10 April 2019

Program Note

Alleluia in A-flat, Op.33

Although it may seem odd for a choral piece written in our day. This program note will actually begin with Tchaikovsky. In a box of LP's given me by my great-aunt when I was a mere slip of a boy, was one platter with a few classical music selections, one of which was the 1812 Overture. I came immediately to love it then, and even though we can count on the Boston Pops to play the piece every fourth of July whether we need to hear it or not (so to say) I love it still.

For our purposes this evening, suffice it to add that the opening solemn cello choir of the Overture has been in my ear most of my life.

One day when I was in St Petersburg in my early 30s I was walking from the office of what was then the St. Petersburg Press to the Metro station. Every time I walked to or from the office, I passed by a church,which had only recently resumed its proper function as a church, after being closed (or used as a warehouse) for most of the Soviet era. On this day, I was arrested in my walk because out from a cupola atop the church there came the enchanting sound of a choir singing an anthem, which I immediately recognized as the opening of the 1812 Overture. I checked the church calendar and I've learned that this piece which I had known from my youth is an anthem for the Feast of the Epiphany.

During my residency in St Petersburg, my ear would be agreeably steeped in the rich sound of the Russian Orthodox liturgical musical tradition.

Even though the ethereal sound of the voices was somewhat exotic, it reminded me deeply what a rich experience it had been singing in my high school chorus and in a church choir.
My Alleluia here tonight, which is dedicated to the wonderful artist Irina Pisarenko. Is thus of a musical character congruent with the Russian choral music I had come to love so well. The musical organization, though, is a modest adaptation of the sonatina design which Mozart favored for a number of his Andante movements.

The final, and rather amusing, note for this piece is that the response of the first Boston church music director to whom I showed the Alleluia was literally “I see no reason to perform this piece.”

It was the first piece of mine to be published, by Lux Nova Press, and within a couple of years it had been sung on three continents.