Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Faire is the Heaven

The anthem Faire is the Heaven, by William Henry Harris, is one of my favourite pieces of Anglican church music. Harris was comparatively recent, dying in 1973 at the age of 90, but never wrote a large catalogue. The anthem is scored for double choir, in the key of D flat major, and it's beautiful. The text, below, is by Edmund Spenser.

Faire is the Heaven

Faire is the heaven where happy soules have place
In full enjoyment of felicitie;
Whence they do still behold the glorious face
Of the Divine, Eternall Majestie;

Yet farre more faire be those bright Cherubins
Which all with golden wings are overdight.
And those eternall burning Seraphins
Which from their faces dart out fiery light;

Yet fairer than they both and much more bright
Be the Angels and Archangels
Which attend on God's owne person without rest or end.
These then in faire each other farre excelling
As to the Highest they approach more neare,
Yet is that Highest farre beyond all telling

Fairer than all the rest which there appeare
Though all their beauties joynd together were;
How then can mortal tongue hope to expresse
The image of such endlesse perfectnesse?

Edmund Spenser

The file I've got is by Tenebrae, who are an absolutely stunning professional choir. The album's available on iTunes, and I strongly suggest you buy it, as all the tracks are either well-known or wonderful lesser-known works. As an ensemble the choir is incredibly precise and yet still very warm and sympathetic, bringing together the best things about larger and smaller choirs.

Faire is the Heaven

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