Artist Led, Creatively Driven

The Way of Light
The Music of Nigel Hess

Release Date: Feb 5th 2021



The Music of Nigel Hess

1 A Celebration Overture (2015) 6.15

2 Kyrie (2004/arr.2020) 4.35

3 March Barnes Wallis (2013) 5.11

4 Jesu Joy Variations (2008) 9.27

The Old Man of Lochnagar Suite (2007/arr.2019)
5 Scottish Dances 5.10
6 Dark Lochnagar 5.11
7 Dance of the Eagle 4.04

8 Nocturne (2015) 5.31

9 Live With Me and Be My Love (2018) 4.24

10 Chansons de Normandie (2014) 4.25

11 The Lakes of Cold Fen (2017) 6.33

12 Benedictus (2009/arr.2011) 4.15

13 Arise My Love (1986) 5.48

14 The Way of Light (1985) 7.35

Total time 79.25

BBC Concert Orchestra (Leader: Nathaniel Anderson-Frank)
BBC Singers
St.Catharine’s College Girls’ Choir, Cambridge
Metro Voices
Central Band of the Royal Air Force
Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth
Richard Balcombe, Sofi Jeannin, Duncan Stubbs, Nick Grace, conductors
Emma Tring, Eleanor Grant, sopranos
Christopher Bowen, tenor
Piers Lane, Nicholas McCarthy, pianists
Benjamin Hughes, cello
Sir Derek Jacobi, speaker

As a media composer working in film, television and the theatre, I have occasionally been asked to write music which isn’t paired with screen images – and now, in this retrospective collection, here is a selection of this stand-alone music performed by a wonderful cast list of stellar artists, many of whom are long-standing colleagues. Inevitably there are still a few connections with my ‘other’ musical world – the Kyrie is an arrangement of my theme from the film Ladies in Lavender, and the Lochnagar Suite started life as a ballet – but mostly these are pieces that allow listeners to create their own images. My huge thanks to everyone involved in this project – it has been a complete joy.

Nigel Hess

BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Richard Balcombe
Commissioned, with the support of The Rushworth Foundation, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
With its party atmosphere and exuberant playing in all the orchestral departments, A Celebration Overture gets this collection off to a fun and upbeat start. The horn section is the first to introduce the ‘celebration’ tune which is immediately picked up by the rest of the orchestra, and when the percussion join in with bongos and cabasa, the party has definitely started. Woodwind and solo strings introduce another optimistic theme which the brass section try to commandeer as their own before the opening material is revisited. A solo oboe introduces yet another tune – more plaintive and thoughtful – which is picked up by a flute and violin, but it is shortlived as the horns invite us back to the celebrations which gather apace to a breathless finale.

2. KYRIE (2004/arr.2020)
BBC Singers with Emma Tring (soprano) and Christopher Bowen (tenor) conducted by Sofi Jeannin
Commissioned by the BBC Singers, this is a choral arrangement of Nigel’s popular theme from the 2004 film Ladies in Lavender.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.

Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.

The Central Band of the Royal Air Force conducted by Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs
Commissioned by Royal Air Force Music Services to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the famous ‘Dambusters’ raid.
Sir Barnes Neville Wallis was best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the RAF in Operation Chastise to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II, and this march celebrates his memory. Its first performance was broadcast live by the BBC from Biggin Hill Airport on 17th June 2013.

Piers Lane (piano)
Commissioned by Piers Lane and London’s National Gallery as part of their annual Myra Hess Day.
Pianist Dame Myra Hess (Nigel’s great-aunt) garnered fame during World War II when, with all concert halls closed, she organised a series of lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery, playing in many herself. Her ‘signature’ piece, and the one which became most associated with her, was her own arrangement of Bach’s chorale prelude Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. These ‘Variations’ improvise around the original theme.

BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Richard Balcombe
The Old Man of Lochnagar is a children’s book written by HRH The Prince of Wales and published in 1980. The story was one which Prince Charles had told to entertain his brothers when they were young, and it revolves round an old man who lives in a cave in the cliffs surrounding the Corrie Loch under the Lochnagar, a mountain which overlooks the royal estate at Balmoral in Scotland where the Royal Family spends much of its summer holidays.
In 2007 the National Youth Ballet of Great Britain received permission from the Prince of Wales to create a new ballet based on his story and commissioned Nigel to compose the score. With choreography by Drew McOnie, the ballet received its premiere at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London.
This three-movement suite draws on the dance highlights in Lochnagar. ‘Scottish Dances’ depicts a joyous Highlands dance festival during which the Old Man rediscovers his lost youth; ‘Dark Lochnagar’ is a wistful arrangement of a nineteenth-century Scottish ballad to accompany the Old Man as he searches for his true love, and ‘Dance of the Eagle’ describes the majestic and dynamic Lord of the Air who guides the Old Man on his adventures.

Pipe solo: Andy Findon / Fiddle solo: Nathaniel Anderson-Frank
8. NOCTURNE (2015)
Nicholas McCarthy (piano)

Commissioned by Nicholas McCarthy, who writes: “The tradition of left-hand repertoire firmly began in the nineteenth century and developed through the twentieth century, mainly as a result of the first World War. Nigel’s Nocturne gave me the opportunity, in the twenty-first century, to premiere a new left-hand commission by one of the UK’s most eminent composers. I was thrilled when Nigel agreed to the commission, and I’ll never forget the excitement of first seeing the completed score. The piece has a simple but beautiful theme with an unexpected use of harmony that I love. It certainly tells a story.”

BBC Singers with Alison Martin (harp) conducted by Sofi Jeannin

Commissioned by Altrincham Choral Society using the Florence Matthews Bequest Fund.
Conductor Steven Roberts asked Nigel to write a piece for the Altrincham Choral Society to help celebrate his 25-year association with the choir, and, after looking at several possible texts, they decided on Christopher Marlowe’s poem, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, published in 1599 and arguably one of the best-known love poems in the English language.

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.
O come and be my love,
Come live with me and be my love.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies.
Fair lined slippers for the cold
With buckles of the purest gold.
A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs.

Come live with me and be my love, etc.
The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight, for thy delight.
The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each Mayday morning.

And if these pleasures thy mind may move,
If these delights thy mind may move
Then live with me and we will all the pleasures prove!

Come live with me and be my love, etc.

And if these pleasures may thee move
Come live with me and be my love.

The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Nick Grace
Commissioned by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force as part of their D-Day broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall on June 6th, 2014.
This piece, with its suggestions of Renaissance dance music, is based on three traditional Normandy folk songs: Les Metamorphoses, Le marchand de velours and Le corselet.

BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Richard Balcombe
Commissioned by the Cambridge Concert Orchestra to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Lakes of Cold Fen is a traditional Cambridge folk song, the tune of which was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from John Harman in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, in 1907. This beautiful melody is the starting point for this orchestral piece, written in a quintessentially English ‘Light Music’ style and giving each of the orchestra’s departments its moment in the Cambridgeshire sunshine.

12. BENEDICTUS (2009/arr.2011)
BBC Concert Orchestra and St Catharine’s College Girls’ Choir conducted by Richard Balcombe
This joyful setting of the Benedictus was originally commissioned by St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (Nigel’s alma mater) and their conductor Edward Wickham in 2009 for the college’s newly-formed girls’ choir. Its theatrical exuberance made it instantly popular and a version for choir and orchestra was subsequently commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus under their conductor Simon Halsey.

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in excelsis!
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in excelsis!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest, hosanna in the highest!

13. ARISE MY LOVE (1986)
BBC Singers with Emma Tring (soprano) and Benjamin Hughes (cello) conducted by Sofi Jeannin
After hearing Nigel’s music in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Much Ado About Nothing Sir Kenneth and Lady Carlisle commissioned this piece for their wedding ceremony in the beautiful Chapel of St Mary Undercroft below St Stephen’s Hall in the Palace of Westminster. The text is taken from the 2nd Book of Solomon.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
Arise, my love, my fair one,
Arise and come away.

For lo, the winter is past;
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing has come.
Arise, my fair one and come away.

And the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Let me see your face, let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet and your face is comely.

My beloved is mine and I am his.
Arise, my love,
Arise, my fair one and come away.

For lo, the winter is past;
The rain is over and gone.
The time of singing has come.
My beloved is mine and I am his.

14. THE WAY OF LIGHT (1985)
BBC Concert Orchestra, Sir Derek Jacobi (speaker), Eleanor Grant (soprano), Metro Voices & St.Catharine’s College Girls’ Choir conducted by Richard Balcombe
The Way of Light was commissioned for a Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of King George’s Jubilee Trust for Youth in the presence of the Patron, HM The Queen and the President, HRH The Prince of Wales. The text is from In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson and God Knows by Minnie Louise Haskins which King George famously included in his Christmas 1949 BBC Radio broadcast to the British Empire.

What am I?
An infant crying in the night.
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times.
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civil slander and the spite.
Ring in the love of truth and light,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold.
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely Into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness
And put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely Into the unknown.”

Ring out the thousand wars of old.
Ring in the thousand years of peace.


Nigel Hess works extensively as a composer for television, theatre, film and the concert hall – and it is that final category that is the emphasis of this current collection. Apart from the works featured here, other notable concert pieces include the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Classical Brits Nomination for Composer of the Year), commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales in memory of his grandmother and premièred and recorded by internationally-renowned pianist Lang Lang, and A Christmas Overture, commissioned by John Rutter who also conducted the première with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.
For the theatre Nigel has scored over twenty Royal Shakespeare Company productions and received the New York Drama Desk Award for Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway, while scores for Shakespeare’s Globe have included The Merry Wives of Windsor, Romeo and Juliet, Henry VIII and Nell Gwynn. He also devised Admission: One Shilling, the story of the National Gallery’s lunchtime concerts during the Second World War (founded by his great-aunt, pianist Dame Myra Hess), and this has been performed extensively around the UK and abroad by Dame Patricia Routledge and Piers Lane.
Television scores include A Woman of Substance, Vanity Fair, Campion, Maigret, Dangerfield, Just William and Wycliffe. Nigel has received the Ivor Novello award twice for Best TV Theme (Hetty Wainthropp Investigates and Testament), while his most popular film score is Ladies in Lavender featuring violinist Joshua Bell and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Nigel was honoured to be asked to arrange and direct the music for Her Majesty the Queen’s private 90th birthday celebration at Windsor Castle and for Prince Charles’ 70th birthday dinner at Buckingham Palace. He has recently received an Honorary Fellowship from St.Catharine’s College, Cambridge.

The mission of the BBC Concert Orchestra is to bring inspiring musical experiences to everyone, everywhere, with the ensemble’s great versatility as the key. The orchestra can be heard regularly on BBC Radio 2’s Sunday Night Is Music Night, and for BBC Radio 3 it searches out the unusual and quirky, profiling classical masterpieces in an entertaining way. Along with its regular engagements throughout the UK, the BBC Concert Orchestra has toured internationally to China, Japan, Sweden, Abu Dhabi and coast to coast in the USA.

The BBC Singers hold a unique position in British musical life. The choir’s virtuosity sees it performing everything from Byrd to Birtwistle, Tallis to Takemitsu. Its expertise in contemporary music has brought about creative relationships with some of the most important composers and conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the group makes appearances at the BBC Proms each year. The vast majority of its performances are broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Based at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, the choir also makes regular appearances at major festivals across the UK and beyond.

Founded in 2008, the St Catharine’s College Girls’ Choir was the first college-based choir for girls in the UK, breaking with 900 years of tradition and setting a precedent which has been followed by several other institutions both here and abroad. The choir provides a unique and invaluable musical experience for girls aged 8 to 15, drawn from local schools, including weekly services in the College Chapel and regular concerts, recordings and broadcasts. The choir’s repertoire extends from the early Middle Ages to the 21st century, including music both sacred and secular in a wide variety of genres.

Metro Voices was formed by Jenny O’Grady in 1995 to provide soloists and groups for concerts, recordings and films both nationally and internationally. Performers are drawn from a select group of international talent, and are specially chosen for each project thus creating a tailor-made ensemble. Metro Voices has provided vocals for nearly 200 major feature films, a similar number of recordings and soundtracks and countless adverts, jingles and live performances.

Widely regarded as one of the finest military bands in the United Kingdom, the Central Band of the Royal Air Force has earned a worldwide reputation for musical excellence, both on the concert platform and in the recording studio. In 1918 the RAF was formed and by 1920 the Central Band was established. In 1922 it was the first military band to broadcast on BBC radio. Internationally renowned, the Band was the first outside the USA to receive the John Philip Sousa Citation for Musical Excellence.

The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth has been known as ‘The Royal Band’ since 1903, when King Edward VII appointed it the Royal Yacht Band – and these versatile and talented musicians more than live up to their regal moniker. As one of the oldest of the five bands that make up the Royal Marines Band Service, they have provided music at some truly iconic events, including the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Mountbatten Festival of Music and the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002.

Conductor Richard Balcombe has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras both in the UK and abroad. He has been a regular contributor for over 20 years to BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night, and has conducted the Proms in the Park in Hyde Park since 2012. He is also much in demand as an arranger and orchestrator.

Currently Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers and Music Director of la Maîtrise de Radio France, Swedish-born Sofi Jeannin has established herself as one of the finest and most respected choral specialists around today. Guest conducting highlights include appearances with orchestras such as the Hallé, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Auckland Philharmonia, Singapore Symphony, and the New Japan Philharmonic, as well as with choirs including the Swedish Radio Chorus, Coro Casa da Musica, DR VokalEnsemblet, Denmark, Chamber Choir Ireland, and NFM Choir, Wroclaw. She was previously Music Director of the Choeur de Radio France, a post she took up in 2015.

Duncan Stubbs OBE joined Royal Air Force Music Services in 1983 as a bassoonist. Appointed as a Director of Music in 1991 he commanded all the RAF Bands, including the Central Band, before finishing his career as the Principal Director of Music, Royal Air Force. He initiated new opportunities, directed new ensembles, and organized several new recording opportunities thereby generating challenges for the ever-rising standard of musicians being recruited into the RAF. As an arranger and composer he has many successful works in the catalogues of several international publishers.

Nick Grace retired from the Royal Marines in 2017 as the nation’s senior military musician after over 35-years’ service, of which his final eight and a half years were as the Principal Director. He joined the Royal Marines Band Service in 1982 and in 2007 became Director of Music of the Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth. He received an OBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List, and is now forging a new career as a freelance conductor providing advice and support to national and international military and non-military musical organisations.

Emma Tring works as a soloist throughout the UK and Europe and has premiered several works with orchestras including BBCSO, LSO and RPO. She has been a soprano with the BBC Singers since 2008, specialising in contemporary classical music.

Eleanor Grant was born into a musical family and is now a full time student at the Royal Academy of Music. As a singer she has recorded for a number of film composers such as John Debney, Patrick Doyle and Alan Menken. Eleanor made her solo debut at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2018 for the world première screening of The English Patient Live. In 2019 she was invited by Gabriel Yared to be his soprano soloist in the gala concert Hollywood in Vienna, performing solo works from The Talented Mr Ripley and City of Angels.

Christopher Bowen is a tenor known for his versatility and communicative ability. He has performed a range of roles from Daniel in The Play of Daniel and Acteon in Charpentier’s Acteon, to Rawley Beaunes in Nicolson’s The Iris Murder and the Black Monk in Maxwell Davies’ Taverner. Originally from New Zealand, Christopher has shown a commitment to new music over twelve years in the BBC Singers. Concert appearances include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Britten’s War Requiem, Weill’s Berliner Requiem and Stravinsky’s Renard. Recent Evangelist performances of Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium, Schütz’s Weihnachtshistorie and a Proms “Patchwork Passion” were broadcast on Radio 3.

London-based Australian pianist Piers Lane has a worldwide reputation as an engaging, searching and highly versatile performer, at home equally in solo, chamber and concerto repertoire. Five times soloist at the BBC Proms, Piers Lane’s wide-ranging concerto repertoire exceeds one hundred works and has led to engagements with many of the world’s great orchestras, working with conductors like Sir Andrew Davis, Brett Dean, Andrew Litton, Vassily Sinaisky and Yan Pascal Tortelier. In the Queens Diamond Jubilee Birthday Honours, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished services to the arts as pianist, mentor and director.

Nicholas McCarthy was born in 1989 without his right hand and only began to play the piano at the late age of 14. Having been told that he would never succeed as a concert pianist, Nicholas went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London. His graduation in July 2012 drew press headlines around the world, being the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the RCM in its 130 year history, and his concert performances, recordings and media features have since gained critical acclaim. In March 2018 he was awarded honorary RCM membership by its President, HRH The Prince of Wales.

Benjamin Hughes is one of the UK’s most dynamic and versatile cellists. He is Principal Cello of the BBC Concert Orchestra and enjoys a broad career as a soloist and chamber musician, being a regular performer on BBC Radio and TV. Concerto performances have included Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, Gulda’s Cello Concerto in the London Jazz Festival and Patrick Nunn’s Fata Morgana in the BBC’s Electronica series, which featured a semi-acoustic electric cello designed by Ben. He has also appeared as a soloist in the BBC Proms. Ben is Professor of Cello and Orchestral Studies at the Royal Academy of Music.

Sir Derek Jacobi’s myriad stage roles have included Cyrano de Bergerac, Uncle Vanya, Adolf Hitler, Oedipus Rex, and a slew of Shakespearean heroes and antiheroes. He played the title character in the award-winning I, Claudius (1977), one of several miniseries in which he has starred, and launched his Broadway career in 1980 with The Suicide. His film credits include collaborations with Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh. He was knighted in 1994.

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