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Second place in the Peter Tranchell Foundation Composition Prize 2023: Lift up your heads, by Liam Condon

Following our previous post about the winner of the Peter Tranchell Foundation Composition Prize we are now pleased to make available the second placed and Highly Commended piece: Lift up your heads, by Liam Condon.

The free score is available below.

Liam provided an account of his use of the competition brief:

This piece has been inspired by Peter Tranchell’s ‘People Look East’. His piece is energetic with a lively and intricate organ part, while also reflecting the chosen words effectively, and I have therefore attempted to do this in my composition.

The text, ‘Lift up your heads’, is taken from Psalm 24 and proclaims that the King of Glory will come. The piece starts with an unstable introduction before the statement of the ‘Lift up your heads’. This idea is at first treated antiphonally, before being layered between vocal parts to create a busy sound, almost as if it is a crowd of people calling to each other. The King of Glory who ‘shall come in’ is good news, and therefore, after a modulation to a major key, the choir sings homophonically above a rippling organ accompaniment.

In bar 29, the music is more reflective. During the season of Advent, there is a sense of mystery about who the ‘King of Glory’ will be. The irregular feel of the 7/8 time signature and the unusual organ chords reflect this. The music starts to accelerate as the excitement builds.

The opening idea of layering motifs in the choral parts returns in bar 38, but this time the tenors and basses are ‘fighting’ against the sopranos and altos in a war of words. The lower voices sing ‘the Lord strong and mighty’ whereas the upper voices sing ‘the Lord mighty in battle’. The layering of these ideas creates a sense of havoc and reflects the unsettled nature of the Advent season. This section concludes with a boisterous statement of ‘Lift up your heads’ in all parts.

The rippling organ accompaniment returns for the next phrase, which helps to provide the excitement for the King of Glory. ‘Who is this King of Glory’ returns, and this time it is reinforced by repetition. A soprano soloist soars above the rest of the choir, and the musical idea is transposed down for every two repetitions. The excitement grows towards the final section, which reuses the layering idea.

I have used Tranchell’s piece as an inspiration for my music. Firstly, the opening motif ‘Lift up your heads’, was based on the overall shape of the opening phrase of Tranchell’s piece. Secondly, I was inspired by the way that Tranchell used cross-rhythms and changes of metre. In my piece, I have often changed time signature and have occasionally changed the way in which the bars are subdivided, such as treating a 6/8 bar as a 3/4 bar. Thirdly, I think the overall quirky character of Tranchell’s composition is something I have attempted to embrace in my music. The organ accompaniment is characterised by percussive stab chords on a trumpet stop and I have also asked for unusual stop combinations in places, such as the interjections from bar 69. The sudden unprepared modulations, and the boisterous style of writing for voices contribute to the unusual nature of the piece.

About Liam Condon

Liam Condon BMus FRCO PGCE is an Organist, Choral Director and Animateur, and Music Teacher. Liam currently holds roles with Warwick School, Lichfield Cathedral Musicshare, Warwickshire Sings and Coventry Music Hub, as well as being the accompanist for Lichfield Cathedral Chorus and Musical Director for the Lichfield Palace Singers. His previous role was Acting Assistant Director of Music at Coventry Cathedral where he accompanied the Cathedral Choir. Liam was Organ Scholar at Lichfield Cathedral from 2019 to 2021. Liam subsequently completed his teacher training, during which he was given the title of Honorary Assistant Organist at the Cathedral. Liam has played in many venues around the country and has recently deputised at venues such as Derby Cathedral and St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury, as well as accompanying visiting choirs at Southwell Minster, Ripon Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral.

Liam enjoys composition and won third prize in the 2021 York Minster Grand Organ competition, senior category, for his Advent composition Veni ad Salvandum nos, which he premiered after a eucharist at Lichfield Cathedral. He has composed choral music, including his Lichfield Musicshare Service for upper voices, and If ye love me, which was premiered in June 2022. Liam was awarded an Associate of the Royal College of Organists diploma in January 2021 after having studied for the qualification during coronavirus lockdowns. He is now a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and completed this diploma in July 2023.

Liam graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2019, where he was Organ Scholar under the tuition of Rupert Gough. He was accompanist to the Chapel Choir of Royal Holloway, playing live on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as well as touring with the choir to various destinations in Europe and North America. He has accompanied works on two CD’s recorded by Royal Holloway – The Hours, and Messe Da Pacem. Alongside his degree, Liam was Director of Music at St Michael and St Mary Magdalene Church in Bracknell.

The score

To encourage widespread performance of the work, we are making the score freely available - Lift up your heads, by Liam Condon (or click on the image below).

Preview image of Cantemus in omni die, by Liam Condon