Lux Aeterna was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival in association with the Arts Council of Great Britain and was first performed in Hereford Cathedral on 26 August 1982 by the Choristers of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester Cathedrals, the Three Choirs Festival Chorus, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Roy Massey. The first London performance was given in the Royal Festival Hall on 21 February 1984 by Felicity Lott (soprano), Margaret Cable (mezzo-soprano) and Penelope Walker (contralto) with The Bach Choir, the Choristers of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and the London Symphony Orchestra led by Sir David Willcocks, all of whom later recorded the work: Chandos 8695. The US premiere was given the same year by the Chorus of Westerly (R.I.) led by George Kent. The composer writes: In composing a work dedicated to the memory of my mother, I at once decided against setting the normal Requiem text. The concept of 'Light' means more to me in this context than that of 'Rest', and Lux Aeterna is based on that premise; it can in one sense be viewed overall as reflecting the tensions between the Light of Heaven and Earth's Dark Night of the Soul. Formally the work falls into three sections. Each part begins with an increasingly passionate choral please for salvation (Lux aeterna; Domine Jesu Christe; Libera me) but the three soloists sing of a spiritual journey from a Dark Night to a mystical Union with God. Towards the climax of Part III they combine in praising the Holy Trinity, prefacing the chorus's Gloria, tibi Trinitas with the Sanctus from the Mass superimposed--the Three and the One. At the point of climax the boys' choir reminds us of earthly vulnerability through the Agnus Dei prayer, following which the music returns full circle to the mood and atmosphere of the work's opening now with the Ave Maris Stella motet superimposed. The work ends with a reiteration of the greater prayer for Eternal Light.
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