Assembly (2016)

Commissioned in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of The New England Conservatory

Bloom / Bustle / Begin / Bells / Bloom, in Retrograde

SSAATTBB Choir & Piano

Also available for Chamber Ensemble: SSAATTBB Choir + 9 Instruments (Flute doubling Piccolo, English Horn, Clarinet doubling Bass Clarinet, Horn, Piano, Percussion, Violin, Viola, Cello)


Cantatibus Organis (Traditional Latin)
Trans. Mick Swithinbank

Revival and Essence by Katherine F. Lavoie

Cantantibus organis
Cecilia virgo [in corde suo
soli domino] decantabat dicens:
Fiat cor meum [et corpus meum] immaculatum
ut non confundar.

While the musicians played,
Cecilia the virgin sang (in her heart
only to the Lord), saying:
'Lord, let my heart (and body)
remain without stain, that I be not put to shame.'

The only sure way to know this place
is by learning to grow like the trees.
As constructions and street signs and faces change,
the leaves are still humming the same brilliant tunes.
Though the seasons compose juxtaposing the keys,
there is magic involved in examining roots.
There’s a thing to be said about cities and halls
that accommodate in their assembly
the greens of the spring and the reds of the fall
which exist in ever-changing permanence —
Like the poem you’ve read a hundred times over tea
but today begs a second glance.
These are not the same birds serenading the Earth
‘round all the great names before thee.
But the beauty in this is new birds — rebirth.  
In new leaves, in new words, in new songs, we rejoice.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky;
From death comes new life and that is true wealth.
So study the soil when aiming to fly;
the tallest mountain depends on its sills.
To know thyself and to grow thyself,
thou shall shed and bloom and be still.

Program Note

Assembly (n):
1. a group of people gathered together in one place for a common purpose.
2. the action of gathering together as a group for a common purpose.
3. the action of fitting together the component parts of a machine or other object.
The definition of Assembly is represented in all of its facets within this work. The text is treated in five sections – each a nostalgic memory or vignette. Structured in an arc form, each part addresses different aspects of engaging with the arts, the juxtaposition of nature in metropolitan living, and the foundation of leading a healthy lifestyle that embraces growth. At its most literal level, the work embodies an assembly of these ideas and recollections strung together by both logical and non-sequitur transitions, and also the concept that performers gather in a space with a shared purpose. The first section is subtitled “Bloom,” with text describing the beauty and furthered conviction that change brings in our lives, features a simple, song-like melody emerging from a lilting piano introduction – a gentle overture to the theatrical nature of the following sections. Nature’s cyclicality, a recurring theme throughout the poetry, is established here. “Bustle” follows “Bloom,” opening with an energetic piano ostinato setting stage for a more angular and decisive variation on the opening melody. This section culminates in a cycle of unexpected harmonic shifts on the repeated text “ever-changing permanence,” ultimately collapsing in a new section designated “Begin.” The four soli create the image of angels echoing softly as if in cathedral-esque acoustics. They sing “Cantatibus organis…” the opening line of the first Vespers antiphon of St. Cecilia’s (the patron saint of musicians) feast day, translating to “While the musicians played…” Underneath, the tenors and basses carry an unaccompanied, chant-like melody, alluding to one of the earliest forms of organized music we have recorded in the Western classical tradition. A forceful declamation of “Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky!” follows, and is quoted from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memorium A.H.H., aptly opening the section labeled “Bells.” The piano re-enters, creating a flurry of jubilant waves that surround the choir’s powerful, homorhythmic statement: “From death comes new life, and that is true wealth.” “Bloom, in Retrograde,” the concluding section, serves as the piece’s final exhale. Once again a cappella, the choir sings: “To know thyself and to grow thyself, / thou shall shed and bloom and be still.” The music wanes, repeating “be still” three times, the last being just a whisper.
The work ends in stillness.
We are changed.

Assembly (Digital Choir & Piano Octavo)

Digital Only, Formatted for 8.5x11 Printing

(priced at a minimum of 5 copies @ $1.99)

Note: The choir & piano octavo is different than the chamber version octavo.

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Assembly (Digital Chamber Score)

Digital Only, Formatted for 8.5x14 Printing

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Assembly (Digital Chamber Parts incl. Choral Octavo)
35.00 40.00

Digital Only, Parts Formatted for 8.5x11 Printing

Note: The chamber version choral octavo is different than the choir & piano octavo.

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