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Op. 1 - Nativity Mass

Scored for 5-part choir with 4 soloists

The Nativity Mass was not the first of Paul's choral works, but it was the first to be performed and as such was designated as his Op 1.  The original version included an overture for recorder and piano, and these accompanying instruments appeared at intervals throughout the score. However when reviewing the work in the 1990s he decided that these instrumental sections were by far the weakest sections of the music and needed to be deleted (the optional trumpet in the final section alone remains). He also took the opportunity of recasting several of the sections in terms of rhythm and harmony, although the many original naїve harmonisations and word settings have, he trusts, remained unimpaired.


At the same time the transcription of Peter Cornelius’s Die Drei Könige, the only portion of the text not in Latin, was removed.


The construction of the Latin text was undertaken by Barry Blackburn and Ian Crane.

Click on the arrow below to go to the libretti page.

Op. 2 - Requiem Canticle In memoriam Patri

Scored for mixed choir and orchestra (

The Requiem Canticle was originally intended to form part of a larger Requiem Mass which Paul sketched during the late 1960s but never finished. The first movement was then extracted and re-orchestrated in the early 1970s for a performance in memory of his father, who had recently died.

Click on the arrow below to go to the libretti page.

Op. 3 - Three Early Songs

Scored for solo voice and piano/harp

The three songs grouped together for publication under the heading of Early songs date in fact from quite a wide period. 


The first and second are notable for the use made of their themes in later works: the Song of nationalism later emerges in the Akallabêth and then again in The Silmarillion, while Those dancing days are gone becomes the scherzo movement of the Saxophone Sonata.


The final song, One came back, is the only arrangement included in this collection; it was originally written as an exercise at the instigation of Alan Bush.

The words to A song of nationalism are traditional from the First World War, whileThose dancing days are gone are by William Butler Yeats.  One Came Back is an arrangement of a verse and melody by Olive Gaunt.

Click on the arrow below to go to the libretti page.

Op. 9 - Tolkien Songs

Scored for various voices and piano

The Tolkien Songs were written (and re-written) during the early 1970s and were all conceived as part of an extensive cycle on The Lord of the Rings.  They were all been subsequently orchestrated and in this form are included in the Episodes and Fragments published in 2001.  And quite apart from their existence as fragments of The Lord of the Rings, a number have also found further employment elsewhere. Strider was developed as part of the conclusion of the one-act episode Tom Bombadil; the Song of the Eagle is found in a transposed version for violin and harp (or oboe and piano) as one of the Three Romances; the Song of the Wanderer became the third of the same Romances, and also exists as the final scene of Fire and Water; the Drinking Song was incorporated into the central section of Mead beneath the leaves, the third of the Four winds for chamber ensemble; and the Song of the Prisoner was incorporated, in an altered version, into Beren and Lúthien, as are quotations from Farewell to Lórien (which is set to Tolkien’s own improvised tune).

This latter setting was omitted from the recording of the songs included on the CD Akallabêth issued by Prima Facie Records in 2017, although Shadow-Bride, Op.42, was added for that release. For the booklet that accompanied the disc, the composer provided the following note:

"The first of these songs, Strider, sets the passage from Gandalf’s letter to Frodo when he describes Aragorn, who is subsequently to come into his inheritance in the course of The Return of the King. It is almost entirely based on variations of the opening phrase, growing at once more mystical and more regal as it progresses. The order of the songs does not reflect the dramatic progress of the narrative, so The Song of the Eagle was intended to feature as the prelude immediately preceding the scene of Aragorn’s coronation. The psalm-like nature of the text begins unaccompanied but grows to a massive climax at the end, as “the people sang in all the ways of the City.” In Alive without breath we encounter Gollum in a brief extract from The Black Gate is closed, and the music dies away at the end as he leads the hobbits into the Dead Marshes. The fourth song is the Drinking Song for Sam and Pippin from The Fellowship of the Ring, set of course for two voices and suddenly interrupted by the call of a Black Rider from the nearby woods. The accompaniment, sometimes jaunty and sometimes also depicting a sense of underlying threat, is closely allied to the dramatic situation in the book.

"But it is in the next song that we approach most closely to the realm of The Silmarillion, quite apart from the quotation of Tolkien’s own melody for Namarië which occurs towards the end at the word “farewell”. In The Lord of the Rings Sam sings In Western lands as he searches for Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. The same poem was also set by Donald Swann in his Tolkien cycle The Road goes ever on but his setting is very different. While Swann, taking his cue from Tolkien’s description of Sam’s “simple tune”, provided a straightforward setting of the lyric, I have approached it from a more dramatic viewpoint. At the end of his setting, Swann repeated the closing line; I have followed Tolkien’s own instruction that Sam recommences his song at the line “Beyond all towers strong and high” and then breaks off as he seems to hear a response from far above.  When I came to set Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien as part of The Silmarillion, I was confronted by a rather peculiar lacuna in Tolkien’s poem. He describes Lúthien searching for Beren in the Tower of Sauron and singing a song to which he responds – exactly the same situation, in fact, that Tolkien later incorporated into The Lord of the Rings – but curiously, although Tolkien provides lengthy lyrics for most other points in his narrative, he does not do so here. I took the cue from the similar dramatic context to incorporate the song In Western lands into the operatic text at this point, only making one minor change to substitute Lúthien’s “nightingales” for Sam’s more bucolic “merry finches” in the first verse (and removing a musical reference to the Shire). The Namarië now refers specifically to the death of the Elvenking Finrod which immediately precedes this scene, and the series of descending chords which opens the song was taken up into the body of the work as the theme of Death which pursues the characters.

"After this the final setting Roads go ever ever on  is a simple transcription of the closing scene of The Hobbit, Bilbo’s song as he returns to his home in the Shire. The poem itself is the first of several ‘walking songs’ which Tolkien distributed throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and beneath its exterior calm it is shadowed by deeper thoughts and meanings. Towards the end of the song, the main ‘Shire melody’ (heard during In Western lands) which permeates the score of the opera enters in the accompaniment as the hobbit returns from his wanderings to his home. (The comic scene of the auction he encounters on his arrival is omitted from the opera at this point.)"

Op. 11a - The Sea Bell

Scored for tenor and piano

Although the very long ballad The Sea Bell originated from the same period as the earlier Tolkien Songs, it can be regarded as in many ways the original germ from which The Silmarillion grew.

It was at a very early stage extended by the addition of the closing scenes from The Lord of the Rings to become part of The Grey Havens. The main theme (which recurs many times in the course of the ballad) was then adapted to become the principal melody of the slow movement of the third symphony Ainulindalë, and from there found its way into all five parts of The Silmarillion as one of the principal themes associated with the Elves (and, in a further adaptation, it also forms the main material of the work for flute and piano Daeron).

This version of this ballad and opus number applies for the complete early version.  When it is used in the final 2021 version of The Lord of the Rings it is heavily cut and modified from this original and falls under the opus number for that work.

Op. 12 - Whispers of Heavenly Death

Scored for eight solo voices (S.S.A.A.T.T.B.B) or mixed chorus with organ or orchestra (

Whispers of Heavenly Death, to a poem by Walt Whitman, was originally scored for full chorus and orchestra but was then recast for eight soloists and organ for the first performance given in the Lower Machen Festival in 1974 by the Medici Ensemble with Bruce Grant (organ) conducted by the composer. The reworked vocal parts were then incorporated into the original orchestral version.

Click on the arrow below to go to the libretti page.

Op. 13 - Songs of the Mark

Scored for male choir and piano

The Songs of the Mark were originally part of Paul's aborted 1970s version of The Lord of the Rings. They were originally intended to have full orchestral accompaniment, but at that time never progressed beyond short score. Subsequently they were fully scored and form part of The Lord of the Rings: episodes and fragments.

They have now found their rightful place in the 2021 completed version of The Lord of the Rings.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the final version.

Op. 14 - The Watchman

Scored for baritone solo, mixed chorus, two pianos and orchestra

During the years 1973-74 Paul wrote a short oratorio entitled The Watchman. There were both a vocal and an orchestral score completed, and the vocal score also existed in a photocopied facsimile.

The score was designed for performance by the London School of Economics Chorus and Orchestra, who had previously given the first performance of the first suite from The Hobbit at a concert in June 1971. The orchestration was designed with this in mind, including two pianos (the Shaw Library, the concert room at which the body performed, had two grand pianos available). The full score and the photocopied vocal score were given to the musical director Gordon Kirkwood for that purpose.

The original copy of the vocal score was retained by Paul and was eventually passed to Graham Barrar, director of the Nelson Choral Society, who had also expressed an interest in performing the work. Neither performance materialised, and some years later when I attempted to reclaim the scores he was advised by both the directors that the scores could no longer be traced.

The only remaining material that existed was a complete chorus part for the sopranos and altos, a partial chorus part for the tenors and basses and some orchestral parts which had been prepared before the orchestral score left my possession. It is not possible from these fragments to reconstruct the whole work.

One section of the full score was subsequently used as part of his original ‘Second Symphony’—not The Great Dance which was subsequently given that number, but a work for chamber orchestra written for a performance in the mid-1970s by the Workers’ Music Association. This work was substantially quarried from other pieces—the first two movements were identical to the Four movements from Diarmuid and Gráinne—but the fourth movement included substantial sections lifted from The Watchman, from which it might have been possible to make a reconstruction had this work for chamber orchestra not also been lost.

The work sets out to give a brief summary of the prophecies of Isaiah. It commences with his calling by God to prophesy to the people of Israel, and continues as he prophesies the end of the present order of the world, and the creation of a new order in which none will benefit by the misery of others. But this new order is only to be created by the suffering of the present, and the work ends as the chorus anxiously interrogates the baritone soloist: But watchman, what of the night?

The musical structures are made up of two contrasted and conflicting groups of material. The first represents the existing order, and is a series of contrasted chords in block formation and a rigid rhythm. The other represents the new order, and consists of a melody in flowing triplets with an undefined sense of rhythm. Between these two there is the reconciling force of a third strand, symbolising the gentle power of the Lord which will bring about this change; this is the floating theme which begins the work. It is only in the final pages that the theme of the new order finally subdues both other themes to its will, and the work ends with the rival themes in a new and gentler form.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the libretto.

Op. 17 - Folksong Arrangements

Scored for unaccompanied male choir;  

She moved through the fair introduces a solo line.

Dafydd y Garreg Wen also has a mixed choir version

This collection consists of six arrangements of traditional songs: Waly waly, Ca' the yowes,

She moved through the fair, All my trials, The House of the Rising Sun and Dafydd y Garreg Wen.

These folksong arrangements were all originally written with one combination of voices in mind: the traditional Welsh male choir of the South Wales valleys. They were designed for informal gatherings of singers, after concerts or in pubs, but were also a conscious attempt to wean such informal singsongs away from the churchy Methodist harmonies that so often tended to creep in to the improvised harmonisations.


Some of the arrangements, notably that of Waly Waly, have become among the most performed of all Paul's compositions, both in commercial recordings and in radio and television performances, mainly by Pendyrus Male Choir; but the informal performances heavily outnumber the formal ones.

In 1978 Paul was asked to do an arrangement of a traditional Welsh piece for a visiting Hungarian Choir to perform during their tour of Wales.  He modified his version of Dafydd y Garreg Wen for this purpose so that piece now exists in two versions.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 18 - Two Partsongs for Male Choir

Scored for unaccompanied male choir (T.B.B) 

This collection consists of two partsongs: Stillness to words by James Elroy Flecker and Gods to words by Walt Whitman.


They were written at the request respectively of Pendyrus Male Choir and Ynysybwl Male Choir, with both of which groups Paul was involved in the 1970s; and, although published together, were not intended to form a unit. Both are scored for three-part choir, rather than the standard four parts, but take the opportunity to divide each section to produce six parts when required.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 20 - Symphony No. 2 "The Great Dance"

Scored for male choir and tenor soloist with wind (2fl,ob,2cl,bn) and harp 

The Great Dance is Paul's Second Symphony, an entirely choral setting of passages from C S Lewis’s Perelandra. It was originally intended for broadcast by BBC Wales but because of difficulties which arose at the time over the copyright of the lyrics it remains unperformed.


The scoring, for wind sextet and harp, allows the words of the male chorus, so often overwhelmed in works for full orchestra, to come through undisturbed. At the end the male choir, clapping in rhythm, add a percussive rhythm to the perpetuum mobile of the wind players.

Quite apart from its programme and the use of a text, The Great Dance also has a purely musical structure as a symphony which―like its predecessor The Mists of Time and its successor Ainulindalë―consists of an extended sonata form in one movement. The first subject is stated after the initial introduction by the solo tenor, not by the choir but by the oboe:



and the end of the first verse leads to the second subject, a setting of Blessed be He! which will frequently recur:






This theme leads into a new verse, where the third subject is stated:







These three themes, separately and in combination, form the main constituents of the first ‘movement’, which concludes with a chord which acts as a bridge into the second ‘movement’:






This second ‘movement’ opens with a new theme:



and the middle section of the movement consists of a series of dances in the form of a suite, the first a sarabande for unaccompanied voices based on the second subject, the second a gavotte for solo woodwind based on Paul's initials (in a cipher constructed with acknowledgement to John Jordan), the third a bolero for solo harp, before the return of the earlier theme.

   The bridge chord recurs and leads into the final section, a combination of recapitulation and development in which all the previously cited subjects and themes recur. The third theme takes on a new form as a basis for a rondo:




This leads into a final choral meditation, which at first seems to entirely follow the meaning of the text without reference to the previous musical material; but the final statements of Blessed be He! leading to the choral handclaps bring a final statement of the rondo subject interspersed with pauses of increasing length.

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Op. 22 - Three Partsongs for Mixed Choir

Scored for four soloists (S.A.T.B), mixed choir and piano

This collection consists of Dedication, Monotone and The mystery of the Immortal Rose.

These three partsongs form part of a projected oratorio on W B Yeats’s The Wanderings of Óisin, which grew in turn out of the work for seven clarinets of the same name.

The oratorio only ever remained fragmentary and these three sections were expected to form the prologue, an interlude towards the end of the score, and the epilogue. The second song was in turn transformed to become the final movement of Paul's Saxophone Sonata.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 23 - The Deserted Village

Scored for solo baritone, two trumpets and three trombones

The Deserted Village was the first of Paul's songs which was not originally score for piano or harp accompaniment but for a chamber ensemble, consisting of two trumpets placed on either side of the singer and a group of three trombones immediately behind the baritone for whom the lyrics are set. 


Structurally it consists of an opening desolate fanfare figure for the trumpets, followed by an opening stanza for the baritone and then a refrain to the words Ill fares the land.  The fanfare figure recurs during the course of the poem, and the work ends with a full recapitulation of the opening stanza (for trumpets and trombones) and the refrain (in a higher key).


The text was adapted from Oliver Goldsmith by Alun Alban Davies.

The score for this work has been published by Zarathustra and is available from Volante's Webstore.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 24 - Three Songs of Faith

Scored for solo voice and piano

The Three Songs of Faith  to words by John Bunyan were commissioned by Christine Barrodale for church performance, but although a number of copies of the score were prepared these have all subsequently been lost. 


The reconstruction that now exists was made from a recording by Sheila Searchfield of the first concert performance at Wortley Hall, Sheffield in 1976, but the opportunity was taken to make a number of small amendments to the original score.

The final song was largely incorporated into the eighth scene of Beren and Lúthien; but even at that time the original copies had been lost, and the final version owes much more to the Beren adaptation than to the original as heard on that recording.

The theme from the second song became an integral part of the music of Minas Tirith in Paul's final 2021 version of The Lord of the Rings, but it had originated in a sketch for some incidental music for a never-realised stage production of T H White's Arthurian play The Candle in the Wind, indeed from the same source as the music which opens Scene One of The Fall of Gondolin.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 25 - Two Meditations

Scored for unaccompanied mixed choir

This collections consists of two pieces: Dychwelyd, a setting of T. H. Parry-Williams, and Sleep, a setting of Samuel Daniel.

These Two Meditations, like the Partsongs for male choir, were not originally conceived as a unit, and in fact were written some twelve years apart.  Dychwelyd, the later work, is a complex and elaborate work for a skilled six-part choir, while Sleep is a comparatively straightforward score. 

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 26 - Three Songs of Twilight

Scored for solo voice, flute and harp

This collection consists of three adaptations (in either Latin or English) of verses by the late Roman poet Ausonius: Mosella (Evening on the Moselle), De rosis nascentibus (On new blown roses) and Sylva myrta (The fields of sorrow). The historical poet was a minister in the government of the western Emperor Gratian in the dying days of the Roman Empire, but his name appears to be a Latinisation of the Celtic name Óisin.

The Three songs of twilight were commissioned by Sheila Searchfield and Ray Lewis for performance at the Greenwich Festival.


The accompaniment is for a chamber group consisting of flute and harp. The flute cadenza at the end of the second poem was written by the composer in association with Mary Sutherland, who played the flute in the first private performance of the songs. The work makes use of a number of then novel harp techniques.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 29 - The Arrogance of Youth

Scored for solo baritone, piano and three clarinets

The first poem in The arrogance of youth to be set was the fifth, Dichotomy, which was publicly performed in 1976. The remainder of the songs were then commissioned for a concert promoted by the Compass Ensemble in 1977 and were given a first performance in London with Stephen Jackson as soloist.


The chamber ensemble required for the accompaniment is three clarinets and piano, although the first complete performance was given with an adapted scoring including flute instead of the third clarinet.


The poems were drawn from an extensive unpublished collection by Liam Blake, who collaborated in their selection and performance.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 30 - Two Pagan Choruses

Scored for mixed choir, solo baritone and piano.

The Sphinx also exists in a version with orchestra (

This collection consists of The Sphinx - a setting of Oscar Wilde, and Dithyramb - a setting of Richard Wagner in English translation by the composer.

These two choruses were conceived specifically with piano accompaniment in mind, and both for the same group, the WMA Singers who gave the first performances in London. Both include baritone soloist, and are designed for a choir with a smaller than usual body of tenor voices.

The orchestrated version of The Sphinx is included as an additional track on Volante Opera Productions recording of The Nightingale and the Rose.

The score for this work has been published by Zarathustra and is available from Volante's Webstore.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 31 - Passacaglia On the seashore of endless worlds

Scored for solo mezzo soprano, solo flute and orchestra (

A setting of Rabindranath Tagore from the collection Siranjali in an English translation by the author.

The passacaglia On the seashore of endless worlds was commissioned by Sheila Searchfield and Ray Lewis and was first performed by them in 1977 with the Orpington Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Davis. 


The scoring has mezzo-soprano and flute accompanied by double woodwind and brass but without orchestral flutes.


The main passacaglia theme is stated at the outset and returns faithfully, if not entirely classically, in every group of four bars. Towards the end of the work is an extensive flute cadenza, notated by the composer, which is played over a series of string chords each of which incorporates all the notes of the passacaglia theme and which then move (in four-bar phrases) from one key to the next in order of the passacaglia theme.


The unchanging passacaglia theme itself may be seen as a representsation of the ocean, while the orchestra depicts its shifting moods and the flute the children playing unheeding on its margins.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the text.

Op. 33 - Shadow-Bride

Scored for solo voice, viola and piano

Shadow-bride was written with viola and piano accompaniment as a commission for Sheila Searchfield and Myra Ricketts who gave the first performance at the Greenwich Festival in 1978. 


The verse here comes from Tolkien’s poetic collection published as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, but it also has connections with the legend of Aredhel and Eöl which formed part of Tolkien’s very last extended work on ‘The Silmarillion’ – a woman trapped into a union with a predatory and possessive lover. The story of the doomed couple found its way into the opening section of the last part of the Silmarillion cycle The Fall of Gondolin, and the musical material was developed and reworked in that context.  In this original setting the viola represents the woman, at first wandering through the woods and then ensnared and struggling to escape before she is drawn into the rather sinister dance of her paramour. 

Op. 34 - Planctus

Scored for solo voice, flute, violin, cello and guitar or harp

Planctus is a setting of Peter Abelard’s lament David for Jonathan, a song written in the late 1970s with chamber accompaniment for flute, violin, cello and guitar or harp.


An English singing translation by the composer after the 1930s paraphrase by Helen Waddell is also available.

Op. 35 - Counterpoint

Scored for solo voice and chamber ensemble (fl.2cl.tensax.perc.str)

Counterpoint was the last of the songs with chamber accompaniment commissioned by Sheila Searchfield, and was first performed by her in Pontypridd as part of a double bill with The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric in July 1979. 


The scoring of this poem by Walt Whitman is for a substantial ensemble of flute, two clarinets, tenor saxophone, string quartet, percussion and harp.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the text.

Op. 37 - Hymnus Mysticus

Scored for solo soprano and baritone, mixed choir and orchestra (

The Hymnus Mysticus was the second of Paul's two substantial cantatas for soloists, chorus and orchestra (the first, The watchman, although completed in both vocal and orchestral score, is largely lost).  This score, too, is not in its original form, because the original manuscript full score is also missing, the version included in the collected edition being reconstructed from a photocopy of the vocal score.

The text by Aleister Crowley is adapted from a number of sources, and the passage beginning “beyond the paths and palaces of day” quotes briefly from his earlier setting of Oscar Wilde’s pagan poem The Sphinx.

A recording of this work is an additional item the recording by Volante Opera Productions of The Nightingale and the Rose.

The score for this work has been published by Zarathustra and is available from Volante's Webstore.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the text.

Op. 38 - Epigrams

Scored for solo voice and piano

These three epigrams are mere jeux d'esprit, all written on the same harmonic sequence.  The three pieces use the words of Sir John Harrington, Hilaire Belloc and Richard Garnett.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 39 - Llef

Scored for male choir and chamber ensemble (

The arrangement of Llef stemmed from the desire to rid a beautiful and curiously irregular Welsh hymn melody of the standardised Methodist harmonies and rhythms into which it had been straitjacketed.


It was originally written for an abortive opera about a South Wales mining disaster, and was intended to form a prologue in which the victims of the disaster were being buried. As such it used the same orchestration as my other chamber opera of the late 1970s The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric.  However a later version was made in the late 1990s  for male choir and organ with solo parts for flute and timpani.

Click on the arrow below to be taken to the page for the texts.

Op. 44 - Mysteries of Time

Scored for solo voice and piano.

Queen of Air and Darkness is also available as a trio with piano, or in a chamber orchestral version with harp and string quintet (

The five songs collected as Mysteries of Time were written over a period of more than twenty years, all originally as independent songs. But they do have a similarity of theme which makes for some validity as a cycle, although they are clearly designed for different voices.


The opening song, The Mystery (words by Ralph Hodgson), uses a theme originally composed for an unfinished Requiem in the late 1960s, and which eventually found a home in the second scene of Beren and Lúthien.

The second song, Cywydd (words by Gerard Manley Hopkins), was commissioned by Rhys Morris who gave the first performance in Welsh (the English translation is by the composer).


The third song, Graveyard, was written specifically at the request of Allison Reynolds, who was the author of the words.


The fourth song, adapted from W. B. Yeats’s The seven woods of Coole, was written as a competition entry for Classic CD magazine (who insisted on the use of ‘seven’ as a theme), but the poem had been earmarked as a potential setting many years before. 


The final song, The Queen of Air and Darkness, was originally designed as a mini-cantata for three voices with strings and harp accompaniment, but remained unfinished until the revised version for single voice was written to form a conclusion to this cycle. It may be noted that the dance of the Outlings is closely derived from the similar dance of the elves in the final scene of Fire and Water written some ten years before. The harmonies in this song reflect the conflict between the different worlds; the alien Queen is represented by open fourths and fifths, the mortal ranger whom she seeks to entice by minor thirds which constantly attempt to rise towards the fourth through the major third, but inevitably settle back into the minor again.

In 2021 during the Coronavirus Pandemic Volante Opera Productions were working on video recordings Paul's works and when the opportunity came to realise The Queen of Air and Darkness as originally intended Paul revisited the score and completed the version with String Quintet and Harp (video link below).

For the release of the cycle on CD by Prima Facie Records in 2017 the composer supplied some more extensive booklet notes:

"The song cycle Mysteries of Time employs texts by five very different poets, and indeed they were written at different times and for different performers; but they do have a unity of theme, being concerned with the nature of poetic and musical inspiration in various guises. Two of the five songs also have strong musical links to my Tolkien compositions; and this is especially true of the first, The mystery, whose melodic and thematic material found its way almost unchanged into the opening part of Beren and Lúthien and indeed returns at the end of the love scene in that work. Here, in its original form, the poem by Ralph Hodgson (1872-1962) refers symbolically to the ineffable nature of religious inspiration in the shape of a rose. There is a similar religious impulse too beneath the poem Cywydd by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), one of the few pieces by the Victorian mystic written in the Welsh of his adopted homeland. In point of fact his command of the language was not entirely idiomatic, and the song is given here in my own translation into English where I have attempted to imitate the poet’s later use of Welsh-inspired alliteration and sprung rhythm in a manner which I hope is not wholly unsuited to Hopkins’s celebration of a Welsh religious shrine. The third of the songs in this ‘cycle’ is based on a poem by Allison Reynolds, Graveyard, which she wrote “upon seeing discarded ships rotting on the banks of the River Waveney between Oulton Broad and Lowestoft in Suffolk.” Here the contemplation is drawn not from religious significance but from thoughts of the impermanence and transitory nature of human endeavour.

"The text of the fourth of these songs is extracted from The seven woods of Coole, a poem by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) which originally formed the introductory lines to his mystic play The shadowy waters. They were a favourite of my late mother’s, who first discovered them quoted in a book by Michéal Mac Liammóir (who was shortly afterwards to become the librettist for my own first opera Diarmuid and Gráinne). The selected lines employed in this song again contemplate the mystery of the creative spirit, and the inspiration that the poet draws from the natural world – identifying the elevation that the mind draws from the symbolism which underlies the outward calm of elements as simple as water and trees. The vocal melodic theme heard at the outset permeates the whole song, rising from the depths to the heights as the music progresses.

"The last and longest of these songs moves away from the sense of static contemplation to the dramatic interaction between the various realms of inspiration: nature, the supernatural, and the prosaic reality of humanity. The ballad form of The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson (1926-2001) might be regarded as a sort of counterpoint to Goethe’s Erl King, and indeed Anderson himself uses it as a springboard to a substantial novella; but here it is presented as an entity in its own right, with a tragic ending arising not – as with the Erl King – from the death of the child, but from a continuing mundane existence. After the haunting tones of the eponymous Queen are heard unaccompanied in the opening bars, the tenor narrator begins with a jaunty melody whose quirky modalities nevertheless have a sense of unease. The “ranger Arvid” is journeying homewards through the evening twilight when he comes across an assembly of “outling folk” dancing beneath the moon – and here the music of the dance draws directly from another Tolkien work altogether, the elvish “Dance all ye joyful” encountered in Rivendell by Bilbo towards the end of my setting of The Hobbit. Watching the dance is the Queen of Air and Darkness, who now comes to tempt Arvid with the prospect of joining the “outlings” and laying down the burden of mortal existence, “which is a heavy yoke.” The Queen’s vocal line breaks the bucolic atmosphere, as her ethereal whole-tone scales disrupt the firmly harmonic basis of the music that has preceded it; but it strikes no response from Arvid. He firmly and brusquely declines her offer, citing his need for human friendship, for fulfilment in work, and the woman who is waiting for his return.  “You’ll not make me unfree!” he exclaims. After this outburst there is a sudden ominous stillness, until the Queen returns his rejection with scorn. She needs no magic, she declares, to make him mourn; she returns him to his plodding existence and his “dull and foolish” woman, but declares that the memory of her will never forsake him or still the yearnings of his heart. “Go home now, ranger Arvid,” she proudly declaims, “set free to be a man!” As she and the outling folk suddenly vanish, Arvid is left alone, and as the narrator informs us the longing for transcendence is already gnawing at his heart – and the remembered voice of the Queen haunts him already."

The score for this work has been published by Zarathustra and is available from Volante's Webstore.

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Op. 47b - Beren and Lúthien Love Scene

Scored for two soloists (S.Bar), mixed choir and chamber ensemble (fl.2pfte.perc.str)

The Love scene from Beren and Lúthien constitutes the whole of the third of the epic scenes from the second part of The Silmarillion, and was one of the very last parts of the  whole score of the cycle to be composed.

The arrangement retains the original text but employs a very much reduced orchestration designed for concert performance by small choirs: flute solo, string quintet, piano duet and percussion. However the original solo and choral parts remain unaltered.

Op. 50 - Tair Cân Gwmreig

Scored for male voice choir and harp

The three Welsh folksong arrangements linked together in Tair Cân Gwmreig: Dacw ’nghariad i, Ym Mhontypridd mae ’nghariad and Ffarwel i blwy’ Llangower were intended to be a more elaborate exploration of the folksong arrangements Paul had made earlier but have never been performed to this date.

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Op. 52 - Two Songs of Protest

The colour of his hair scored for solo voice, guitars, tom toms, cymbals, solo trumpet and violin

Sunsong scored for solo voice, guitars, alto saxohone, violins, harp, tom toms, tenor drum, bass drum and cymbals

These two songs have highly disparate origins, and were written at different times.

The Colour of His Hair is an original setting of A.E. Housman, written in protest at the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, in popular folk style, where the material later found its way somewhat incongruously into the fifth scene of Beren and Lúthien.

Sunsong was written specifically as a ‘pop’ number for the abortive musical Golden and is the only surviving number from that work.  In 2020, while composing Blithe Spirit, Paul incorporated the music from Sunsong into that score where it now serves as an important centrepiece to that work.

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Op. 52 - Two Chamber Songs

The lover at sunrise scored for solo voice, guitar, flute, bassoon and percussion

The nightjar scored for solo voice, guitar, string trio

The first of these Two Chamber Songs, The lover at sunrise - a setting of Algernon Charles Swinburne, was the first use of the theme that later became the last of the Three Songs of Faith and finally found its way into Beren and Lúthien.  It was first performed in London in 1976.


The second song, The nightjar, was begun as a companion piece also using guitar but this time with string trio; but because the poet could not find the second stanza, it remained incomplete for many years.

Op. 57 - Sundials

Scored for solo voice and piano

The short cycle of epigrams by Hilaire Belloc was originally planned in the late 1970s but Paul was unable to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion for many years. 


At one time he experimented with a set of variations on a single theme, but found that it was extremely difficult to reflect the differing moods of twelve independent and very short poems by these means.


This final version makes one concession only to the unity of the cycle, by employing the same material for the first and last of the songs.

The score for this work has been published by Zarathustra and is available from Volante's Webstore.

Op. 58 - The Water is Wide

Scored for mixed choir ad lib and orchestra (

The water is wide is an orchestrated and simultaneously abridged and enlarged version of the Variations on a Welsh Bardic Melody for harp or piano, and was commissioned for the opening ceremony of the Cardiff Bay Barrage (an event that in the end did not take place in the originally contemplated form); the programme underlying the variations reflects this commission. 


The final verse for chorus is by David Leverett.


The theme, of Breton or Welsh origin, is of obscure origin; and if it is a traditional folk tune, the words are lost. This is the melody that forms the basis for this set of characteristic variations, played first on the oboe with a rustling background for strings and harp like the voices of nature.


Variation I  

The first thing that happens to a folk tune is that it gets taken up by the church, and these variations are no exception. The tune is heard transformed into a hymn and played in alternation by the sounds of a church organ and a brass band.


Variation II  

The second thing that happens to a folk tune is that it gets turned into a dance. The hymn is interrupted by a waltz, at first played as if by violin and guitar, then as if by piano accordion, and finally in the sounds of the full orchestra.


Variation III  

Peace is restored by a gentle lullaby on flute, oboe and clarinet, accompanied by harp and strings. This reflects the possibility that the original tune was designed as a penillion, when a new melody would have been recited at festivals by bards over the existing accompaniment.


Variation IV  

The progress of history brings us to the Industrial Revolution. The tune is now heard thundered out by full brass and percussion, but the course of the melody is continually shifted into strange and often unrelated keys, and subjected to overwhelming force.


Variation V  

The Industrial Revolution brings other new sounds. The original melody is now transformed into a sort of Irish or Scottish jig, with yet another new theme like a carousel jingling above it.  The relentless rhythm of the jig is twice interrupted by a sailor’s hornpipe.


Variation VI    

The death of industry in Wales brings a shadow of regret over the music. A steady drum beat underpins a long solemn melody singing a lament for the loss of hope; but at the same time the voices of nature from the original theme begin to make themselves heard again.



This is the longest movement, lasting around five minutes. Another new theme emerges from the voices of nature, heralded by distant but approaching fanfares in the brass. This theme, which is based on the folksong The water is wide, found everywhere in the west of Britain from Somerset to Scotland, happens (by a delightful coincidence!) to share the same opening notes with the original theme; and the two melodies proceed in conjunction with each other, expanding out in expression of the theme of rejuvenation, evolution and renewal. Finally the first theme returns by itself, now as a triumphal march on the brass (with the chorus joining in) surrounded by skirling woodwinds and rocketing strings.

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Op. 60 - The Lay of Eärendil

Scored for solo tenor and orchestra (

A setting of the song that Bilbo sings in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the RIngs.

The music of the setting employs many themes from the Tolkien Cycle—inevitably so, since it shares much of the same subject matter.  Indeed, for a while this work was regarded as an appendix to The Silmarillion, bringing the whole story to an end in a manner more conclusive than was possible in the span of The Fall of Gondolin.  The themes used in The Lay of Eärendil therefore have the same relevance as those in the larger cycle, and reference may be made to the analysis of that work.

By the very nature of its text, The Lay of Eärendil reflects and mirrors the musical nature of the score for the Tolkien Cycle, and many of the motifs found in the ballad carry the same meaning and connotation as those in the larger work. 

The very opening theme of The Lay, declaimed freely by the solo trumpet, consists of the four notes CDAG, which reflect the dedication of the work to Craig Harvey (Re being the French term for D).  This theme recurs throughout the work, and is used to separate each of the verses of Tolkien’s original poem.

This work was later consumed and expanded into The War of Wrath to be used as the driving narrative for the second triptych.

Op. 60a - The Lay of Eärendil 

Scored for mixed choir and orchestra (as above)

This opus number refers to the choral version of The Lay of Eärendil. 


This came to life as the choral narrative in the second triptych in The War of Wrath. The additional elements that were specific to that work were removed and a few minor alterations were made so that this could once again be an independent piece.

Op. 62 - Six Pagan Chants

Scored for mixed choir and various instruments

These settings for chorus and various alternative instrumental accompaniments are based on traditional themes used by various pagan societies across the country, and found there in many variant forms. They were designed for performance by amateur groups with variable accompaniments, and ring the changes from the contemplative to the more elaborate and enthusiastic.

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Op. 66 - Hymn of Saint Cecilia

Scored for mixed choir and organ

This work, to a text by Geoffrey Chaucer from The Golden Legend which he also used in the Second Nun’s Tale in The Canterbury Tales, is an address by Saint Cecilia to her fellow martyrs before their deaths. The paraphrase of the original Middle English poem is by the composer.

The setting, for mixed choir with organ accompaniment, was written to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Academy of Saint Cecilia in Auckland, New Zealand.

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Op. 67 - Song of the Road

Scored for two solo voices and piano

These are settings of Walt Whitman for two voices (tenor and baritone) and piano.

These five songs originated as settings of personal verses written for myself as the composer by Terry Tavener, but when it came to the prospect of performance the author demurred as the idea of setting such confidential material before an audience. I therefore substituted texts drawn from Walt Whitman’s extensive poem Song of the Open Road, a statement of his belief in the universe as a reflection of the landscape as seen from a road extending through the wilderness. The songs were always conceived to be sung by two voices, although in the process of adaptation to the Whitman text some adjustments of metre, melody and indeed harmony were necessary.

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Op. 70 - The Charge of the Goddess

Scored for two voices (solo or choral) and timpani

The pagan hymn known as The Charge of the Goddess appears to have originated in the late nineteenth century when a version of it appears in Charles Leland’s Aradia, but it has been subsequently altered and adapted by so many authors that it is impossible now to speak of an authentic text or to attribute the verse to any one individual.

It hymns the virtues of the natural world as enshrined in the pagan goddess in general terms which are particularly pertinent as a reflection of today’s environmental concerns.

The scoring of this setting, for two vocal lines and drum accompaniment, is deliberately designed for use either in a ritual or liturgical environment.

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Op. 74 - Cuchulain Comforted

Scored for eight part mixed choir

This setting of the late poem by William Butler Yeats was originally written for unaccompanied male choir, but probably exceeded practical bounds of performance because of the extensive use of falsetto to represent the voices of the various spiritual 'shrouds' who deliver much of the verse dialogue. The sole manuscript of this version of the score was given to Glynne Jones as conductor of Pendyrus Male Choir, but has subsequently disappeared altogether. The original work may have been intended as an epilogue to a projected cycle on Yeats's Cuchulain plays; a contemporaneous setting of the opening scene from At the Hawk's Well exists, much of which was subsequently incorporated into the score of Fëanor.

In 2022 a new version was composed utilising recollections of the original score and reworked into a piece for mixed choir.  

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Op. 75 - Hymns in Three Parts

Scored for three equal voices and piano

This collection consists of three settings of traditional hymns from various sources, to be performed by three equal voices: Bryn Calfaria, King's Lynn and The truth sent from above. They were originally commissioned for concerts given by Simon Crosby Buttle, Huw Llywelyn and David Fortey as three tenor voices; but they can be sung by three female voices if preferred, or by other choirs of equal voices: children, women or men. The accompaniments are designed for piano but can also be played on either harp or organ. 

The texts derive from various sources; the words for The Truth from above are selected from a number of different versions. In order to avoid patriotic bombast, one word is altered in the words of G K Chesterton in the final lines of King's Lynn (so entitled by Vaughan Williams to identify the locality where the original folk tune was first collected). On the other hand the setting of Bryn Calfaria restores the original order of Pantcelyn's verses, which were changed for the arrangement known as Laudamus. 


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Op. 76 - Folksongs for Voice and Piano

Scored for voices and piano

This collection consists of five settings of traditional folk melodies and words.


Trade Wind utilises the same Welsh bardic melody utilised for Variations on a Welsh Bardic Melody and The Water is Wide. The words created by David Leverett for the later work have been adapted for this new version for solo voice.


Waly Waly used for a basis the Fantasia on Waly Waly and the choral version in the Folksong Arrangements.  These have been adapted to create a new version for this collection.

Searching for Lambs, a setting of a folksong originally collected by Cecil Sharp in 1916, began life as an exercise in 1974 and in 2023 was adapted and fully realised into its current form.

Cradle Song, a setting of Padraic Colum's "O men from the fields", began life as an early setting by Paul that was subsequently lost.  The melody was however remembered and in 2023 was set to a different accompaniment for the purposes of this opus number.


The Welsh folksong Lisa Lân is one of the best-known of the melodies of Wales, and has been arranged in the past for various combinations of voices. This arrangement, for solo singer and piano, is designed to allow the melody and words to speak for themselves; we are given five verses of the sometimes discursive original, rather than the usual two or three which have generally been selected by composers.


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Op. 78 - De Profundis in carcere et vinculis

Scored for four voices (SATB), string quartet and harp

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Op. 79 - The Fountain Ghost

Scored for two solo voices (AT), four part male choir (TTBB) and harp

A setting of James Elroy Flecker extracted from his play Hassan.


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