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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

We Shall See Him as He Is (1992)
commissioned by Cheshire County Council for the 900th anniversary of Chester Cathedral
Text Writer
Mother Thekla
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
1 Hour 0 Minutes
English, Greek
soprano, 2 tenors
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Programme Note
John Tavener We Shall See Him as He Is (1992)
We shall see Him as He is was written in Greece in 1990. The opening melody on the solo cello represents ichnographically the parable of the guest who had no fitting wedding garment, and was not admitted to the feast. In the Orthodox Church, The Heavenly Bridal Chamber is an especially important theme from Monday to Thursday of Holy Week as we prepare for the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. This theme of the Bridegroom and bridal Chamber recurs in different guises throughout the work.

The music and text are constructed as a series of ikons with a refrain – We shall see Him as He is – using Byzantine tones as an ikon painter uses brush and paint. Each ikon depicts a different event in the life of Christ, as seen through the eyes of His beloved apostle, John. The climax of the ikon sequence comes at ikon X: “Behold thy mother! Behold Thy Son!” This represents the establishment of the Christian Church, and here material form other ikons is juxtaposed with a constant assertion – We shall see Him as He is.

In the final bars the opening cello theme is played in the high register by a violin, reminding us that “We have no fitting garment to enter the Heavenly Bridal chamber.”

Programme note © John Tavener

  • Ensemble
    BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra / BBC Welsh Symphony Choir / Britten Singers / Chester Festival Chorus
    Patricia Rozario, soprano John Mark Ainsley, tenor Andrew Murgatroyd
    Richard Hickox
  • Conductor
    Richard Hickox
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