Picardy: A ‘Last Verse’ Reharmonisation

PicardyOne of my day (or rather, more often evening-) jobs, with which I attempt to keep the ‘wolf from the door’, is propping up the choir stalls in Lichfield Cathedral, serving as Bass Lay Vicar Choral – a sometimes curious choice of occupation for an ‘atheist’ (in some sense. How long have you got?!).  I have sung in church/cathedral choirs since the age of seven – so, allowing for a couple of short breaks, that makes about 25 years – during which time one cannot help but develop a favourite tune amongst the hymnody.

The best tune in the book as far as I am concerned is the seventeenth century French Carol, ‘Picardy’, which since the collation of the English Hymnal has been sung to the words ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’.  In recent months it has cropped up a few times in the cathedral, and each time I could feel a reharmonisation brewing.  I don’t get any time for composition amongst the many other things I juggle, but having made a start a few months ago, last week (when I should have been doing something else!) I sat down and finished off what was in mind.

Given the nature of the thing, I suspect it might be impractical from a congregational point of view, leaving them too much to their own devices, perhaps; but it is what I think when I sing it.  While I presented a copy to the Cathedral Organist here in Lichfield, I have no expectation of it ever being done; but I thought I’d throw it out into the world through this blog and, should anyone ever feel the desire to try it, I should love to hear from you how it goes!

The latter part presents the alleluias in a an awesome, ‘dreadful majesty’, as one might meet at the ‘last judgement’, rather than in a celebratory repose…

I don’t want to open up a discussion of which hymns are best, or where I go wrong in my interpretation and how it compares with others.  I just throw it out into the world.  Enjoy it or ignore it!  However, if you think you identify the nod to RVW, do say.

You can download a PDF of it here: Picardy

If time allows in the next couple of years, I’d love to write a Fantasy for strings or small orchestra based on the melody.  In the short term, this reharmonisation must seek to sate my creative desires, but if anyone fancies commissioning such a work……!


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