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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Vertue (2005)
Commissioned by Spitalfields Festival in memory of Peter Lerwill with funds from his friends: John Crisp, Peter Crisp and Jeremy Crouch, Andrew Luff, Jeremy Lindon, Sylvia Moys, Michael and Wendy Smith, David Wardrup
Text Writer
George Herbert
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
7 Minutes

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Programme Note
Judith Weir Vertue (2005)
These three short chorus settings of famous poems by George Herbert (1593-1633) were written in memory of Peter Lerwill, a dear friend and generous supporter of the Spitalfields Festival. When I set Herbert’s verse about ‘a sweet and vertuous soul, like season’d timber’, it was Peter who came instantly to mind.

The formal care with which the poet laid out his words on the page was an important clue in the organisation of the music. The unaccompanied vocal ensemble begins simply, but progressively divides into as many as eight parts. In Prayer, the final and most complex piece, pairs of solo voices are heard amidst the massed chords, acting as a kind of punctuation. The settings of Vertue and Antiphon are respectively like a madrigal and then a hymn, aiming for the clearest possible presentation of the wonderful words.


  • Music Sales Group:
  • Ensemble
    Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
    Geoffrey Webber
[It was] gratifying to find that the Judith Weir commission performed by Andrew Carwood's Cardinall's Musick at Christ Church should be such a gem. A seven-minute, a capella triptych of George Herbert settings, Vertue recystallises the subtle verses with touchingly deceptive directness.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,26/06/2005
This concert, featuring the premiere of Judith Weir's Vertue, was given twice on the same evening to sizeable crowds. As a previous artistic director, Weir has retained close links with the [Spitalfields] festival, and Vertue was commissioned in memory of one of its most loyal supporters, Peter Lewill, who died last year. The new work consists of three choral settings of poems by George Herbert, whose metaphysical lines are beautifully mirrored in Weir's music. With naturalness of word-setting always uppermost in her mind, Weir's writing is flexible, shifting smoothly from solo lines to eight-part texture. The haunting first bars are for sopranos and altos alone, and the central Antiphon is more hymn-like. The work takes flight in the more complex rhythms and harmonies of the final Prayer, richly sung by the Cardinall's Musick under Andrew Carwood's direction.
John Allison, The Times,15/06/2005
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