Peter Bannister

Peter Bannister
Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae

Double mixed chorus (SSSAATTBB), a cappella
DURATION: 15 minutes
TEXT: 7th century Bangor Antiphonary
Choral cycle in seven sections, with four chant-like fragments
and three more extended movements.





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


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 program included the world premiere of Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae by Peter Bannister, which he composed as part of his work as SDG’s Composer-in-Association.






  "Christ Enthroned" from the Celtic Book of Kells, whose geopgrahic and historical proximity is close to the Bangor Antiphonary form which the text for Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae is taken

Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae ("Spirit of the divine light of glory") is written for unaccompanied mixed choir and is based on the "Bangor Antiphonary." The Bangor Antiphonary in itself is a fascinating seventh-century Latin manuscript written at the monastery at Bangor (in what is now Northern Ireland). Some time after 800 A.D., Celtic monks brought the manuscript from Ireland to Italy in order to protect it from destruction at the hands of the Vikings in their many raids on the monasteries of Northern Europe.

Peter Bannister has made a new English translation of the text and set it in seven sections - four chant-like fragments and three more extended movements:

Ad Vespertinam (At Vespers)

Sancti venite (Come, O Saints)

Collectio ad initium noctis (Collect at Nightfall)

Precamur Patrem (We Pray to the Father)

Ad nocturnam (At Nocturns)

Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae (Spirit of the Divine Light of Glory)

Ad matutinam (At Matins)

“The immediate stimulus for the choral cycle Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae (‘Spirit of the divine light of glory’) was a conversation with Vale of Glamorgan Festival director, John Metcalf, at my home in Paris in 2011. We had listened to some wonderful settings of old Eastern Orthodox liturgical texts by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, whose 75th birthday is being celebrated in 2012 and to whom Spiritus divinae is dedicated.

“I was very struck at Silvestrov's post-modern treatment of the ancient Byzantine-Slavic liturgy of St John Chrysostom and wondered if something similar might be possible with regard to old Western European sources, following along the path already hinted at by Gavin Bryars in using ‘Caedmon's Hymn’ in his 1998 Cadman Requiem and by Arvo Pärt's 2007 setting of the prayer known as 'St Patrick's Breastplate' entitled The Deer's Cry.

“My own fascination with Celtic Christianity since an early age (most of my childhood holidays having been spent on the Welsh coast) led me to the 'Bangor Antiphonary'. The Bangor Antiphonary is one of the most important documents of the liturgical life of the Celtic Church in its early centuries, and its hymns show many points of contact with the Eastern Christian texts set by Silvestrov, not least in the cosmic scope of their poetic imagery and powerful symbolism of light and darkness. Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae is not a liturgical reconstruction, but an imagined night vigil in a contemporary musical idiom structured around the antiphonary's prayers used during the nocturnal monastic offices at Bangor Abbey.”

—Peter Bannister, in his notes on the score


Peter Bannister with Ars Nova Copenhagen at the world premiere performance in Wales, Photo: Susan Scheid  

The 2012 world premiere was performed by Grammy Award-winning Ars Nova Copenhagen, under the direction of SØren Kinch Hansen, at the All Saints Church, Penarth, Wales, as part of the 2012 Vale of Glamorgan Festival. Else Torp, Ars Nova soprano, sang a short but significant solo in the piece. The same program also included the world premiere of Gavin Bryars' Psalm 141, along with works by Arvo Part, Per Norgard, Steve Reich, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Anne Boyd.










  SØren Kinch Hansen, conductor

“Peter Bannister’s Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae is a challenging piece which, despite its chant DNA, is composed in a profoundly personal contemporary style. I enjoy its unison chant-like passages contrasted to highly intensive choral writing typically dividing the choir into 4-7 parts. The vital flexibility in tempos and rhythm, the gestures of the melodies and the flashing colours of harmony remind me of northern lights. Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae is based on texts from the Bangor Antiphonary. These texts had to be moved to Italy for safety, not to be burned or stolen by the attacking Vikings. As a Dane, I was glad to perform this piece which brings the texts back to the north western part of Europe where they originated.”—Søren Kinch Hansen, conductor