Anthem 17 – O praise the Lord of heaven

Welcome to Anthem 17 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.

Everything has been much more positive this week. I have had a go at composing another ‘Shakespeare Anthem’, in the general tradition of fast, joyful pieces. Strangely, I can’t remember exactly how I decided on using verses from Psalm cxlviii (148) but the theme of praise seems to have been a productive one.


Words for Anthem 17:

O praise the Lord of heaven : praise him in the height.

Praise him, all ye angels of his : praise him, all his host.

Praise him, sun and moon : praise him, all ye stars and light.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord : for he spake the word, and they were made; he commanded, and they were created.

One way in which I think I have progressed since the beginning of the year is my confidence in writing organ parts. If you look back through the anthems I have tried with accompaniment, they start off with some basic, sparse writing. I think they are still fairly appropriate for the context but I probably would have approached them differently if I started them again now.

This means that the organ part to ‘O praise the Lord of heaven’ is certainly the most complex I have attempted to date. Not being a pianist, let alone an organist, I don’t know how difficult it is to play but I hope it’s at least possible. The whole anthem is fast and furious and I’ve thrown in some trills on the top organ notes. I like the effect this has. It’s particularly effective on the line about angels, I think – just a bit of fun.

I’m finding that my organ pedal parts are important to the effects I try to create – again I hope they are playable. They certainly fill out the texture.

For contrast, I added a middle section in 3/4 time and played with a kind of ‘call and response’ between voices and organ (as I seem to have done between vocal parts as well quite a bit over the weeks). Interestingly, it turned out that I needed to increase the speed of the 3/4 section to make it flow. This time, repeats of the material and a complete repeat of the first section at the end seem to work well and not become too repetitive.

I said I wouldn’t look back at previous anthems at the moment because it made me feel bad last week. I didn’t take my own advice but I didn’t find it overwhelming this time. I did notice that a lot of the anthems were short and therefore not very satisfying, so I tried to make this week’s piece a little longer. I think this has resulted in an anthem which feels more finished, this time.

See what you think:

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

You may be wondering how the ‘real’ Shakespeare Anthem went at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, last week. As a reminder, it was called ‘Awake, Awake! O Heart of Mine!’ by Becky McGlade. The performance went well and the choir enjoyed the experience. The anthem has a lovely character and contains some interesting, surprising and highly-effective features. Something for me to aim for, although I’m not sure I’ll ever get there…

Here is a shot of the anthem in rehearsal and Shakespeare’s grave with flowers for his birthday (he’s 459 this year):

I hope you will join me next week for a new episode (perhaps featuring my second interview) – and a new anthem – only 36 to go – but until then the question remains – will I make it to Anthem 52?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *