Come Spirit is a new 10 minute accessible gospel/ modern jazz choral work for choir and jazz trio that was commissioned by York’s Chapter House Choir under Stephen Williams’s directorship and is to be premiered by them at their ‘Every Time I Feel the Spirit’ concert on the 16th May in York Minster. The trio comprises John Turville (piano), Alexander L’Estrange (bass) and Martin France (drums). The work is a resetting of two pentecostal hymns: the familiar ‘Come Down O Love Divine’ (Bianco de Siena trans. Richard Littledale (1857)) and the less well known ‘Holy Spirit, Truth Divine’ (Samuel Longfellow 1864).
This was tremendous fun to compose. Originally I set out to write something gospel influenced and about half the current length. However the modern jazz flavoured opening section seemed to need quite a lot of space to unfold naturally, thus delaying the point I could get to composing anything that sounded remotely gospel like! In the end, the nature of the texts and associated musical ideas/styles seemed to demand a more expansive approach for full development and to allow for some structural compositional weaving between the two. This was also encouraged by the exciting combination of choral / instrumental forces. With the jazz trio being such a compact yet self-sufficient musical unit, capable of setting up both rhythmic groove and the harmonic framework, there’s plenty of scope and choice as to how the choir can be employed.
The piece opens with the jazz trio and a repeating and growing melodic figure in a 12/8 + 2/4 groove builds towards the choir’s entry and underpins the lyrical setting of the 1st verse of ‘Come Down O Love Divine’. The harmonic language is very much that of modern jazz, albeit it’s friendly face. This almost introductory section gives way to an upbeat gospel style rendition of ‘Holy Spirit, Truth Divine’. The culmination of this section sweeps into a solo instrumental section, which allows the choir to draw breath before a return to ‘Come Down O Love Divine’ and a setting of it’s 2nd and 3rd verses in a faster tempo than before. The 3rd verse is a real recapitulation of the melody and key of the 1st verse and probably signifies the musical/emotional high water mark of the piece. The final section rounds matters off with an exuberant reprise of the gospel setting of ‘Holy Spirit, Truth Divine’, however this time with the choir dividing into double choir formation and along with the trio generally throwing the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’ at it.