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maecenas music - wind bands and ensembles

Cathedral Variationsfor Wind Orchestra

Carroll, Fergal

In November 2014 and January 2015 I visited London, England and whilst there attended services in Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral. Like many before me, I was impressed by the ambience and solemnity surrounding the services. At about the same time Tim Reynish asked me to write a piece that could be played by a good high school band and as a result ‘Cathedral Variations’ was born. 

Cathedral Variations is as the name suggests a set of variations on the English hymn tune ‘All Praise To Thee, My God, This Night’ by Thomas Tallis (also known as ‘The Tallis Canon’) which was first published as a setting of Psalm 67 around 1561. 

Cathedral Variations consists of a theme and four variations. 

Theme: We begin with the hymn-tune in B flat major, rhythmically modified and in triple time over a pedal ‘F’. 

Variation 1: At letter A, the tune (now in 4/4) is heard in the bass whilst upper woodwinds add support with new material. 

Variation 2 is a waltz in G minor. A new melody is introduced by a solo clarinet which after development becomes a counter-melody to the theme played in the brass. 

Variation 3: The time signature changes to 5/4 and the hymn-tune, now in F major, is played by saxophones and horns in octaves. A new version of the tune is heard at letter I with ‘fife and drum’ joining the fray. This is short lived, the whole settling again into a 3/4 canon (but with a ‘2 over 3’ feel) with the euphonium contributing decorative passage work. The two versions of the tune are combined at K taking us into a full tutti statement at M. This leads directly to the final variation. 

Variation 4: A timpani roll re-introduces the hymn-tune, again in B flat. This is essentially a four-part chorale with an ornate descant in the high woodwinds and saxophones. A brief coda in a quicker tempo completes the work in triumphant style. 

F. C.

Grade AB 4-5 US 3

c: 7.30 minutes



Set and score

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Score preview


Cathedral Variations

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