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Notes on the text-setting of Holst’s “Hymn for Jesus”.

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Introduction

Notes on the text-setting of Holst's "Hymn for Jesus". In this essay, I aim to explore the text-setting of Holst's "Hymn for Jesus". The work incorporates a double choir (SATBSATB) in the second hymn, and a semi-chorus throughout which consists initially (in the first hymn) of trebles and later of tenors and baritones, and then (in the second hymn) of trebles and altos. The semi-choruses in the first hymn sing in unison, giving a monophonic vocal texture - added to the orchestra, the overall texture is homophonic. Throughout the first hymn, the music is homorhythmic - the text is set to quavers, with crotchets on the last note of each phrase being the only exception to this rule. Adding to this impression of regularity and preciseness is the use of phrases of very similar lengths. ...read more.

Middle

major is a bright chord, but also implies, due to the second inversion, that the music has not yet resolved onto the final chord of the cadence. In the seventh bar, the semi-chorus comes in (two trebles and alto), singing in thirds the chords E major, F major and G major (all in root position). This use of harmony gives a thicker texture, though the music remains homophonic. The use of the choir singing and then the semi-chorus coming in after the choir is used several times during the first twenty-seven bars of the hymn. After this point, there is use of spoken contrapuntal music for the singers (the first use of counterpoint in the hymn so far) - the line "Glory to Thee, Holy Spirit" is spoken by (in turn) ...read more.

Conclusion

The choir sings, in thirds, a C major chord in 2nd inversion on the word "shadowless", giving a joyful mood to the phrase. A C major chord in 2nd inversion is also sung (and doubled in the accompaniment) for the word "Amen", implying joy (by the use of a major chord) and possibly also unity (by the use of a block chord which is doubled by the accompaniment). As this is the same chord that is used at the end of the first hymn (though at the end of the first hymn it is in root position), this further links the two hymns musically, as the chord is treated in a similar way (played as a block chord each time) at the end of each hymn. The accompaniment throughout the second hymn of the work plays descending scale phrases which give the impression of ringing church bells - as these descending scales are also major, this further enforces the idea of "Glory" and joy. Eleanor Dye 13-2 2 ...read more.

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