Psalm I : Beatus vir

for SATB, organ
3 mins.

a small present for Tim Brown

Programme notes

Beatus vir¬†was written in 1996 as a present for Tim Brown, Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge. It was first performed in a service at Clare College by the choir of Clare College under Tim Brown; they also performed it in a concert at St John’s, Smith Square.

My setting of this psalm lasts about three minutes, and is extremely simple: the choir sings in block four-part chords and rhythmic unison throughout, without counterpoint of any kind – an affectionate parody of Anglican chant. When the psalmist deals with the ungodly (which he does with some relish: “they are like the chaff which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth”) I have added savage cries of “Ha! Ha! Ha!”. These return at the end also, at the words “the way of the ungodly shall perish”, which strike me as combining savagery, bigotry and smugness in equal parts, in a manner unique to (and characteristic of) the Old Testament.

Giles Swayne 2009