Conversation with Cheryl Frances-Hoad and anthem 8 – Breathe in me O Holy Spirit

Welcome to Anthem 8 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, follow along on – @realanthem52 or Instagram – @realanthem52 and send me a message to

I’m delighted to say that I managed (despite a few technical difficulties) to speak to Cheryl Frances-Hoad this week for my first Anthem 52 interview. As you’ll hear in a few minutes’ time, Cheryl was generous and open about her process and thoughts on composition. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did – which is a lot!

Before that, though, I completed anthem 8 after another stop-start week. Initially, I wanted to set part of another psalm for the beginning of Lent but I couldn’t find a passage in the Church of England Lectionary which would work. So I decided to trust in the abilities of Google and typed in ‘ancient lent prayers’. I soon found a prayer from St Augustine of Hippo – possibly the best name of any saint – and noticed his dates were 354-430 AD – probably out of copyright, then. Here are the words:

Words for Anthem 8:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.

Guard me, O Holy Spirit, that I myself may always be holy.


I’ve been looking forward to writing an ‘Amen’ section (yes I know that sounds a bit odd) but here was my chance. However, my first attempt to try and convey breathing was unsuccessful and I had to throw it away. Listen out for Cheryl’s thoughts on this topic later in this episode. I was trying to use a slightly atonal feel but it wasn’t working and I started again, using a much more ‘ordinary’ approach. The results were quite pleasing and I should probably stop beating myself up about being unoriginal but you can let me know what you think.

I used some more canonic entries at the start and it turned out that a fairly constant crotchet pattern (also known as quarter note) would keep the motion going. For contrast I added a middle slower-moving section based on the ‘strengthen me’ part of line four of the prayer in the dominant major key – that’s G major to D major – that worked well and then back to the original feel for the final line.

I did indeed enjoy writing the ‘Amen’ section with some overlapping long lines and then a set of repeated harmony stolen from earlier in the piece. Overall, a positive experience in the end.

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

I hope you will join me next week for a new episode – and a new anthem – only 44 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 *