Listen: Psalm 141


From the archival recording of the world premiere, performed by Ars Nova Copenhagen under the direction of Søren Kinch Hansen.

For information on performing this work or obtaining a perusal score, please contact SDG.


Additional performances

Oct 21, 2012
St. George's Church Choir
Peter Hicks, conductor
St. George's Anglican Church
Paris, France

June 1, 2013
Durham University Chamber Choir
Durham Cathedral
Durham, UK


About the composer

Gavin Bryars, born in Yorkshire, was first of all a jazz bassist and pioneer of free improvisation with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He subsequently worked in the USA with John Cage and in Britain alongside Cornelius Cardew. His early iconic works The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) and Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), both enjoyed major recording success in various versions.

Bryars has written extensively for the stage, including three full-length operas and dance works, and has been associated with many visual artists, as well as with early music performers. He has a long list of instrumental, orchestral and vocal works to his credit, for artists such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd, Trio Mediaeval, Latvian Radio Choir and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Bryars lives in Leicestershire and British Columbia, is married to Russian-born film director Anna Tchernakova, and has three daughters and a son. In addition to his composing, he performs internationally with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble.

Gavin Bryars' publisher is Schott Music.

For a complete biography, visit Gavin Bryars' website.

Psalm 141

Gavin Bryars
Psalm 141

Mixed chorus (SATB), a cappella
DURATION: 7 minutes
TEXT: Psalm 141
Choral work with plaintively flowing chordal writing marked by subtle and harmonic sideslips. Psalms Project commission





World Premiere
May 1, 2012
Ars Nova Copenhagen
Søren Kinch Hansen, conductor
2012 Vale of Glamorgan Festival
All Saints Church
Penarth, Wales

U.S. Premiere
June 1, 2014
Cor Cantiamo
Eric A. Johnson, conductor
St. Raphael's Catholic Church
Naperville, Illinois









Soli Deo Gloria has often collaborated with the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in Wales because of the Festival's commitment to performing the works of living composers. In 2012, the Festival brought British composer Gavin Bryars to the forefront, with the opening concert devoted solely to Bryars' works, and two world premieres scheduled on the Festival program.

One of the Bryars's premieres, titled Psalm 141, was commissioned by SDG as part of the Psalms Project. The world premiere of this a cappella choral setting was sung by the Grammy Award-winning Ars Nova Copenhagen, under the direction of Søren Kinch Hansen. After the premiere performance, Ars Nova conductor  Søren Kinch Hansen wrote:

"Gavin Bryars' Psalm 141 is a beautiful setting of the Psalm text. The piece shows a perfect balance between introverted prayer and extroverted lament; it has a very refined and sensitve chordal structure and a formal balance that I really admire. I think this piece will be very attractive to amateur choral singers, their conductors and listeners."

  Ars Nova Copenhagen in rehearsal with Gavin Bryars, All Saints Church, Penarth, Wales

Ars Nova Copenhagen is an extraordinary vocal ensemble, widely recognized as one of the finest vocal groups in Europe. Their performance All Saints Church, Penarth, drew the best audience of the Festival. The program also included the world premiere of Peter Bannister's Spirius divinae lucis gloriae, along with works by Arvo Part, Per Nogard, Steve Reich, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Anne Boyd.







All Saints Church, Penarth, Wales, Photo: Susan Scheid  

Psalms Project Program Director Peter Bannister, who was in attendance at the premiere, summed up the performance in his blog post: "I and many others were very touched by Gavin Bryars’ new setting of Psalm 141 ... Simple without ever sounding banal, its plaintively flowing chordal writing marked by subtle and well-judged harmonic sideslips, Bryars’ Psalm 141 is deeply expressive while never becoming cloying, and we hope that many choirs will find performing it a richly rewarding experience."


"It was the integrity and lucidity of Gavin Bryars's new Psalm 141 that shone out."—The Guardian (UK)


"A moving setting of Psalm 141."—In the Dark blog


 "A fascinatingly emotion-filled piece."—Wales Arts Review