David Fisher - The Litanie

The Litanie


Soprano solo, SATB with divisi

Recording, download - 2.04MB

Score, download - 2.29MB

David Fisher - The Litanie

Other Information

The Litanie, with its accompanying motet Ave Regina caelorum, was written between 1973-1976, and the quartet of movements won the Northern Sinfonia Chorus “Young Composer of the Year” in 1978. Sung by the Northern Sinfonia Chorus in March 1978. Set to mystical words by John Donne, the suite of four movements are all linked by the plainsong liturgy for The Litany sung by a cantor/solo voice and answered by all the tenors and basses. The third movement to be completed: The Father, had its world première by the Mixolydian Consort with Janet Lamballe, soprano, on Tuesday 27th November 1973. The Mixolydian Consort´s singers included Richard Stevens [Countertenor] and Andrew King [tenor]. The whole work was revised in 1979 for the Leicestershire Chorale under Peter Fletcher. Performed many times since, although only once with the linking plainsong, and was recorded for the British Music Council by Jacquelyn Parker * [soprano - pictured left] and the Burrows Choir directed by Brian Blythe Daubney in 1988.

The accompanying recording is the one mentioned above with the superb Jacquelyn Parker as solosts but features only the first of the four movements: The Father.

Brian Blythe Daubney, Programme Notes: Leicester Music - November 30th 1988 

“David Fisher’s The Litanie seizes on the devout yet sensuous quality of the verse of the dual-natured John Donne. There are moments of growth from gentle reflection to impassioned intensity. Hear this in the words ‘…and being sacrilegiously half-wasted with youth’s fires of pride & lust.’ In the first, third and fourth numbers, a soprano voice points the words in angular, often anguished lines, over frequently quiet sustained choral textures. Her first notes are the motif from which the whole work springs [C B flat F G]. In the third number, The Holy Ghost, Fisher employs a technique used by Holst in The Hymn of Jesus and by Britten in the War Requiem of allowing the choir to sing the words in free time, producing the effect of a vast host, murmuring ritual chants (‘O Holy Ghost whose temple I am ’ and the words quoted earlier). Mainly harmonic in texture, one apt moment of fughetta appears at the words ‘Which, as wise serpents, diversely Most slip’rinesse, yet most entanglings hath.’ The dissonance marking the harmony almost throughout is resolved in a blazing F major which unites The Father, The Sonne and The Holy Ghost in The Trinity.” 

The late Peter Crump [composer & teacher] writing in 2002:

“What is David Fisher’s best piece? A matter of opinion of course, but for me it is The Litanie with its moving juxtaposition of texts and depth of expression.”


The images below show the first pages of movements 1 & 2 of The Litanie.


* The photos on the left are [top] Bryan Blythe Daubney, noted composer, exponent of British composers and nationally recognised educationalist; the superb soprano Jacquelyn Parker is second top when she was performing in the McAlpin Singers in the same year that she recorded The Litanie with the Burrows choir and [bottom] at the time she performed peerlessly in Brahms´ Ein Deutsches Requiem under the direction of David Fisher with the Derby Choral Union in 1997. 

Her biography for the latter performance was: Jacquelyn Parker was born in Cumbria in 1965 and gained a place at the Birmingham School of Music [later the Birmingham Conservatoire] in 1983. She studied with Margaret Thomas and graduated with distinctions in 1986 & 1987 gaining graduate diplomas in Singing, Teaching & Performing and having also been awarded an LGSM diploma in performing from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1985. She was actively involved in the College Chamber Choir and gave a series of live broadcasts on Radio 4. She has been awarded a number of prizes including the Doris Newton Music Prize, the Canoldir Prize for advanced singing and was runner up in the Mario Lanza Operatic Competition in 1989. She has sung Mozart’s Requiem with the Brighton Festival Chamber Choir and in Ireland she sang Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and Messiah. With Upminster Choral Society she sang Mozart’s Missa Solemnis in C and with Haverhill Choral Society, Cambridge, she performed Orff’s Carmina Burana.


[Please click on the images for more clarity of detail]

David Fisher - The Litanie

David Fisher - The Litanie