The Evening Choir (op. 959; 2012) for chorus, soloists, and organ was commissioned by the Memorial Church at Harvard University to celebrate the dedication of the C. B. Fisk organ, Op. 139: the Charles B. Fisk and Peter J. Gomes Memorial Organ. The work is dedicated in memory of Peter J. Gomes (1942–2011), for whose personal support and encouragement I will be forever grateful. The text is an extended poem by Jones Very (1813–1880), a mystical figure associated with the American Transcendentalism movement. A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School, Very produced a large body work in a personal style that was much appreciated and praised by his Transcendentalist colleagues. Much like the English poet Christopher Smart, Very suffered from issues of mental health and religious delusions (believing at times he was the Second Coming of Christ), and was institutionalized for a number of years. Upon his release, he was helped in the publication of his work particularly by Ralph Waldo Emerson (who believed strongly in Very’s sanity-”Such a mind cannot be lost,” Emerson wrote). Very spent most of the remainder of his life as a recluse under the care of his sister, and in the last 40 years of his life produced little work and made almost no public appearances due to crippling shyness. Though some of his poems were published in his lifetime, the vast majority were only circulated privately among the Transcendentalists. Though Very’s work was highly regarded by his contemporaries, it was only with the publication of Helen R. Deese’s critical edition of his complete poems (862 of them) in 1993 that his achievements have been more broadly acknowledged and praised by the wider community of scholars and poetry lovers. The poem is set as a cantata-involving choir, four soloists, and prominent use of the organ. Given the dramatic nature of the text, the work is rather more austere and apocalyptic than most of my choral music to date. I sought to create a musical analogue to the blazingly vivid sound of Very’s verse.Read more
Be Ye Wise
(op. 819; 2009), a setting of Matthew 10:16 and Proverbs 2:10, was written for Jennifer Lester.
Born Among Us in the Night (op. 936; 2011) was commissioned for the 102nd annual Christmas Carol Services of the Memorial Church at Harvard University. It is dedicated to Tad Meyer and Ann Stevenson. The text is a carol by poet Richard Leach.
How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place (op. 937; 2011), a setting of Psalm 84:1–2, 4, is dedicated to Stephen Layton.
Easter Day (op. 997; 2013) was commissioned by the Memorial Church at Harvard University. It sets an early poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins.
I Have Seen the Lord: A Mary Magdalene Sequence (op. 688; 2006) was commissioned by the Episcopal Diocese of California for the installation of the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus as the eighth Bishop of California on July 22, 2006. The text of the work is the Bible narrative of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Jesus.
The Name Above All Names (op. 843; 2009) is an extracted anthem from the oratorio The Acts of the Apostles. The text is Philippians 2:5–11.
When the Perfect Comes (op. 740; 2007) was commissioned Peter J. Gomes in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of his ordination to the ministry. The text, based on Gomes’s favorite scripture passages, was adapted by Matthew F. Burt from Romans 12:1, I Corinthians 13:8, 10, and Romans 12:2.
Veni Sancte Spiritus (op. 940; 2011) was jointly commissioned by Musica Spei (Rochester, New York) and Trobairitz (London, England). It is dedicated in memory of Lew Wallace. The text is the so-called “Golden Sequence,” one of the four Medieval sequences that was preserved after the Council of Trent. It is prescribed in the traditional liturgy for use at Pentecost and has been set to music by countless composers. Though all the music is newly-composed, this setting draws heavily on the techniques and style of Medieval and Renaissance music. Though the motet draws on historical contrapuntal processes and modality, the harmonic language employs more contemporary elements as well. In the manner of many Renaissance composers, each phrase of the text is portrayed descriptively in the musical content of its setting. The work is constructed primarily as a cantus firmus motet. The cantus firmus is first sung by all voices in unison at the beginning. This tune is in a Medieval secular “song” style, much like the popular songs of the era (such as L’homme armé) that were frequently used as cantus firmus material by Medieval and Renaissance composers in their motets and mass settings. Phrases from the cantus firmus tune appear overtly and non-overtly throughout the work. It is heard prominently again in the penultimate section, in a basic triple vs. duple prolation in the upper voices against the lower.
The Kingdom of Justice (op. 686; 2006) was commissioned by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, San Jose, California, in honor of Edna Pope. The texts were adapted from the Bible by Matthew F. Burt, based on passages chosen by David Bird and Michael Burroughs.
Te Deum (op. 789; 2008) was commissioned by the Association of Anglican Musicians for its 2008 Annual Conference, Houston, Texas. It is dedicated to David Ashley White and sets the traditional text.
(Carson Cooman, 2014)