Nunc Dimittis (Candlemas motet for ATB)
  • Greetings!

    My name is Coulter McIntyre. I'm 17 years old and am the choir director and organist at a diocesan parish in the western US which almost exclusively does the TLM. We have a rather small choir, and so it is difficult to find polyphony that is both easy enough to sing and fits our choir. Because of this, I composed a version of the Nunc Dimittis for an ATB. This is my first real composition and I'd be very appreciative of any suggestions. Pax!
  • Coulter,

    Welcome to the forum.

    If you search under my name, you will see that I have posted some of my own compositions here, and have received some very generous comments from other posters, so I think you can be assured kid-glove treatment.


    At a first pass, here are some of my thoughts.

    I wonder why you repeat the text "Nunc Dimittis...." as often as you do. It almost seems to be a choral respond (Jackson Osborne will chime in in a moment to confirm or correct me on this). If I've got that right, the text you should include, and then repeat, might be the text "Salva nos Domine …", from Compline.

    Do you intend to have several sequential dissonances without seeming preparation? The combined effect of the parallel octaves, parallel fifths and sequential dissonances is unsettling, at least to my ear.

    In measure 41, it's not clear whether the e in the bass part is flatted (as suggested by the key signature) or naturalized (because there's an e-natural in the Alto part).

    What was your intended musical result (aside from being something your choir could sing)?
    Thanked by 1Coultermac
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,025
    @Chris : It is my understanding that the Salva nos Domine is only sung before and after the Nunc dimittis at Compline ... not when the Nunc dimittis is sung as the Tract at Candlemas.
    Thanked by 1Coultermac
  • Charles,

    Point well taken, but even at that, the text Nunc Dimittis isn't repeated.
    Thanked by 1Coultermac
  • Chris and Charles,

    So the motet was intended for Candlemas this year. Since Feb 2 falls outside of Septuagesima this year, it can't be sung as a tract. I mainly repeated the "Nunc Dimittis" to take up more time. I know I could just make the other parts longer and more interesting, but I don't really have that luxury as my choir isn't really capable of much more.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Coulter,

    May I then make the suggestion that you vary the texture of the repeated stuff? It could be sung (for example) as two parts on one iteration, and 3 parts on a second iteration.


    May I urge you, however, not to view the task of music as "taking up time". Silence isn't evil.
    Thanked by 1Coultermac
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,025
    Even as a motet (outside of Septuagesima) , there is no implied necessity to include the Compline antiphon "Salva nos..."; moreover, if used as at Compline, the "Salva nos..." is more often than not a separate chant or short piece.

    Here's my own stand-alone "Salva nos Domine" (SATB) ... enjoy!
  • First of all, hats off to you for taking on all that responsibility at your age. Mighty impressive.

    I haven't given this a part-by-part read-through, but here are some preliminary thoughts:

    I encourage you to sing through all of the parts you write, as much as is possible, in absolutely legato "full voice". Your piece lacks a bit of the "inertia" or "stretchiness" so common to polyphony that gives it that naturally vocal quality. Ex. m. 50, where the parts move to the open fifth by leap and omit the third briefly, making the modulation a bit too abrupt.

    From the score you posted, it seems like you rely on the computer when you compose and work almost exclusively in that environment. Try working at the keyboard or singing these parts as you write them as much as is possible, and let your ear be the guide as to what is best. I feel that the computer is letting you write yourself into traps like m. 62 that clearly sound "wrong" in a polyphonic context.

    There's some sustained high writing that I suspect might be a bit challenging for a choir of the calibre you describe, particularly towards the end. The tenor should either sit a bit higher or a bit lower, in my view - 69-71 is particularly tough. If you led into the high note so that it had a bit of momentum, it'd be quite a bit easier. The same thing happens at m. 65.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Coultermac
  • @Schönbergian

    Thank you so much!

    You are 100% correct when you observe that I did this completely at the computer without playing or singing it. I used MuseScore to write this and so I could hear what I had written, but couldn't really test the "singability."

    I'll definitely be making some edits to this in the future. Thanks again!
  • jefe
    Posts: 167
    Coulter, thanks for doing this. You are already a rare breed. I share the thoughts above and kindly wish you well. Keep on keeping on. The Church Music Biz is a never ending pursuit. If you are more energetic than those around you, it is easy to burn out. Below is a well written ATB Nunc dimittis from our Compline library. As one of the 'big 5' changeable tunes at Compline, I have about 75 settings of the Nunc from Gregorian Chant to 5-part settings both homophonic and polyphonic by Anglicans and Romans. PM me if you want them.
    jefe