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 association with Wiltshire Creative, underpinned by the power of the newly-refurbished Cathedral organ and featuring the 120 voices of Salisbury Festival Chorus. It is hoped that the piece will be presented once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.
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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.
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.