Kyrie and Gloria — although written for separate occasions — are companion pieces. The former was commissioned by Roy Wales and the London Student Chorale for the third International Choral Festival in New York, where it was performed in April 1972. The same choir commissioned Gloria for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, on 23 March 1973. The two works are both scored for a medium to large choir (minimum of 40 voices) with an accompaniment of grand piano, requiring two players — one at the keyboard, the other manipulating the strings. Given the economical forces the music demands, the range and richness of sonority here are very striking. The piano sounds as if it were part of a large ensemble. Without being perverse, Patterson uses the full gamut of pianistic colours, from conventional chords and figurations to percussive effects and note-clusters. Likewise, the choir sings some shapely phrases, but also hums, shouts, screams, claps, sometimes attacking individual syllables, consonants or vowels. Purely on an expressive plane, Patterson appeals to a wider conception of religious music: his settings are primal, atavistic, often breaking into wild, jazzy rhythms and uninhibited incantations. Taken overall, we move from the inarticulate or semi-articulate to fully-fledged pleadings and joyful homage.

Reference to the scores confirms a debt to recent Polish music, notably that of Penderecki. The music moves flexibly within an aleatory style of presentation, enabling the performers certain freedom within carefully specified limits. It is this kind of layout that enables Patterson to suggest the most diversified canvas of emotion without imposing enormous demands upon his performers. Much of the ingenuity Patterson exhibits here lies in his ability to draw a wealth of fragmented textures and concise musical gestures into one surely unfolding musical line: the music moves, sometimes at a considerable pace, sometimes shifting its ground unobtrusively; but above all, it moves, and in doing so, achieves coherence, structural balance and proportion.

Merion Bowen

See also: Kyrie (Opus 13)



Written 1972

SATB Chorus and Piano (2 Players)
Length 10′

Commission: London Chorale
Dedication: ‘To Roy and Christine Wales’
Publisher: Josef Weinberger

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