On Sunday 15 May, a brand-new work by one of Britain’s finest composers will be given its first performance in Southwell Minster.

Southwell Minster Choir Association has commissioned the renowned composer Roxanna Panufnik, daughter of the composer and conductor Sir Andrzej Panufnik, to write a new piece for Southwell Minster Choir. With the recent completion of the National Lottery-funded Leaves of Southwell project, an opportunity arose to mark this significant event musically.

“We are very excited about this project and have really enjoyed working with Roxanna,” said Paul Provost, Rector Chori at Southwell Minster. “The piece that she has crafted is an imaginative and thoughtful take on a text that speaks to the heart of the Leaves of Southwell. As well as having local significance, it is my hope that other choirs will want to take this new work up—it is designed to be approachable for choirs of a good standard and of an appropriate length for both liturgical and concert performance. Copies have arrived, and the choristers are particularly looking forward to learning their newest piece!”

The new work, Heaven, sets the poem of the same name by the seventeenth-century metaphysical poet George Herbert, whose poems have been regularly set to music, perhaps most notably by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Five Mystical Songs. But as Roxanna explains, she wanted to go further.

“I have loved every minute of working with Southwell Minster on this very happy project,” said Roxanna Panufnik. “Herbert takes inspiration from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where Hera condemns Echo, from that day on, to only be able to repeat the last words addressed to her, and nothing else. My setting has kept faithful to Herbert’s old English, makes much of the Minster’s reverberant acoustic with plentiful echoes and ends with an imploring request to the listener to “persever”—despite the hardships we have all endured during the recent pandemic. I’m so grateful to Southwell Minster Choir Association for this commission and to my wonderful Facebook friends who provided the word “leaves” in eighteen different languages (from Brazilian to Bengali) for the chorus.”

Heaven will be premiered by Southwell Minster Choir, conducted by Paul Provost and accompanied by Jonathan Allsopp, on Sunday 15 May 2022 in Southwell Minster, at a service of Evensong at 3.30pm. All are most welcome to join the congregation for this service.