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John McCabe

Publisher: Novello & Co

Woefully arrayed (2009)
Text Writer
Anon. (?14th century), adapted by the composer
Novello & Co Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
10 Minutes
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Programme Note
John McCabe Woefully arrayed (2009)
Composer's Note

Woefully arrayed is a supreme choral setting by William Cornysh, Junior, who died in 1523, of a text usually regarded as of anonymous composition, though there have been some attributions to John Skelton. It is a thoughtful, powerful meditation on Christ on the Cross, and though Cornysh's setting has remarkable intensity and contrapuntal artistry, I felt a strong wish to add my own response to this fine text. The different versions of it have different verses - that used by Cornysh has three verses (plus the refrain), while there are others with four or even five (one attributted to Skelton has five). I have chosen to restrict myself to the three used by Cornysh, using my own adaptation of the modernised words which yet incorporates some archaisms - a deliberate choice for reasons of rhythm and verbal sound.

McCabe (b.1939) is a master composer in every sphere. A superbly graphic treatment of the anonymous medieval text, which calls to mind Arthur Bliss's fine choral settings [...], "Woefully arrayed" spans the mysterious, the madrigalian, the contrite, and the plain gorgeous. McCabe's contrapuntal and keyboard mastery, painstakingly good judgement, and sensitive ear for detail in even a small-scale anthem should have cathedral organists across the country scurrying to him for new pieces. He could yet prove the Howells of his generation, and of our day.
Rodderick Dunnett, Church Times,05/04/2012
With 12 real parts at his disposal, the composer takes every opportunity to provide a kaleidoscope of textural variety and colour. There are many stunning passages of writing ...[and] shows a real mastery in the handling of voices, a trait seen in others of McCabe's larger choral works. ... Very rewarding and emotionally stirring music.
Andrew Wilson, Organists' Review,01/02/2011
[Woefully Arrayed] is a major statement from a composer working at the top of his game. A powerful evocation of suffering: angular, angry, grinding, often dissonant, yet also shot through with something of WB Yeats' 'terrible beauty', briefly relenting into more forgiving contours and warm, deliquescent harmonies. A significant work well worth seeking out by any advanced choir in search of striking new repertoire.
Matthew Greenall, Classical Music,01/11/2010
... a searing setting of a medieval poem depicting Christ's Passion.
John Rushby-Smith, The Hereford Times,20/08/2009
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