Hearing the angels: Jonathan Harvey’s Messages

I’ve listened in twenty-five minutes of utter wonderment to Jonathan Harvey’s Messages, which was broadcast on Radio 3’s Hear and Now over the weekend, in the second of two broadcasts from last week’s ‘Total Immersion‘ day devoted to Harvey’s music at the Barbican.

Premièred in April last year, and with a text consisting entirely of the names of angels, the piece captivates from the very opening gesture, as though a veil is being parted into another realm. A major piece for chorus and orchestra, Messages follows in the tradition of other mighty choral works such as the Dream of Gerontius or Vaughan Williams’  Te Deum; however, Harvey’s work transcends the epic-choral-piece niche and becomes instead a sublime and powerful evocation of the immediate presence of angels, singing above a landscape of shimmering sound.

The piece is on iPlayer until Saturday, and there’s a video of the first ten minutes of the piece here.

Also in the same broadcast is a choral piece Harvey wrote in the 1980’s, Come Holy Ghost, a blend of plainsong and sustained choral chords, the colours of which positively glow, sung by the BBC Singers. Listen and revel in the sonic pleasure of both pieces.

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