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When discussing how best he might realise his role as Composer in Residence, Howard immediately suggested a set of Beatitudes that would allow him to explore a modern approach to the style of ancient chants (though none of the ‘chants’ on this album are in fact old – Howard has composed them all himself).
'There are eight ‘Beatitudes’ in St. Matthew’s Gospel telling of the sermon on the mount, they comprise a list of people whose actions or burdens single them out for special tribute - some are those whose suffering will be alleviated in heaven, like those who mourn, or those who are persecuted for their faith. Others are those whose actions ameliorate the suffering of others, like the merciful or the peacemakers.'
Honouring the peacemakers, the meek and the merciful has never been more necessary nor urgent as in our own time, nor has compassion for the bereaved, the poor or the persecuted. Yet the Beatitudes have not been set to music as frequently as other parts of the Bible.
I felt strongly that the passing of 2000 years since the original list was uttered had allowed us to reflect on who might be added to the list in any contemporary musical setting. I do not suggest that the original list is in any way lacking, nor do I claim my four new “beati” sections should have been there in the first place, but I hope instead to pay homage to the original concept by offering in all humility these new groups.
Like those in Matthew’s description they are chosen both for the burdens they bear, like the ‘stateless’ (Pro eis sine domo – literally, for those without a home, since the writers of the Bible didn’t have such a word) and also for the selfless service to others they perform, such as the ‘carers’ (Pro alios curantibus, for those that care for others).
To differentiate my four new “beati” sections from the originals, they are titled, for example, ‘for the cared for’, rather than ‘blessed are the cared for’. I chose passages from both Old and New Testaments to express, I hope, the meaning and resonance of these four new groups, to sit alongside the original, flawless Beatitudes.
Classic FM’s Composer in Residence