John's Account

Available free of charge!

Although I think of John's Account as a cantata, that's really true only in the structural sense: it consists of a series of musical episodes followed by a chorale. The words of the episodes are derived from the opening of John's gospel. The words of the chorale are a translation of O Gott, Vater, wir loben dich, set to the melody of Laßt uns erheben Herz und Stimm. Scored originally for four solo singers (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and tenor-beritone), flute, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar and piano, I revised it in 2012 adding string and vocal pads, tone-wheel organ, harp, bell, sitar, tabla and drum kit.

Lyrics

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God.
The same was in the beginning with God
and the Word was God.
All things were made through Him
and without Him was not anything made that was made.
In Him was life and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness,
and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
The same came for a witness
to bear witness of the light
that all men through him might believe.
He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.
That was the true light,

that lighteth every man coming into the world.
He was in the world
and the world made by Him knew Him not.
He came unto His own
and His own received Him not.
But as many as received Him
to them He gave the right to become children of God
Even to them that believe on His name,
Which were born not of blood
Nor of the will of the flesh
Nor of the will of man,
But were born of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,
Full of grace and truth.

Our Father God Thy name we praise
to Thee our song addressing,
and joyfully our voices raise,
Thy faithfulness confessing.
The power is Thine, O Lord divine,
The Kingdom and the rule are Thine!
O grant us, Lord, Thy blessing.

O holy Lord,
O Son of God,
Almighty Sov'reign,
Lamb of God:
O Lord, our God,
We praise and bless Thy holy name!

Listen

How would John's Account sound if performed today? The following is a hybrid performance, consisting of the live vocals from the 1986 premiere combined with the instrumentation from the 2012 revision - 36 years separate the singers and instrumentalists but it sounds (nearly) as fresh as if it were performed yesterday.

Vocal score available here (3.5MB) (free)
Backing track available here (229MB) (free) Please note: the backing track is recorded 'dry', i.e. without any form of reverb. In this way it will always match the acoustic of the venue in which you use it. You may need to split the track in order to facilitate timing of the a capella section towards the end.

If you prefer a non-hybrid performance and a bit of video to distract you from the music, either of the following might be of interest!

Original 1986 version (live performance)

Based upon my manuscript score, in which the flute and bass guitar parts differ slightly from the full score available here. Recorded in Wycliffe Baptist Church, Reading, on Sunday 16 November 1986 and featuring: Kay Higgs (soprano), Ruth Cullen (mezzo-soprano), David Paine (tenor), Phil Caisley (tenor-baritone), Sue Hardwick (flute), Andrew Waugh (electric guitar), Paul Harvey (acoustic guitar), Paul Moore (bass guiitar) and Dave Brown (piano).

2012 revised version (instrumental plus lyrics)

which includes revisions to certain instrumental parts and the addition of parts for string and vocal pads, tone-wheel organ, harp, bell, sitar, tabla and drum kit.

Learn

I first thought of setting the opening of John's gospel to music as far back as 1979, while my wife and I were still living in our first house. In those days I had a little old upright piano and that was it. I worked on and off at it, not getting very far until the local Baptist Church, of which I was a member, asked me to write something to celebrate the opening of a new suite of halls. So I finished the work off at speed and it was duly performed at the evening service on Sunday 16 November 1986. The original scoring was very much constrained by the limited number of musicians in the church and even then we had to import Sue Hardwick (flute) because our resident flautist didn't want to get involved. Various folk thought that it wouldn't work, only to express surprise when in fact it did!

In 2012 I revised it, in part because I recognised that there were some things I could have done better but mainly to add in the instruments that I'd have liked to have had in 1986. It is an amazingly eclectic work from just about every point of view, with the Indian modalities adding a decidedly exotic edge to it.

Six of November 1986 crew

Ruth Cullen / Paul Moore / Stuart Brown
Andrew Waugh / Paul Harvey / Phil Caisley

Codex Sinaiticus

Thiersee

The idea of including a chorale didn't occur to me until my wife and I attended a performance of a Passion Play in Thiersee bei Kufstein, Austria. One of the congregational hymns, Laßt uns erheben Herz und Stimm, had such a glorious melody that I asked the Burgermeister of the town for permission to use it. He agreed readily. Even so and despite the Lutheran origins of the melody, the exotic flavour of the music continues through the chorale, maintaining musical coherence with the rest of the music.

It's a work of which I'm proud; and more recent conversations with three of the musicians involved in 1986 have convinced me that they have reason to be proud of it also.