Most of the motets on this recording were composed in 2009–10. 2008 and early 2009 had been occupied primarily with the planning and composition of two large-scale oratorios for chorus and orchestra: The Revelations of Divine Love (Metaphors from Sea and Sky) and The Acts of the Apostles. I decided thus to focus on smaller scale choral genres in the immediately following period, and these unaccompanied motets are the principal result of those efforts. Furthermore, writing brief motets fit in very easily amidst the larger instrumental projects I was writing. Many of these motets were written in the capacity of my positions as composer in residence for The Memorial Church at Harvard University and the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. Others were written on commission from various churches and ensembles. Still others were written as gifts for longtime friends and conductor colleagues.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam, op. 878 (2010) was composed for Russell Weisman and the Georgetown University Chapel Choir. The work sets a familiar Latin phrase, attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem.
For the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity.
Set Me As a Seal, op. 817 (2009) was written as an anniversary gift for my dear friends Matthew Burt and Patrick Chung. The work was commissioned by the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul.
Set me as a seal upon thine heart; set me as a seal upon thine arm: for love is as strong as death. Many waters cannot quench love. Neither can the floods drown it. (Song of Songs 8:6a, 7a)
The Welcome News, op. 821 (2009) is a contemporary “fuging tune” in the tradition of colonial American composers such as William Billings, Jeremiah Ingalls, Supply Belcher, and many others. The work was commissioned by the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul and is dedicated to its music director, Ed Broms.
The welcome news through every angel’s breast fresh raptures shall diffuse.
The day is here, when all the world shall nevermore be wrapped in fear.
No more shall we the once long fight renew.
Worthy the day, when war shall cease and all shall raise the song of peace.
Worthy the night, no longer rent by battle light and now serene.
Take up the song of love and joy and bliss.
Bells now shall ring to spread the news that swords shall rust from lack of use.
On every hill may banners fly proclaiming peace unto the sky.
Now raise your voice, and come: rejoice and sing!
from The Christian Poet, 1728, adp.
That They May Rest, op. 835 (2009) was commissioned by Lawrence R. Jordan in memory of his father, Kenneth L. Jordan (1928–2006) for the Bach Cantata Vespers Choir of St. James Lutheran Church, Portland, Oregon who premiered the work under the direction of Nancy LeRoi Nickel.
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying: “Write these words: Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. That they may rest from their labor, and their works will follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)
Surely It Is God Who Saves Me, op. 839 (2009) is an extracted motet from the oratorio The Acts of the Apostles, commissioned by the Harvard University Choir.
Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my refuge and my defense, and he will become my Savior. With joy you shall draw water from the springs of salvation. And on that day you will say, “Give thanks to the Lord and call on his name; make his deeds known among the peoples; sing praises to the Lord, for he has done great things.” (Isaiah 12:2–5)
O Lord, Increase My Faith, op. 718 (2007) was written as a gift for the choir of Royal Holloway, University of London and its director, Rupert Gough. The work was composed immediately after returning home to the USA from the recording sessions for their disc of my sacred choral music (Naxos 8.559361).
O Lord, increase my faith. Strengthen and confirm me in thy true faith; endue me with wisdom, charity, and patience in my adversity. Sweet Jesu, say Amen.
Love Came Down at Christmas,op. 847 (2009) was composed for the 100th Annual Christmas Carol Services of The Memorial Church at Harvard University. It is dedicated to Richard and Sara Patterson.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine.
Love to God and to all the world,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Christina Rossetti (1830–1894), alt.
The Rose Tree Carol, op. 880 (2010) was composed for the 101st Annual Christmas Carol Services of The Memorial Church at Harvard University. It is dedicated to Henry Elwyn Forsythe-Jones on his first Christmas.
Lost in winter snow,
Tossed as ice winds blow,
Torn by storm asunder,
Worn by frozen plunder,
Behold! Behold! What wonder!
Sudden, solemn, sacred sight,
Glory beaming, holy light,
In vast darkness burning bright.
A rose tree blossoms in deepest night.
Alan Hovhaness (1911–2000)
Kings Are Sleeping, op. 869 (2010) is dedicated to Harry Lyn Huff and the choir of Old South Church, Boston.
Kings are sleeping, let them sleep
Shepherds watch beside the sheep.
Far from royal pomp and might,
shepherds see the heav’nly light.
Kings are sleeping, let them sleep.
Kings are dreaming, let them dream:
royal fear and royal scheme.
In the field that light has blurred
shepherds hear the angel’s word.
Kings are sleeping, let them sleep.
Kings are sleeping, let them sleep.
Shepherds rise, and leave the sheep—
kneel beside a manger bed,
whisper what the angel said.
Kings are sleeping, let them sleep.
Richard Leach, 1993 (© 1994 Selah Publishing Co., Inc.)
The Appleton Motets, op. 767 (2008) for 2-part voices (either men or women) are dedicated to Edward Elwyn Jones and were composed for the daily services of Morning Prayers at The Memorial Church at Harvard University. The motets set familiar scripture passages.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning-lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: “Watch.” (Mark 13:35–37)
For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light; for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5:8–9)
Wherein Our Blessings Stand, op. 873 (2001) was composed in memory of Richard W. Paine (1924–2010), a longtime member of the daily congregation at The Memorial Church at Harvard University. The work was premiered by the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir under the direction of the composer.
“Suffer,” saith Christ, “your little ones to come forth [me unto]; for of such ones my kingdom is, of grace and glory too.” We do not only suffer them, but offer them to thee; now, blessed Lord, let us believe, accepted that they be: That thou hast took them in thine arms, and on them put thine hand, and blessed them with sight of thee, wherein our blessings stand.
An Epitaph for Roland and Sara Cotton(1649), John Cotton (1585–1652)
O quam mirabilis, op. 871 (2010) sets a text by Hildegard von Bingen and was composed as a 60th birthday present for American composer Frank Ferko, who is particularly noted for his large body of superb music connected to Hildegard’s visionary writings. The work was premiered by the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir under the direction of Edward Elwyn Jones.
O quam mirabilis est prescientia divini pectoris,
que prescivit omnem creaturam.
O quam mirabilis est inspiratio,
que hominem sic suscitavit.
How wondrous is the prescience of the divine heart
which foreknew every creature.
How wondrous is the breath of inspiration
by which humanity was awakened.
Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), trans. Carson Cooman
Bless the Lord, O My Soul, op. 875 (2010) was composed as an engagement gift for Marisa Green and Evan Crawford. The work was premiered by the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir under the direction of the composer.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy. And the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm 103:1–2, 8, 11, 17a, 22b)
One Thing, op. 893 (2010) was composed in celebration of the birth of Matthew Clyde Snyder and is dedicated to him and his parents, Chris and Alisha Snyder.
One thing have I asked of God, one thing do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Holy One forever. (Psalm 27:4)
Man Proposes, but God Disposes, op. 782 (2008) was written for Rupert Gough and the Choir of Royal Holloway, University of London for premiere in November 2007 at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. Royal Holloway is particularly noted for its large collection of excellent Victorian era paintings, the most famous of which is “Man Proposes, God Disposes” by Edwin Lanseer (1802–1873).
For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and in him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand. For many proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands.
from The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471)
Faith, Hope, Love, op. 503 (2003) was commissioned by Mark Stanisz to celebrate his appointment as secretary of the Harvard University Choir. The work was premiered by the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir under the direction of Edward Elwyn Jones. The brief text by Richard Leach is based on the famous passage from I Corinthians 13.
What will last?
These three things,
these three things: faith, hope, love.
What will last?
These three things: faith, hope, love.
What will last?
Faith, hope, love.
Richard Leach, 2002 ©
Hope and Love, op. 881 (2010) was composed as a gift for Andrew Clark, on the occasion of his appointment of Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University. The work was premiered by the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Muscium under Clark’s direction and featured on their Summer 2011 tour of Germany and Austria.
the blue heron
slept among the horses.
I do not know
the custom of herons,
do not know
if the solitary habit
is their way,
or if he listened for
some missing one—
not knowing even
that was what he did—
in the blowing
sounds in the dark.
I know that
hope is the hardest
love we carry.
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
Jane Hirshfield (b. 1953), from The Lives of the Heart (NY: HarperCollins, 1997)
© 1997 Jane Hirshfield; Used by permission of the author.
Hope, op. 886 (2010) was composed for the installation of the Rev. Erin Splaine as minister of the First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts. It was premiered by the Installation Choir under the direction of Anne Watson Born. The text, by Emily Dickinson, was chosen by the dedicatee.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—
I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Emily Dickinson, #254 (1830–1886)
Awake, My Heart, op. 885 (2010) was composed for Peter DuBois and premiered by the choir of Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York under DuBois’s direction.
Awake, my heart; arise, my tongue,
Prepare a tuneful voice;
In God, the life of all my joys,
Aloud will I rejoice.
I know by heart the song to make,
I carry it with me—
my praise to God who knew my bonds
and came to set me free.
And when my days are long and dry,
I have my song to sing,
and to my thirsty heart it gives
a clear, refreshing spring.
My song is not for me alone,
I join my singing friends;
we lift our voices praising God
for every gift he sends.
Stanza 1: Isaac Watts (1674–1748)
Stanzas 2–4: Richard Leach, 2010 (© 2010 Selah Publishing Co., Inc.)
O Lord, I Will Sing of Your Love Forever, op. 897 (2010) was commissioned by King’s Chapel, Boston, Massachusetts, in celebration of its 325th anniversary. The work was premiered by the King’s Chapel Choir under the direction of Heinrich Christensen. The commission specified a new work celebrating the history and heritage of King’s Chapel. During the 2010–11 anniversary year, the King’s Chapel Choir was performing coronation anthems by Handel and Purcell; Heinrich Christensen thus suggested the idea of writing a new, contemporary “coronation anthem.” Much like the traditional English coronation anthems, the text for this work is assembled and adapted from the Bible. I asked my frequent collaborator Matthew Burt to put together a text that would reflect both the coronation anthem tradition and a contemporary perspective on kingship. This seemed especially appropriate for King’s Chapel not only in the light of its Unitarian revision of the Book of Common Prayer in 1785, but also in reference to the American republic founded after the revolution with which the Chapel shares such strong historic ties. The anthem begins grandly with words from Psalm 89 celebrating God’s all-encompassing faithfulness and love. An alleluia refrain follows and returns several times throughout the work. However, it is not a majestic, Handelian alleluia, but rather one of inward passion and fervent introspection. The next section begins joyously with the familiar prophesy from Zechariah; it is followed by several brief Gospel scenes from the life of Jesus. After another alleluia, words of blessing from Psalm 103 are set vigorously before the work closes with a final alleluia. The text of this present anthem is representative of the predominant models of divine kingship in the Bible. God is mostly portrayed as a cosmic king who has a “throne in the heavens.” God’s work is generally done through the prophets and other ministers, not through some earthly monarch. And regardless of whether one adopts a Unitarian or Trinitarian theology, it is surely significant that although Jesus is honored with the salutation “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” on Palm Sunday, at his trial just days later he testifies that “my kingdom is not of this world.” All this points towards a less exuberant setting of the present text in favor of one that recognizes with humility both the unworldly nature of God’s kingdom and our responsibility to be ministers of divine compassion and justice in the world.
O Lord, I will sing of your love for ever.
O mighty Lord, your faithfulness encompasses
the heavens and the earth.
Your throne is founded on righteousness and justice;
mercy and truth go forth before your face.
Truly the Lord is our ruler;
the Holy One of Israel is our King! (Psalm 89:1, 8, 11, 14, 18)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Your king has come to you,
triumphant and victorious. (Zechariah 9:9)
Blessed be the God of Israel,
who has visited and redeemed us
as promised through the prophets of old. (Luke 1:68, 70)
Jesus went up to a mountain, and taught his disciples saying,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
At the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples to fetch him a donkey.
As Jesus rode along they spread their garments before him saying,
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:29–30, 36, 38)
After Jesus was arrested, Pilate took him and asked him,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
And Jesus answered,
“My kingdom is not of this world.
For this I have come into the world:
to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:33, 36–37)
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
The Lord has set a throne in the heavens:
and God’s kingdom has dominion over all.
Bless the Lord, you ministers who do God’s will;
Bless the Lord, you works of God in all places;
Bless the Lord, O my soul! (Psalm 103:1, 19, 21–22)