12 April 2009

From the Archives :: 16.xi.01

Our friend Bill (organist at First Congo) asked me to play prelude and postlude with him for an ecumenical Thanksgiving service this coming Sunday afternoon, and since he was out of town two weeks on business up until Tuesday of this week, he left it to me to find something suitable.

Suitable here means both atmospherically suited to the occasion, and something the two of us could put together in short order, which runs eight-minutes-ish (in the case of the prelude ... the postlude we can just blast out, noodling around one of the more vigorous samples of hymnody).

At first my thoughts ran to drawing up something new (you always want to write something new, you know). But Counting Sheep had only left my desk Sunday the fourth, after which I had to rush to produce the five-minute quartet Radiant Maples (and a fine piece it is, thinks I, speed of composition notwithstanding ... apart from the thirty-second piano introduction, which I had sketched one evening two months ago, I wrote the whole piece over a thirty-six-hour period, part of it sitting on an overstuffed sofa in the showroom of the Expo Design Center while Maria and Mom shopped for doorknobs for the church) ... which I could not release until I was perfectly finished with it, mailing it off only this past Tuesday.

... SO ... as I was playing out the endgame for Radiant Maples I saw that there would not be the time to act on the New Idea Scenario for a prelude with Bill this Sunday a-coming, and Plan B took shape.

In May of last year, I wrote a setting of Psalm 145 for choir SATB plus optional accompaniment, deliberately long-breathed in the manner of a certain school of Russian liturgical music. This is a piece which still wants a choral performance, fine a piece though I believe it to be. (Hasn’t been done at First Congo, because it really does require men who can sing; hasn’t been done at St Paul's, because the anthems there generally need to keep to four minutes or less because of their placement in the service ... hasn’t been done in either place, for these reasons, and even though both directors have expressed a liking for the piece.)

Well, I felt I wanted to hear the piece, that it was time the piece sounded in a church space. So I took this choral piece, and made of it a meditation for clarinet and organ. This kept the accompaniment simple, which Bill would find attractive in the short time between the piece being ready to read, and the service. And of course, it was necessary to ornament the harmony with the clarinet, to make it work as an instrumental piece; the result is gently Baroque, in a sort of Russian echo of Monteverdi’s manner.

So ... Bill and I read this last night; anyone who doesn’t have an E&GG Hook three-manual organ conveniently nearby, really owes it to himself to travel to hear one. Wonderful instruments. Listen now, before the MIDI-enabled monstrosities and drum-pads drive the real instruments into cold storage and extinction . . . .

[ 16 Nov 2001 ]

The Psalm 145 setting referred to is Exaltabo te, Deus — I forget just why I elected to give it the Latin title (the setting is in English). I seem to have ditched the notion of “optional accompaniment” for it.

For the life of me, I had clean forgot how quickly I composed Radiant Maples.

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