Harman Patil

The Lord bless you and keep you

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Text  Priestly Blessing
Scoring  SATB choir and organ
Dedication  "in memoriam Edward T. Chapman"
Published  1981 (1981): Oxford University Press

"The Lord bless you and keep you" is a sacred choral composition by John Rutter. The text is the biblical benediction known as the "Priestly Blessing" (Numbers 6:24–26), followed by an extended "Amen". Rutter scored the piece for four vocal parts (SATB) and organ. He composed it in 1981 for the memorial service of Edward T. Chapman, the director of music at Highgate School, London, with whom he had studied when he attended the school.

It was published by Oxford University Press in 1981, in the anthology Oxford Easy Anthems, edited by David Willcocks. Marked "Andante espressivo", the music is in G-flat major and common time. It takes about 2 12 minutes to perform. Rutter also wrote an arrangement for soprano, alto and keyboard in F major and a version for choir and orchestra.

It was recorded several times, for example ending a collection of Rutter's choral works performed under his direction by the Cambridge Singers and the City of London Sinfonia. It also concluded the 2010 recording of the composer's Requiem by Polyphony and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, conducted by Stephen Layton. In his notes to that recording, the composer described his musical aims: "I happen not to believe in erecting needless barriers between composer and listener: given a choice between critical approbation and a chance of touching the hearts of people outside the limited circle of contemporary music aficionados, I know which I prefer."

In "The Lord bless you and keep you", Rutter keeps the music restrained and simple. The accompaniment first rests on a pedal point; long chords in the bass change only every half measure, while broken chords in steady eighth notes add colour. The first line of the text is sung by the sopranos alone, then repeated by all voices, starting in unison but expanding to harmony on the words "The Lord make His face to shine upon you". "The Lord lift His countenance upon you" is sung twice in two-part homophony, first soprano and alto, then tenor and bass. "And give you peace" appears three times, softer each time from mp to pp, first in the soprano, then in the tenor, and finally in unison in all voices. A polyphonic "Amen" grows to the climax of the music both in range and in intensity, then gradually softens and, after a "molto rallentando", reaches the final long chord.

Rutter chose the work, along with others such as "For the beauty of the earth", to represent his compositions at workshops, for example one at the Augustinerkirche (de) in Würzburg in 2013. The Benediction was part of the celebration of the 100th birthday of the Queen Mother in 2000.


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