The word Blessed comes from the name of the Patron Saint of Europe, Saint
Benedict. Born in Italy in 480, he is the founder of the Benedictine
Order of Monks. At an early age he gave up his noble lifestyle and lived
in a cave meditating upon God. He established twelve monasteries and this
was the beginning of the great monastic scheme which was to play a vital part
in the regeneration of western civilization. Saints are from different
periods of history and from every walk of life – from farm labourers, beggars,
mistresses and soldiers to housewives and poets. This piece celebrates
the richness and diversity of these men, women and children whose goodness and
devotion have inspired the world.
Blessed, a single movement work for string orchestra, opens
with a short reflective prologue, focused on a quartet of solo players.
The main sections of the piece for full ensemble explore struggle, conflict and
reconciliation with angular sounds, chromatic lines and jerky rhythmic
action. A brief central prayer-like phrase focuses on a different quartet
of soloists while the material in the final substantial slow section is
transformed very gradually. Its controlled gesture dominates a still
atmosphere where slow, quiet chord progressions start to break up and create a
world of thickening texture.
Blessed was commissioned by the European Union Chamber
Orchestra to mark the 2005 UK Presidency of the European Union.