For Dot’s Nuns – a homage to Elgar

Accompanied Chant by Sir Edward Elgar
Adapted to the Office of Evensong by David Owen Norris
for the Gloucester Saint Cecilia Singers
Premiere: Church of the Immaculate Conception, Beeches Green, Stroud, 7.45pm May 9th 2015

Elgar’s sister Dot became the Mother Superior of a convent in Stroud (now the Church of the Immaculate Conception). In 1906 Elgar wrote a piece entitled For Dot’s Nuns. Often assumed to be an incomplete sketch for organ and voice, it is in fact a self-sufficient (and ingenious) accompaniment to a monotone, doubtless intended to be adapted to particular texts by the singers at Dot’s convent, who would have had plenty of time to devote to the intricacies of the procedure, probably not bothering to write anything down.

Emulating Elgar’s own pragmatism, I have adapted his chordal progressions to the texts with the greatest opportunities for performance, the Office of Evensong: the General Confession, the First Our Father, the Creed, the Lesser Litany & the Second Our Father.

I have expanded the progressions slightly in order to expand the form – a procedure analogous to his Fourth Improvisation. And I have developed the ghostly melodic line at the top of his organ part to form the basis of two unchanted settings of The Lord’s Prayer (quite distinct from each other, as required by the Office of Evensong). [I have taken a hint from the ‘sketch’ to re-visit the famous false relation chords from The Kingdom – at the end of both Our Fathers.]

The resulting piece can be sung as part of a service (with others’ settings of the Versicles and Responses, Canticles & Psalms) or on its own as a choral item. Contact David Owen Norris to request copies.

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