On Writing a Te Deum…

November 10th, 2016

As I begin thinking about getting started on my next piece, a setting of the Te Deum (which will be followed by…another setting of the Te Deum) I have begun to notice the lack of good settings of this famous, and lengthy, morning canticle. Countless good settings of the more illustrious evening canticles exist and some have a life outside of the cathedral and chapel (Howells, Stanford etc) but there is really nothing to compare with the Te Deum. Sure, there are some excellent settings – two by Britten (Te Deum in C, Festival Te Deum), Walton’s jaunty Coronation Te Deum (possibly the most well known), Handel, Purcell and some austere late Howells settings to name a few – but no recent versions to tickle the ear. I guess much of this is to do with the very few choral Matins services that take place in the UK at the moment, and also that it is frankly, not the most appealing text to set. It is long. Very long.

There is a MacMillan Te Deum, an Arvo Pärt one, a hugely long and dull Penderecki setting, two Rutter settings (which I can’t say I’ve heard), an orchestral Leighton setting and no doubt a Karl Jenkins setting to entice listeners. Are there any others, any which would blow me away if I heard them? Charpentier? Vaughan Williams? Elgar? I’ll keep looking, but would welcome any suggestions – especially any from the left field!

PAC

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