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sea psalm (for st. magnus)

(2016) composition

A choral composition written in response to a twelfth century Orcadian hymn fragment entitled Nobilis Humilis, dedicated to St Magnus, patron saint of Orkney.

In the Orkneyinga Saga, Magnus refuses to take up arms during the Battle of Anglesey, instead remaining on board ship singing psalms. Inspired by this account, the composition re-imagines Magnus’ sea voyage to Anglesey, and his refusal to fight, bringing to life an animate seascape with Orkney and Shetland Norn words relating to the sea, alongside a contemporary rendering of psalm 77.

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Commissioned for Cappella Nova, a Scottish choir specialising in early and contemporary music, for the Echoes and Traces project.

Photos by Sean Purser