Anthem 12 – De profundis

Welcome to Anthem 12 in my attempt to write a new choir anthem every week for a year. I’m Kevin Mulryne and I hope you will enjoy listening to my progress throughout 2024. Please do visit the website Anthem52.com, follow along on x.com – @realanthem52 or Instagram – @realanthem52 and send me a message to show@anthem52.com.

Another mixed week ended rather well. As soon as I spotted that one of the psalms set for this week was cxxx (130) I knew I had to set it. The biggest reason for this was that the name of this psalm in Latin is ‘De profundis’ – there can’t be a better anthem name in existence. Also, the words in English are highly descriptive:


Words for Anthem 12:

Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.

O let thine ears consider well: the voice of my complaint.

If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss: O Lord, who may abide it?

For there is mercy with thee: therefore shalt thou be feared.

I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him: in his word is my trust.

My soul fleeth unto the Lord: before the morning watch, I say, before the morning watch.

O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy: and with him is plenteous redemption.

And he shall redeem Israel: from all his sins.

Great stuff. I do know at least two settings of this text, of course. Both the Thomas Morley version and the Hilton-Stewart are great:

I’m a lot less keen on the Rutter version but I’m probably prejudiced. Anyway, my own version gave me a chance to include some dramatic contrasts. The opening section is very slow and melancholy, moving from quiet pleading to fortissimo in a few bars. There are a lot of sustained, slowly shifting chords in there. More movement is added at the words ‘O Let thine ears consider well’ and I play with the time signature at the end of phrases, removing a beat here and there for effect. It’s possible this kind of articulation could come from the conductor and I don’t need to worry about writing it in, but I will only really know that when (and if) anyone is brave enough to give the anthem a go for real.

Living in G minor initially, the music seemed to want to add a flat for just 6 bars so I let it. It’s probably not even noticeable if you don’t have the sheet music in front of you and the same goes for the fluid metre – 4/4 changes to 3/4 and 2/4 also makes an appearance at times.

I haven’t worried too much about the tonality and just wrote what feels right. The final section of the piece shifts into a major key to emphasise the positive nature of the words from ‘O Israel trust in the Lord’ – or at least I took them to be positive when I read them this week. I added in some quaver (8th note) movement and finished off in triumphant fortissimo fashion with some interesting chords.

I was quite pleased with it all but was nervous of transferring it to Logic Pro as I didn’t want to be upset by the way it sounded over there, as in previous weeks. Fortunately, I stripped out all the midi instructions apart from the notes and asked Charlotte to show me – again – how to add automation to the tempo and dynamics in Logic. This worked fine once I got the hang of it but the music was all very quiet and I couldn’t see how to ‘beef it up a bit’. While walking the dog, however, it occured to me that I could simply duplicate the tracks I had for women’s and men’s voices and that would make it louder…wouldn’t it? In fact, I ended up blending the Spitfire Audio Epic Choir plugin with another, free one and I was very surprised to find that it worked rather well. It’s far from a great choir sound and if I had the time I would have refined the tempos, particularly the ritardandos and the ending pause, but I think it is a lot better than some previous attempts. You may disagree but take a listen and see:

Well, what do you think? Let me know on X.com @realanthem52, Instagram @realanthem52, as a comment below or via email show@anthem52.com

Before I go this week, I’d like to congratulate Paul Walton and Tim Popple for successfully printing and sending out the Descants are for Life copies. My wife and I received our copies and were delighted to see that Paul had included the descant he wrote for our wedding, 30 years ago this year, complete with a dedication. What a lovely surprise!

I hope you will join me next week for a new episode (perhaps featuring my second interview) – and a new anthem – only 40 to go – but until then the question remains – will I make it to Anthem 52?


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