Patrick’s librettist brother Andrew adapted the writings of Richard Rolle – the 14th Century hermit and mystic – into these six choral ‘songs’. As well as capturing a deep and passionate spiritual journey, they possess alluring pictorial qualities and flowing poetic lines which make them ideal for rich and varied choral treatment. Each song may be performed as a stand-alone, the first two movements being particularly suitable in this respect. When performed as a whole, it is hoped the full impact of Rolle’s mystical experiences will be portrayed.
Rolle believed that there are three phases of the soul’s movement towards God – heat, sweetness and song. This Fire aims to create a sense of purifying fire being kindled in the human soul while This is the Love recognises the fire as a ‘shining’, enlightening love. Eternal Praises is an expression of that joy which sweetness brings once the mind has become changed through heat. In Paradise speaks of a quieter, more peaceful ecstasy. The final two movements rejoice in the gift of song. The Angel’s Praise becomes almost breathless in its desire to “sing all that before I said”. Endless Love is essentially a chorale which unfolds into an eternal “ghostly symphony”. The soul has moved towards its maker and, now that it is renewed, desires nothing more than to glorify God through song.
Born c.1300 in Thirsk in Yorkshire, Richard Rolle came from a poor background but showed exceptional gifts as a child and was sponsored by the Archdeacon of Durham to attend Oxford. He rejected the life of an academic, however, choosing instead to become a hermit – first as an itinerant and then supported by a wealthy patron to live a life of prayer and writing. Having been termed ‘The English St. Francis’, he was a pioneer of the English language and English Spirituality.
The text which is set to music here is based on the English translation by Richard Misyn (1435). It is all taken from The Fire of Love apart from one excerpt which is from the Legenda.
The Sheet Music for This Fire and This Is The Love is also available as standalone works.
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