Ralph Vaughan Williams

Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge, motet for soloists, semi-chorus & orchestra (or organ) (Psalm 90)

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Like Vaughan Williams' other motets, this one is also short, lasting about six or seven minutes in performance. But unlike most, its scoring includes accompaniment for the chorus, in this case from either organ or orchestra. All the motets use religious texts, and with the exception of O Taste and See (1952) and A Vision of Aeroplanes (1956), are quite somber affairs. Yet, they are always atmospheric, with imaginative choral writing and distinctive melody. This one generally falls into the larger category, though its music is often quite lovely, even somewhat Romantic in style.

    Vaughan Williams drew his text here from Psalm 90 and used the melody to the well-known hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past. In fact, just after the opening the chorus sings those very words to that tune, but at a very slow, almost glacial tempo. The choral writing throughout is imaginative and colorful, even if it is limited to a mostly ethereal or celestial manner. The opening moments have a desolate, almost chant-like atmosphere, but the music turns warmer thereafter, and while much of it will sound familiar, it maintains a freshness of expression throughout. In the end, though, many will not be drawn to Vaughan Williams' more sober manner here and to the motets in general, the music is beautiful and often achieves considerable expressive depth.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 557
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 541
    2017 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902265
    2017 Decca 4831252
    2016 Somm SOMMCD 0159
    2015 King's College Choir KGS 0004
    2014 Regent REGCD 437
    2014 Regent REGCD 451
    2014 Hyperion CDA 68020
    2013 Signum Classics SIGCD 328
    2008 ABC Classics 4766906
    2008 Hyperion 44321/4
    2004 Griffin 4043
    2003 Nimbus 5083
    2002 Naxos 554826
    2001 Nimbus 5691-5
    1999 Nimbus NI1754
    1998 Guild 7151
    1997 Lindenberg 47
    1997 York Ambisonic 107
    1996 Sound Alive Music 501
    1995 Hyperion 66758
    1993 Hyperion 66655
    1992 Chandos 9019