Every Purpose Under the Heaven: The King James Bible Oratorio

The work was commissioned as a gift to the United Church Schools Trust/United Learning Trust, from Sir Ewan and Lady Harper, to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.  It was first performed on 13 November 2011 in Westminster Abbey, London– with Kirsty Hopkins, Noah Stewart, the Combined Choir & Orchestra of United Church Schools Trust & United Learning Trust with Howard Goodall conducting.

It is scored for soprano and tenor soloists, mixed voices and chamber orchestra. 

To read the composer notes please follow this link: Composer Notes

Below are the texts for each of the 10 movements with links to explore the music further.


In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. In Him was life; and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. [John I/1]

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: he made the stars also. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. [Genesis I/1-20, excerpts]

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. [Ecclesiastes III/1-8]

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I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. [Psalm 121]

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Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. [Ruth I/16-17]

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Love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? [John XV/12-13, Galatians V/14, Matthew XVI/26]

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For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me’.  ‘Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?’ ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’. [Matthew XXV/34-37]

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Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you for my sake. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. [Matthew V/3-12, 14]

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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. [2 Corinthians 1-8]

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I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. [John VIII/12, 2 Timothy I/7, Hebrews XI/1, 2 Corinthians IV/18]

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And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns: and his name is called The Word of God. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. [Revelation XIV/2, XIX/11-12, XXI/1, 4, 6]

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Key information:

Scored for: voices, trumpet, harp, guitars, piano, percussion and strings.

Duration: 45 minutes

Premiere: 13.11.11

Availability: For more information and to hire scores and parts contact the Faber Music hire library