders.
It will take longer to repair than to build.

Make it so beautiful that future generations will restore it
As the rain returns the stone back to the earth.

Build with the proportions of a capsized ark, floating on gravel and water.
Four feet of foundations will support four hundred feet of spire.

Aedificabo Ecclesiam meam.

Chant 4

Tota pulchra es, Maria
Et macula non est in Te

O Maria, O Maria.
Virgo prudentissima.
Mater clementissima.

In Memoriam

Who were the builders who died
Working against the elements?
Scaling the spire,
Clambering the walls,
Sacrificing their lives
To create harmony and proportion,
Never to see their life’s work complete.

Whose was the power that found the gold to build it?
Who were the victims of their crusade?
They were the mortar that binds the stones together.

These are the stones that Orpheus softened with his music,
This is the church defined by song.

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus:
Huic ergo parce Deus.

Chant 5

Jesu dulcis memoria
Dans vera cordis gaudia:
sed super mel et omnia
ejus dulcis praesentia.


If I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.

C’est notre cathédrale et plus encore.
C’est notre histoire, notre littérature, notre imaginaire,
C’est l’épicentre de notre vie.
Cette historie c’est la nôtre.

Silent stones create a spire
To inspire you and me,
An acorn growing into a most magnificent tree.

Chant 6

Ubi caritas et amor,
Deus ibi est
Congregavit nos in unum
Christi amor.


It rises to the heavens and above the city,
A floating arc of harmony and proportion.
We, like living stones
Will make it sound again.

Ubi caritas et amor,
Deus ibi est.
Tantum ergo sacramentum veneremur cernui.
Tota pulchra es Maria tota pulchra es.
Tu es Petrus.
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum
In vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam.

Ubi caritas et amor
Deus ibi est.

Translations of the Latin texts

Chant 1:
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.

Chant 2:
Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it.
Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Chant 3:
Let us venerate such a great Sacrament with head bowed and let the old
practice give way to the new rite.

Chant 4:
Mary, you are all beautiful and without sin. Virgin most intelligent,
Mother most merciful.

Chant 5:
The sweet memory of Jesus gives true joy to the heart but his presence
is more than honey and all things.

Chant 6:
Where there is charity and love, there God is.

The day when the ashes shall rise up will be full of tears.
The guilty man will be judged. Therefore spare him, O God,
merciful Lord Jesus and grant them eternal rest.

Stone Songs texts influenced, adapted and quoted from:

Pliny: Liber xxxvii c.100 AD

Procopius: Of the buildings of Justinian c.530 AD

The Sarum Rite of 1078

The Regius Manuscript 1390

The Bible: mainly from the King James translation of 1611, but also other versions
and adaptations from Genesis / Isaiah / Kings / Psalms / Peter / Matthew / Luke

George Herbert: ‘The Altar’ and ‘The Church-floor’ c.1630

Emmanuel Macron: from his speech during the fire of Notre Dame, 15 April 2019

Comments by a stone mason of Salisbury Cathedral, 7 November 2019

Howard Moody: writings 2019

Susan Berber-Credner: writings 2020