The Malmesbury Responses

for SATB choir

Ian Stephens

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Composer Ian Stephens
Year of Composition 2010
Duration ca.12'
ISMN 9790570680320
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-is1tmr1


The Malmesbury Responses were commissioned by Malmesbury Abbey Choir and first performed by them on Easter Sunday in Malmesbury Abbey on 4 April 2010. The commission stemmed from a coincidence. In 2007 I had written a piece for Ensemble 10/10 exploring the tale of Eilmer, a monk of Malmesbury Abbey who had constructed a rudimentary glider and flown from the Abbey tower in about the year 1010; he broke both his legs, but lived into old age. This piece, Through the Affrighted Air, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and was heard by the vicar of the Abbey, Neill Archer, whose previous career was as an opera singer. On the basis of that listening he commissioned me to compose The Malmesbury Responses, in celebration of the millenary of Eilmer’s flight.

At Neill’s request, I have incorporated some elements from Through the Affrighted Air into the responses, in particular a rising three-note pattern (C-D-B) which underpins many of its melodic lines. I have provided two versions of the Cantor’s part; a traditional unmeasured version, and a more elaborate version, in the tenor register, for Neill Archer to sing. Both versions are equally valid.