Chichester Music Press: Motets for unaccompanied SATB – introducing composer Charles Paterson

By Neil Sands

I would like to introduce you to the music of Charles Paterson, and in particular to shine a spotlight on his four motets on texts by George Herbert. Charles was a teacher and conductor for many years in the Leicester area before moving to the Isle of Wight, where he maintains a busy schedule as an organist. His work has recently been published on Chichester Music Press.

All these motets are for unaccompanied SATB (Antiphon is SSATBB).

Virtue (Sweet day) was written in 2014 in response to a commission from Fr Simon Lumby for his choir 8ctave, whose singers are mainly serving priests in the Diocese of Leicester. The poem’s imagery of the cool day, the bright rose, and spring with its promise of sweetness offer opportunities for contrast, while all come to the same end: only virtue is everlasting.

You can peruse the score at

This is perhaps a less familiar poem than Virtue, in which the poet muses on his, and thus all humanity’s, relationship with God, and his redemption. The music in the main part of this setting reflects the sequence of thoughts, and so in performance should seem not too smooth in the joins between sections. With the final prayer, though, there is a recapitulation of the music from the beginning, and this should build to the exultant conclusion.

See and hear the score at

This is a poem unusual in form, where each question about the nature of heaven is answered by an echo, so that the question really answers itself. The setting reflects this idea, with the lower voices as the questioner and the upper voices as the echo, which should be as hushed as possible. The final question then leads to a triumphant echo from all voices, the loudest section of the piece, which gradually diminishes to a single note which fades into eternity.

Hear and see the score at

This poem is much the most familiar of the four, being found in most hymn books, and in settings by other composers. Here the refrain is in the style of a fanfare, and it continues as a background to the similarly energetic verses, except for the section ‘But above all, the heart Must play the longest part’: this is hushed to start with and more lyrical, until the fanfare refrain returns to end the piece.

Hear and see the score at

If you have any queries about any of these four, please contact me.

Many thanks for your support. Church music has been rather muted over the last year but composers are still hard at work!

Charles Paterson was born in Ipswich in 1954, and was singing, playing and writing music from an early age. After a Classics degree at Cambridge, he taught at Tiffin School, Kingston upon Thames and then at Leicester Grammar School, where for twenty-five years he was director of the school choir, while also being involved in various local choirs as conductor and/or singer. Since moving to the Isle of Wight in 2018 he has been appointed Music Director of chamber choirs Cantus Vesperi and the Orpheus Singers, and is also active as organist in various churches around the island.

His compositions and arrangements have inevitably mostly been for choirs (several being recorded in 2016 by Leicester Cathedral Chamber Choir), but also include solo songs, chamber music, and music for organ (some of which has been published by The Concertino for Descant Recorder and String Orchestra (published by Peacock Press) has received several performances, and has been recorded by John Turner, with the Manchester Sinfonia under Philip Spratley. Commissions have included a Christmas carol for the Richard III Society, and Christmas is Coming!, a short cantata for choir, children’s choir and piano duet, for Stamford Choral Society. His website can be found at

Music in Portsmouth has interviewed Charles in November 2022.

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