New Composition for the Feast of the Purification: Lumen Ad Revelationem Gentium
  • Dear All,

    I wanted to share a little composition I had been working on for SATB choir (with divisi) for the Feast of the Purification on February 2nd. I know it is too late for most choirs, but perhaps for next year. I needed to write something easy enough to learn fast but hopefully something somewhat interesting (hence the harmonized verses and the little descant notes on the final refrain. The piece also retains the original Gregorian Chant melody, as shown in the parenthesized notes on the first and last refrains.

    A blessed and happy Feast day to you!
  • A very nice antiphon -
    I've always been partial to migrating cantus firmi.
    Interestingly done.
    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • Thank you; I finally found the 'Breve' or 'Double Whole Note' on Sibelius, so I edited the score to reflect this. :)
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,517
    Pretty sharp! Well, actually, 7 sharps and an occasional double sharp! Is the piece in F-sharp major for ease of playing black keys on the piano/organ? Or is F major too low at a half step down?

    If I were to play this on the harp, I'd prefer G-flat major, since a concert harp resonates better and more fully at flat pitches (because of longer string lengths), and the F-double sharp (not directly playable on a harp) would simply be a G-natural. These were considerations I had to take into account when composing "A Hymn for St Cecilia" and "The New Colossus" - putting the works in G-flat instead of F-sharp.
  • Thanks; I guess I'm more familiar with F-sharp Major than G-flat Major. Why not F? I guess because I just like the sound of the key better and my choir doesn't tend to keep things in F-Major as in tune as they do when it's a half-step up. :)

    That's really interesting about the harp, however. I have never really written anything for the harp nor have I ever really needed to. (I doubt a harp could get up our winding choir loft staircase)!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I think that F# is just fine! It has a brightness that Gb doesn't - not, though, to suggest that there is anything inherently wrong with Gb's ethos. I'm wondering what colours Messiaen would have seen in F#. As a rule, I transform many though not all hymns written in flat keys in the sharp key - i.e., Ab becomes A.

    Flat keys were famously favoured by the Romantics. The only piece that I have ever played in Gb is Schubert's Gb impromptu. It is an excruciatingly beautiful piece in a remarkably difficult key in which to think - but, then, the same could by some said to be true of F#. It is notable (as many here probably know) that Schubert's publisher insisted on publishing this piece in G because Gb was too difficult and would attract too few customers. Anyone who has heard this piece played in G will agree that it's not the same piece.

    It is quite fascinating that the very same notes spelled as sharps versus flats can result in remarkably different moods. Of course, on stringed instruments F# and Gb are not the 'same notes'.
    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • An awesome reflection. I've come to see F# with a certain heroism. It's brightness never seems to fail; my choir's intonation is much better in that key and, like I said earlier, I just like how it sounds. In comparison, F just feels wooly and thick to me (hard to describe). And I avoid a capella music written in G like the plague. It NEVER stays in tune for us and ends up reverting down to F# anyway, which is another reason I probably defer to it. :)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,200
    It's an odd phenomenon, isn't it? I've noticed the local Great Horned Owls are always in F and wondered if there's some connection to a size approximately that of a human skull. Since bowing to some perfect pitch singers and printing everything consistently at 'concert pitch', though, I've noticed that the choir no longer 'settles' and there's no greater difficulty with F than F#.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,517
    The key signature of "A Hymn for St Cecilia" has 6 flats (rather than 6 sharps), in deference to the concert harp part. I cannot imagine how a harpist, playing in 6 sharps, could handle a transient A-sharp major chord, whereas playing in 6 flats makes a B-flat major chord a rather easy change of just one pedal.

    As for flat keys versus sharp keys: Yes, A major is brighter than A-flat major (and entails one fewer accidental). Similarly, E Major is brighter than E-flat major - but then F major is (to me) brighter than E major. Oh, while I've heard that some choirs cannot seem to tune F major (and usually drift flat), I find that such choirs tend to drift flat in other keys, especially G and A-flat major - but surprisingly, F minor (with 4 flats!) stays in tune rather well, or at least fares no worse than E minor - although I tend to prefer E minor to F minor.

    You can judge for yourselves whether "A Hymn for St Cecilia" lacks "brightness" or even "saintliness" with 6 flats in the key signature (the tonality gravitates between D-flat & G-flat major):
        PDF score (letter size).
        MP3 sound file (112kbps).

    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • A415 can be your little secret, and then write in G for mere mortals to use.
    Thanked by 2Heath JacobFlaherty
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,517
    A415 (or thereabouts) is a common tuning for harpsichords & string instruments playing early music, not much a problem for brass instruments (especially sackbuts, but also valveless horns and trumpets), but more of a problem for non-baroque woodwind instruments (which must otherwise transpose, if possible). For absolute (perfect) pitch singers, it is often also an aggravation.
    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • I have near perfect pitch, and singing at 415 doesn't bother me too much. If the piece is written in D for example, I can just switch the sharps and flats in my head. This doesn't work for all keys, but it is ok. What really drives me pitch crazy is when a choir director moves something from F to G, but I'm still reading in F.
    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • 'Perfect pitch' is, in western music, perfect recall of all notes tuned relative to A 440. Identifying notes that haven't an A=440 basis would be a species of 'relative pitch', whereby pitches are identified relative to other, known ones.

    Perfect Pitch is sometimes called Absolute Pitch, both of which refer to perfect and absolute recall of every pitch in a gamut which has A=440 as its basis..

    Relative pitch differs from Absolute or Perfect pitch in that notes are identified only by judging their distance from one known pitch.

    From the standpoint of physics, designating a thing we call A at a conventionally agreed number of VPMs is purely arbitrary, a non-existent, purely conventional category with no objective reality or ontological existence. A, regardless of agreed upon VPMs, is a made up thing, it is what we have decided it is. It is not a thing in itself, and has no objective realityl

    These matters apply only to music of our diatonic Western musical heritage. Other cultures display many different systems. (And their attempts at composition using Western idioms most often result in very poor music.)

    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • I'm pleased to report that singing it at Mass last night went off without a hitch, singing it accurately and with musicality. The choir sight-read it in one rehearsal and didn't seem to mind the key. It's funny how some of the singers might even think it's "more interesting" when they see all of those "symbols" at the beginning, not realizing that it's not the amount of ink on a page but the sounds made that actually is the difference. :)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen