The Vespers, the Star, the Light of Love! (2017)

Commissioned by Dr. Jonathan Richter
and the Roger Williams University/Bristol County Chorus Choral Union

Instrumentation
2(2d.Picc).1.1+1.2 - 2.2.2.1 - 2 Perc. - Pno., Org. - SATB - Strings (4.4.2.2.1)
Percussion Equipment: Chimes (opt.), Glockenspiel, Suspended Cymbal, Crash Cymbals, Triangle, Bass Drum, Tam-Tam, Tambourine, Mark Tree

Texts
Hans Adolph Brorson (1694-1764) – Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker (My Heart Always Lingers) – sung in Norwegian, trans. Derek J. Weagle. [Hymn tune by Anonymous]

Thomas Moore (1779-1852) – Hark! The Vesper Hymn is Stealing

Paraphrase of Isaiah 9:6 (New International Version)

Length
10'

Program Note

The Vespers, the Star, the Light of Love! is a Christmas fantasy for choir and orchestra representing the variety of emotional states of this exciting yet highly sacred holiday season. The work opens in tranquil mystery with a solo voice singing the first verse of the Norwegian hymn My Heart Always Lingers in the Birthplace of Jesus in its original language. The subtle beating of a heart and tolling of distant bells can be heard as this sustained passage alludes to the popular Christmas carol Silent Night. After this fleeting reference, the orchestra builds rapidly into a flurry of strings and woodwinds, outlining a series of harmonic structures the composer has deemed “The Angelus Sequence,” a harmonic motif used in several of his works to represent the Incarnation of Christ: Jesus (or “The Son”) as the second state of the Holy Trinity taking human form. The excitement of the Angelus continues to build as the music enters a joyous, lilting setting of Irish Poet Thomas Moore’s Hark! The Vesper Hymn is Stealing! This sparkling carol sets the scene for the return of “the vesper hymn” heard in the opening as it dissolves into a solo passage for organ. The choir reenters in three-part harmony to recite the next verse of My Heart Always Lingers, this time in its original minor tune. As the stanza draws to a close, the music evolves from a subdued hymn, to a sumptuous moment of serenity, as the lyrics speak of Jesus being born within our hearts. As quickly as the orchestra melts into this moment of respite, we then begin our forward motion to the close (and the climax) or the piece. The final stanza of “My Heart” is heard in the altos, with alternating punctuated interjections and flowing sighs in the other voice parts. Inevitably, we fulfill the foreshadowing in the opening or the work, arriving at a festively embellished march-chorale of Silent Night in the orchestra. Meanwhile, choir declaims the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“For unto us, a child is born, To us a son is given, And all authority shall be on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace.”

Premiere
December 3rd, 2017
Dr. Jonathan Richter, Conductor
Roger Williams University & Bristol County Choral Union
St. Mary's Parish, Bristol, RI