Mass of the Children was written towards the end of 2002, and received its first performance in February 2003 in Carnegie Hall, New York. The seed of the work probably lay in the inspiring experience I had back in 1963 singing as a member of the boys' choir in the first recording of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. The effect of combining children's and adults' voices is unique, and I wanted to write a work that would bring them together in a more joyful context than a Requiem. I had never written a Mass, and it seemed to me a perfect opportunity to interweave texts and music coming from the different perspectives of children and adults. The Latin text of the Missa Brevis provided the framework, but I added a number of English texts to it which are sung by the children or the soloists. To open the work, I chose Bishop Thomas Ken's morning hymn for the scholars of Winchester College Awake, my soul, and during the closing pages the children sing his evening hymn Glory to thee (to the lovely melody associated with it, Tallis's Canon) as a counterpoint to the Latin 'dona nobis pacem' sung by the adults. Thus, the Mass seems to reflect the events and feelings of a single whole day, from waking to falling asleep. The accompaniment to Mass of the Children exists in two versions, one for orchestra, the other for chamber ensemble with organ which is the one recorded here.
Shadows, written in 1979, is so far my only song cycle, and was commissioned by the baritone and guitar duo Christopher Keyte and John Mills. The theme of the eight chosen poems, all drawn from the 16th and 17th centuries, is the transient, dream-like quality of life and our perception of it, not necessarily a melancholy subject and one which inspired some especially memorable English poetry at that time. In writing the music I paid homage to the guitar's illustrious ancestor the lute and to the English tradition of lute song.
Wedding Canticle, a setting of one of the psalms used in the Anglican marriage service, was a present for Tim Brown in 2004 to mark his 25th anniversary as Director of Music at Clare College. The choice of text was his, and the unusual accompaniment medium of flute and guitar came about partly because of the light, airy sound quality I was seeking and partly because an exceptionally fine flautist and guitarist were available from among Clare's undergraduates that year. The guitarist, Stewart French, plays on this recording.