WE HEARD THE SOUND THAT NIGHT
On Christmas Eve, many hymns contain the image of angelic music proclaiming the birth of Jesus. As a composer-music director, the idea of some celestial melody inspired me to fashion a text, with a new yet traditional-sounding tune decorated with lush harmonies, descants, a whimsical imitation of shepherds and their rustic instruments, and a last verse asserting that even in the present time, and especially on Christmas Eve, we can hear "the sound of lovely singing." The 6-voice ensemble has piano accompaniment and optional cello.
UNS KOMPT EIN SCHIFF GEFAHREN
This text of Johann Tauler, (ca. 1361) likens the Virgin Mary to a ship sailing towards us. She is holding her beautiful cargo, the Christ child, who is our mighty helper. The ship floats towards us and has opened heaven delivering to us the Son. He is lying in the cradle and he shines like a mirror reflecting light. Praised be God’s mother Mary and Jesus our brother, God’s son.
NOLI ME TANGERE (TOUCH ME NOT)
The organ sets the mood of a hushed garden in early morning. The choir enters softly, singing the admonition of Jesus to Mary; “Touch me not,” in other words, “Don’t cling to me.” He continues, “tell the others I am ascending to my Father, and your Father and to my God and your God.” As Jesus speaks these words the music expands in range, color, and volume, ending in a luminous forte.
ALMA REDEMPTORIS MATER (soprano and piano)
11th C.: A night of freezing cold, sleet "pinging" against an icy ground. Hermanus Contractus sets down his dream of a condensed version of the life of Christ, beginning with a vision of the Virgin Mary, called "Redemptoris Mater," which becomes the refrain of his poem.
December, 21st C: Again a night of freezing cold, a piano accompaniment evoking a childhood memory of sleet "pinging" on frozen snow, as a soprano sings my setting of the Middle English poem of Hermanus Contractus at the Christmas Eve service at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek in 2016.