Press Play: “Ubi Caritas” by Paul Mealor

Paul Mealor was born in 1975 in St. Asaph, a Welsh town with a population of about 3500. In 1994 he attended university in York, a metropolis by comparison, with an approximate population of 150 000. By 2003 he was living and teaching in Aberdeen, a city of 200 000.

And then, in 2011, Mealor’s “Ubi Caritas” was performed at the royal wedding. Some estimates put the number of people who watched that wedding, and therefore heard Mealor’s music, at over 2 billion. I don’t know what it would be like to know that your music was being heard simultaneously in hundreds of millions of households across 180 countries, but I bet it’s pretty cool. Especially when you come from a town of 3500.

Key moment: At 3:17, Mealor quotes the melody from Durufle’s setting of the same words.

That makes me think of: “Song for Athene” by John Taverner, similarly beautiful, and similarly heard by an enormous international audience when performed at the funeral of Prince William’s mother in 1997.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” by Edward Bairstow

For a piece with the word “silence” in the title, this one’s definitely got a wide range of volumes. It begins with a wonderfully quiet, eerie line, sung by the tenors and basses together. The song builds gradually, and Bairstow gives us what must be one of choral music’s best-ever crescendos beginning at about 2:45, on the line about exultant hymn-shouting. But only a few moments later, we’re back to the creepy quiet of the opening melody.

Key moment: The alleluias that follow that great crescendo are loud, but because of the pause between each one, the listener is made very aware of silence at the same time. It’s like the choral equivalent of using negative space in a painting.

That makes me think of: I was in France one summer, travelling mostly by train, and the silence of the train stations was broken periodically by the bizarre and cheery jingle that would happen before a station announcement was made. I hear that jingle every time I get to the “king of kings” part at the 1-minute mark of this song.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Agnus Dei” by Frank Martin

I had long been an admirer of many of Switzerland’s contributions to society: multi-purpose knives, top-level tennis players, triangular chocolate…but until I came across Frank Martin, I didn’t know that they had also produced an immensely gifted 20th-century composer. So grab some muesli and some holey cheese, and enjoy.

Key moment: Starting at about 2:20, there is a series of chord changes that make my eyebrows creep progressively higher.

That makes me think of: The way the second choir sings almost exclusively in quarter notes reminds me of the plodding, every-quarter-note kick drum that Four Tet often uses, in songs like “She Just Likes To Fight”.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “The Bluebird” by C.V. Stanford

Bluebirds have a habit of popping up in music more frequently than most birds. In “Over The Rainbow”, Dorothy wanted to fly above the rainbow like the pretty little bluebirds. American tenor Jan Peerce was best known for “Bluebird of Happiness”. Vera Lynn famously sang that there would be Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover…despite the fact that Bluebirds don’t live in England.

But if Bluebirds knew the lovely piece of music that England’s own Charles Villiers Stanford had written in their honour, they might consider emigrating.

Key moment: I love the way the sopranos float in and out at various points on the word “blue”.

That makes me think of: In the ultimate spring concert, a choir would perform this piece, and then follow it immediately with a choral arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”.  

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”