A cappella SSATB
Commissioned by Magdalen College School, Oxford
First performance 3 July, 2009 | The Choir of Magdalen College School | Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford
Commissioned in the year of Haydn’s bi-centenary to celebrate his visit to Oxford.
Thy voice, o Harmony, is divine was commissioned by Magdalen College School to celebrate the Bicentenary of Haydn’s death and the composer’s association with Oxford. It was first performed on 1 July 2009 by the Oxford Sixth Choir, conductor Jon Cullen, in the Sheldonian Theatre Oxford as part of the MCS Arts Festival. Also performed at the same concert were works by Handel and Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis (Nelson Mass) by the Hanover Band, conductor Paul Brough.
The London premiere was given by the Esterhazy Singers, conductor Esther Jones, on 4 November 2009 at St Giles Cripplegate, Barbican, London.
This work is inspired by a little piece written by Haydn for the award ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre at which he received his honorary doctorate from Oxford University. Haydn’s Canzone à tre was composed as a round in a clever setting of the words, Thy voice, o Harmony, is divine, which could be turned upside down and sung backwards, simultaneously. The words are attributed to the Haydn.
The phrase shapes of this motet, Thy voice, o Harmony, is divine, derive in some way from Haydn’s Canzone, unfolding and overlapping between the voices. The central section presents a homophonic reference to the Haydn’s round with text and notes set in palindromic fashion. The conclusion of the motet dissolves into repeated, lingering phrases which melt into the air. The text is taken from the Haydn Canzone.