Marcus Haddow - The Whispering Mass (2016)
As part of our concert for November 2018 we are pleased to be performing Marcus Haddow's composition The Whispering Mass. Marcus is a long-standing choir member and also a talented composer. Hailsham Choral premiered parts of The Whispering Mass in summer 2017 and we are delighted to now bring you the whole work.
Marcus Haddow was born into a home where classical and sacred music were promoted above all other musical forms. His mother taught him rudimentary keyboard skills on the old harmonium that sat in the corner of the living room, and weekly attendance at the village chapel led to the absorption of the four-part style of harmony traditionally used in non-conformist hymns. After nearly abandoning the organ, he discovered his mother’s secret stash of ‘proper’ music - Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Mendelssohn - which encouraged him to develop his keyboard skills, and eventually led to persuading his father to allow a piano in the house. During this time he sequestered his sister’s guitar and tutor book after she had left home, leading to a deeper understanding of chord structure and sequences, together with the mathematical relationships found in music.
A desire for song-writing developed from time spent with the guitar, most of which manifested itself during Sunday sermons and then quickly transformed into simple keyboard compositions, choral works and eventually chamber music and fully-orchestrated works for school orchestra.
Haddow was educated to ‘O’ Level in Music, by Mr. Geoffrey Spinks at Steyning Grammar School, where he achieved a grade ‘A’. He is an ungraded pianist, guitar player (folk and country style), tenor chorister and occasional soloist, writer of folk songs (mostly pertaining to the Hailsham area), keyboard player in two rock bands, singer in an acoustic duo, and a terrible violinist. He will also entertain on the accordion, harmonica and the Appalachian dulcimer at the drop of a hat. His next musical projects include learning the one-string fiddle, and Mongolian throat singing.
The Whispering Mass
The Whispering Mass, according to Haddow, started to write itself while driving one day, after many years away from the genre, possibly as a result of recent years of exposure to choral music at HCS. “The music just cut through the babble of the BBC2 breakfast show with such ferocity that I had to scribble down the ideas in my diary at the next available carpark”. After much arm-twisting, he put pen to paper and started to write the Kyrie. Then came the Sanctus which morphed into the Benedictus. Other movements took longer as inspiration became transitory, but eventually the Mass was completed, mostly in hotel rooms, and sometimes drawing on his back catalogue of song melodies and older compositions.
The supplicant displays the many ways in which one may ask for mercy when approaching The Omnipotent. At first, in a terrified whisper, then with more confidence interspersed with reverence, moving through jubilance tinged with presumption, and finally with the insistence of a petulant child. Hidden within the movement are harmonic progressions inspired by the early pioneers of prog rock.
Harmonically an exploration of the relationship between the augmented and the diminished, this movement depicts the laborious path to sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Some parts derive from an earlier composition, ‘Rock Bottom’, wherein the protagonist sits helpless in the corner of a room, staring at a blank wall whilst comtemplating the ‘hell’ of his current existence. The movement resolves to the theme of the earlier ‘Christe Eleison’, as ‘Dona Nobis’ is sung to an almost imperceptible, and peaceful, conclusion.