David Fisher - Richard III: Out of the Deep

Richard III: Out of the Deep


SATB, baritone solo, Organ

David Fisher - Richard III: Out of the Deep

Other Information

Richard III: Out of the deep was first performed at Leicester Cathedral on the 13th June 2015 on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Leicester Cathedral Old Choristers´ Association. It was performed by choirs of Leicester Cathedral, conducted by Chris Ouvry-Johns [Director of Music] and accompanied by Simon Headley [organist and Assistant Director of Music]. The solo bass singing the words of King Richard is Andrew Goodrich. 

Richard III: Out of the deep

Richard III: Out of the deep is an anthem that has been written to include descriptive and symbolic references to King Richard in triplets, triads and intervals of a third contrasted with chords containing sevenths for King Henry VII. It opens with a fanfare [in which the date 1485 is created from like-numbered intervals] and his pre-battle phrase is sung by a solo baritone [0´25"]The succeeding fortissimo organ part [0´43"] reflects the terror of the battle whilst combatants’ deaths are represented by otherworldly voices in the choir singing a well-known hymn tune [1´10"] that emerges from and contrasts with the overwhelming volume of the organ. In the next section the organ plays the hymn melody [2´29"] over which there is a setting of Psalm 130 in Latin and English which starts quietly and low in pitch and, what is almost a double canon between the Bass & Alto and Tenor & Soprano, this builds up in pitch and dynamics leading to the crux of the piece is the desperate cry of ‘O Lord, hear my voice’ [3´34"]In the next two sections, the first [3´42"] features the percussive chords which pervade the piece and the second [4´24"]  in which the words from Jonah underpin Richard´s prayer in his fervent belief that his call to God has been answered. This is reinforced by the warm key of B major for the final verse [5´20"], in a centuries-old harmonisation, against which the rest of the prayer is set except for the final line. In the coda, the return of the ‘terror’ music [6´11"] brings back the opening theme which is sung by the choir for the first time. It steadily descends in pitch and volume and gradually breaks up as the final phrase of King Richard´s prayer rises in hope [6´52"] only to be dashed as his voice finally joins the choral singing from beyond the grave. [7´20"]


For this composition I chose the following words:

“God forbid I yield one step. This day I will die as a King or win”

            (Spoken by King Richard before the battle and quoted in the ‘Spanish Letter’              1st March 1486)

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust, Return, ye sons of men: All nations rose from earth at first, And turn to earth again.

(Verse [from “O God, our help in ages past”] omitted from both                              Hymns Ancient and Modern 1906 and Hymns Old and New 1996)

De profundis clamavi ad te Domine.

Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord hear my voice.

(Psalm 130)

Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

(Matthew 24:42)

[N.B. From this point to the end of the work, the following beautiful and penitential prayer from King Richard III’s Book of Hours** is incorporated into the texture of the work]:

Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free me, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed... hear me, in the name of all your goodness, for which I give thanks, and for all the gifts granted to me, because you made me from nothing and redeemed me out of your bounteous love and pity from eternal damnation to promising eternal life. [Amen]

(Adapted by King Richard III from a prayer widely in use at the time)

I went down to the bottom of the mountains; the Earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord.

(Jonah 2:6-7)

The silent dead praise not the Lord, The grave no song can raise; But we will praise him evermore, Let all proclaim His praise.

(from a Metrical version of Psalm 115:17-18)

De profundis clamavi.

And turn to earth again.


** Up to thirteen books are believed to have survived today from King Richard III’s personal library. That he should have a Book of Hours is not surprising as he was a devout Catholic and possessing a book with prayers and psalms with accompanying illuminated decoration was very common considering his status. King Richard’s book was believed to been written in London in the early C15th and very likely made for a priest. Other prayers and devotional texts were added later possibly after King Richard acquired it. His personal supplication was adapted from a prayer that was widely used at the time in similar books of hours. Whilst his deep devotion did not prevent him from dying in a tragically violent way, his faith would have given him the courage to fight until the end.




[a] A page from King Richard III’s “Book of Hours” featuring the Annunciation. [b] Detail from the Leicester Cathedral music sheet

[below left – composer’s copyright photos]

[a] “Out of the deep” – the excavated grave in Leicester’s King Richard III Visitors’ Centre showing the position of the skeleton of the king. [b] The reconstructed head of King Richard III [the muscles and skin were modelled by Caroline WilkinsonProfessor of Craniofacial Identification at the University of Dundeein Leicester’s King Richard III Visitors’ Centre.

[below right – composer’s copyright photos]

[a] Leicester Cathedral spire with the laser-projected image taken after the Compline service to accept the remains of King Richard III to his final resting place. [b] The left side of the beautifully decorated pall over the coffin at the west end of cathedral. [c] The right side of the  pall showing the replica crown and the C15th bible.


* This is one of what is a series of ´portmanteau´ pieces ["consisting of or combining two or more aspects or qualities."] which may be adapted to accommodate any natural or personal disasters or deaths caused by unforeseen events. The structure of the work allows for the incorporation of alternative material to suit the particular event being commemorated. 


David Fisher - Richard III: Out of the Deep

David Fisher - Richard III: Out of the Deep