Da Vinci Requiem (2019)

Soprano and baritone soloists, SATB chorus, and orchestra
Text: Requiem Mass and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
Duration: 35′
Commissioned by Wimbledon Choral Society and conductor, Neil Ferris
Oxford University Press (2019)
First performance 7 May, 2019 | Wimbledon Choral Society | Kate Royal, soprano, Roderick Williams, baritone | The Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor, Neil Ferris | Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

This significant seven-movement work from Cecilia McDowall presents an imaginative pairing of extracts from The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci with texts from the Latin Missa pro defunctis. Da Vinci’s reflective and penetrating insights into the nature of mortality and all that it encompasses cast new light on the familiar Requiem texts, and McDowall employs her orchestral forces to create a rich, atmospheric backdrop to the profound narrative presented by the chorus and soprano and baritone soloists. Dark, sonorous writing precedes an energetic ‘Sanctus’, and the closing bars of the luminous ‘Lux aeterna’ create a powerful allusion to da Vinci’s concept of ‘The Perspective of Disappearance’.

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Link to OUP Blog: https://blog.oup.com/2019/05/exploring-da-vinci-requiem/

‘This Requiem proved a tribute not just to Leonardo, but to the composer, and the flair and imagination of the choir that commissioned it, and poured life into it so admirably and intelligently.’

‘Cecilia McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem skilfully interweaves the text of the Mass for the Dead with various writings of or about the great Renaissance Man. The result is a powerfully communicative addition to the repertoire. Not only is the choral writing vibrant but colourful use is made of the orchestra, most notably in the way singing lines are enhanced by harp, glockenspiel and vibraphone.’

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De Profundis (2018)

SSATB and organ
Text: Dr Joseph Spence
Duration: 5.5′
Oxford University Press
Commissioned by Dulwich College
First performance 6 April, 2017 | The Choirs of Dulwich College | St Thomas’, New York, US

This atmospheric anthem by Cecilia McDowall commemorates the First World War. It sets a stark English text by Dr Joseph Spence alongside Latin text from Psalm 130, with the words ‘In memoriam’ added. The lower parts sing Spence’s English text, conveying the relentless hardship of life in the trenches with declamatory and constantly developing vocal lines. The sopranos, meanwhile, repeat the Latin words from Psalm 130, providing a striking contrast in their constancy and otherworldliness.

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Deus, qui claro lumine (2005)

Duration: 7′ 20″

  • Motet
  • Text: Liturgia Horarum
  • Unaccompanied SSATB or SSSAA choir with soprano solo
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by Yoxford Festival 2005
  • First performance 20 August 2005  |  Choir of New College Oxford/ Edward Higginbottom  |  Yoxford Church, Yoxford, Suffolk

The Vesper hymn, Deus, qui claro lumine, is by turns contemplative and ecstatic. The beginning unfolds around a single note, extending upwards to the high solo soprano entry. The fading light of day is suggested by the downward shift of tonality and the work closes with the gradual descent of the soprano solo over the gently repeated Amens.

Drink the Sky (2017)

SSA, piano and optional percussion (Glock and Sus cym)
Text: Christie Dickason
Duration: 4′
Oxford University Press
Commissioned by Shiva Nova
First performance July 2014 | Junior Choir of RCM | Joy Hill, conductor | Royal College of Music, London, UK

This is an uplifting and expressive setting of a fun, descriptive text by Christie Dickason that characterizes the sky in an imaginative way

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Easter Light (2016)

SATB & organ
Text: Angier Brock
Duration: 4′
Oxford University Press
Commissioned by Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, VA, US

With a newly written text by Angier Brock, this compelling anthem by Cecilia McDowall is a welcome addition to the traditional Easter repertoire. Easter Light explores a variety of styles and colours, from organ solos suggestive of the song of the Eastern meadowlark to a meditative section in the manner of plainchant.

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