Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aurora University Choral Festival Blogpost #5 This Sparkle of the Day

This Sparkle of the Day will receive its world premiere on October 21st at the Aurora University Festival Concert which holds music written by me over the last fifteen years. Although the piece was written in 2005, it has yet to have a full premiere of all five movements until now. Many thanks to Dr. Peter Dennee of Carthage College (Kenosha, WI) and the newly formed select ensemble Candentibus Women's Chamber Choir which will be performing this work. 

In February 2016 a larger ensemble from Carthage College will perform excerpts from the piece at the American Choral Director's Association North Central Division Conference held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Additionally, the choir will sing the piece in its entirety at a church while they are in the Sioux Falls area.

For this piece I utilized some delightfully refreshing texts by early Catholic saints. I devised short movements that can stand alone or work together in sequence, basically a progression of worship from night into the morning offices. Yet these pieces can be used outside of strictly Catholic services, since the texts simply encompass somewhat general Christian images and ideas.

The general musical model for the piece's structure and overall feel was the Gabriel Faure Messe Basse, a gentle little ten minute gem which is a basically utilitarian worship piece of understated beauty. Thus the simple, manuals only organ part (pedals may be added ad libitum), and the fairly easy SSA vocal parts. Another model, more so for the melodic shapes and harmonies, comes from the British composer Benjamin Britten.

Movement two has some interesting features--the first section is an originally composed setting of the Latin text O Nata Lux de Lumine, which then proceeds to the English version as set by the Renaissance English composer Thomas Tallis, quoted almost verbatim. This is another example of something which I do now and then, quote (or parody, or "sample") other composers' works or snippets of old melodies. In the Tallis section there is a strange little moment when voices disagree on pitch, some parts are singing in a major key while other parts are in minor. This is an effect Tallis (and a few other composers of his time) was quite known for.

The text of movement four is short yet profund. It speaks of how quickly a human life can come into existence and go. We're only here for an instant--It's up to us to make every moment count in some meaningful way.



I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more
than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
   -Psalm 130

It is now the moment for you
to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now
than when we became believers;
the night is gone, the day is near.
   -Romans 13

I. The limit of the night is passed,
the quiet hour of sleep has fled;
far up the lance of dawn is cast;
new light upon the heaven is spread.

But when this sparkle of the day
our eyes discern, then, Lord of Light,
to Thee our souls make haste to pray
and offer all their wants aright.

O Holy Spirit, by the deeds
of Thine own light and charity,
renew us through our earthly needs
and cause us to be like to Thee.

Grant this, O Father ever blessed;
and Holy Son, our heavenly friend;
and Holy Ghost, Thou comfort best!
Now and until all time shall end.

  -Saint Hilary

II. O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
dignare clemens supplicum,
laudes precesque sumere,
qui carne quondam contegi
dignatus es pro perditis,
nos membra confer effici

tui beati corporis.

O light which from the Light has birth,
Jesus, Redeemer of the earth,
thy faithful flock vouchsafe to spare,
hear our gift of praise and prayer,
thou, who for man's salvation sake
thyself hast deigned pure flesh to take,
o make us members true and sure
of that Thy Holy body pure.


Remember, God, that we are the plants in your fields,
so connected to the earth
that you know what would happen
if you did not rain upon us.

And if your light ceased to lift us from the ground
and craft our bodies,
how might we near you
like the suns?

Remember, God, to love us in a way
Our souls can taste and rejoice in.

   -St. Theresa of Avila

IV. My life is an instant,
a fleeting hour.
My life is a moment,
which swiftly escapes me.
O my God, you know that
on earth I have only today
to love you.

    -St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Dr. Peter Dennee

Professor Peter Dennee ’86 joined Carthage in 2005. He conducts the Carthage Women’s Ensemble and teaches courses in conducting and music education.
Prior to his appointment at Carthage, Prof. Dennee held positions as assistant professor of music at West Virginia University and Susquehanna University, and visiting assistant professorships at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Michigan. He has taught music at the elementary and secondary levels in Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Tempe, Ariz.
He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in choral music from Arizona State University, a Master of Music in music education from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University, and a Bachelor of Arts in music education from Carthage (1986).

Hey, if you've read all the way down to here-- here's your bonus! My good friend Joan Szymko set a wonderful text by St Therese of Avila titled Nada te Turba. Here is the text (Joan uses a shortened version of the full text) and the song, conducted by another pal of mine, Lynne Gackle.

Nada te turbe

nada te espante

Todo se pasa

Dios nose muda.

La paciencia todo alcanza.

Quien a Dios tiene

nada le falta

Solo Dios basta.


Let nothing disturb you,

nothing frighten you,

All things are passing.

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Whoever has God lacks nothing.

God is enough.

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