Sancta Civitas ("The Holy City") is an oratorio by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Written between 1923 and 1925, it received its first performance in Oxford in May 1926, during the General Strike. Although its title is in Latin, the libretto is entirely in English, based upon texts from Revelation. The text is drawn from several translations, including Taverner's Bible. Late in life, Vaughan Williams called Sancta the favourite of his choral works.
Sancta Civitas is scored for a full orchestra, with optional organ, as well as a mixed chorus, a semi-chorus, a "distant chorus" of boys (accompanied by an offstage trumpet), a baritone solo, and a tenor solo.
The work lasts approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Although Sancta Civitas is presented in the score as a single continuous piece, recordings typically divide it into 10 sections as follows:
- I was in the spirit (Lento)
- And I saw Heaven opened (Allegro)
- And I saw an angel standing in the sun (Meno mosso)
- Babylon the great is fallen (Lento)
- Rejoice over her O Heavens (Allegro moderato)
- And I saw a new heaven (Adagio)
- Therefore are they before the throne of God (Poco meno largo)
- And I saw a pure river
- Holy, Holy, Holy (Andante sostenuto)
- Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory (Poco animato)
The piano reduction of the orchestral parts used in the vocal score was prepared by fellow composer Havergal Brian.
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