NEW COMPOSITION: The Christmas Preface
  • Heath
    Posts: 888
    Friends,

    I came across the wonderful poem by James Matthew Wilson a couple years ago and knew it needed a musical setting. After a long compositional process, rounding up my finest singers, losing one to quarantine(!), and a rigorous rehearsal schedule, I finally have something to show for it!

    I've attached a score and I'll link the recording from my Christmas concert below. The poem is a pantoum, inspired by the preface for Xmas Day:

    "For in the mystery of the Word made flesh
    a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind,
    so that, as we recognize in him God made visible,
    we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible."

    For the music, I used a free rhythm, and, as you'll see, an expansive harmonic language. You'll notice that, when Wilson repeated a line in different context, I re-used the harmonies from the first occurrence of the text, but voiced them differently.

    I'm grateful to Dr. Wilson for allowing me to use the poem, my fabulous student singers, and some colleagues who gave me valuable feedback. Enjoy!

    Recording: https://uofi.app.box.com/s/1y6gxk8ukcuzz5rah8nk9q0fpeppo5gp/file/894954514227



    The Christmas Preface
    by James Matthew Wilson



    There, in the hay’s warmth and the steaming sty,

    The Word born to the frailty of flesh

    Cracks our mortality with a weak cry

    And seals our life within his endlessness.



    The Word born to the frailty of flesh,

    He lies wrapped in the cloths of mystery,

    And seals our life within his endlessness,

    In infant finitude, eternity.



    He lies wrapped in the cloths of mystery,

    The straining of small limbs, unopened eyes.

    In infant finitude, eternity

    And love invisible we recognize.



    The straining of small limbs, unopened eyes

    Draw us from torchlight to the light of glory,

    And love invisible we recognize

    Shaping the child’s dream of the Christmas story.



    Draw us from torchlight to the light of glory.

    Crack our mortality with a weak cry,

    Shaping the child’s dream of the Christmas story,

    Here in the hay’s warmth and the steaming sty.
    Thanked by 2m_r_taylor CHGiffen
  • I love it!

    I think the juxtaposition of quite regular rhythm (not metrical, but still regular) with the regularly changing harmonies works well to convey both a peaceful mood and also a sense of being "wrapped in the cloths of mystery". The music dances around the object of contemplation in the manger, sort of wheeling round a quasi-circle of fifths like stars in orbit. Within - not quite unwrapped - is the joy of the Christ Child. But I guess that's why it's a preface.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Heath
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,791
    Couldn't help but notice the following (it's ingrained into my musical sensibility).

    m.4 down a minor third: Soprano D Eb C Db becomes H C A B (German spelling, where H=B-natural & B = B-flat); and Tenor Db C Eb D becomes B A C H.

    m.9: down a major third: Tenor D# E C# D becomes H C A B.

    B A C H and (more often) H C A B occur with some regularity in music that I have encountered. This occurs in a few of my own works, almost always by sheer accident ... the most recent is B A C H, which appears in m.11, middle voice, in "Bring us, O Lord God" for 5-voices - untransposed (in the original key of F-major).
  • Heath
    Posts: 888
    In case that recording link doesn't work some of you...recording attached here.
  • very nice piece
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,665
    very cool piece... congrats

    (is this four vocalists?)
  • Heath
    Posts: 888
    Thank you for the kind words, friends!

    Francis, it was a choir of 10: 2 sopranos, 2 altos (lost one to COVID!), 3 tenors, 3 basses.
    Thanked by 1francis