I. Angelus (the voice of the Angel Messenger)
II. Tenebrae (the voices of the Crucified One and his Disciples)
III. Revelation (the screams of terror and jubilation at the Second Coming)
Oboe, Cello, Harp, 2 Percussionists
Percussion Equipment: Chimes, Vibraphone, High Octave Crotales OR Glockenspiel, Water Gong OR Waterphone, Bass Drum, Large Tam-Tam, China Cymbal, Medium Suspended Cymbal, Many Triangles (at least three: one small, medium, and large), Rainstick, Roto-Toms OR Quint Toms, Siren, 5 Tuned Gongs
Hosannas is a darker recounting of three notable Christian stories from the New Testament. Taking on the voices of several characters from each tale, the oboe stands as the featured instrument throughout the work.
The first movement, Angelus, tells the story of the Immaculate Conception with the oboe as the voice of the angel Gabriel. Imagined from the viewpoint of Mary, the accompaniment paints a still night landscape, evoking feelings of mixed awe and terror as the angel (surmised to be a heavenly yet grotesque creature) glides gracefully through the darkness and into her home. As the angel comforts her, he tells Mary of “all that is, and all that will come to be.” A somewhat sinister tango emerges in the cello, juxtaposing the notion of a sinless conception with a very human conflict of trust. As Mary’s soul is filled with the Lord, the ensemble climaxes, slowly coming to rest on an unresolved dominant chord. After a pause, the movement closes in the same way it opened – a confused and frightened Mary peering through the night. Just as we think the music has fully subsided, an unexpected burst of angel’s wings flashes in our face as Gabriel ascends back to the heavens.
Tenebrae follows, depicting the events of Good Friday as Christ stumbles along the Via Dolorosa to his crucifixion. Beginning with a funeral dirge, the oboe delivers a primitive, chromatic ululation as Christ’s followers watch in horror. As the procession reaches Mary, the music gradually moves toward a more tonal language – a mother mourning for her son. As Mary’s grief climaxes, we hear the tolling of bells in the distance as the players recite Jesus’ words of abandonment, the fourth of his seven sayings on the cross: “Eli, Eli lama sabachtani” or “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The tension mounts once again as Jesus approaches his final breath. The movement ends with the players reciting his words of triumph: “It is finished.”
In a twisted frenzy, the Revelation begins. Sounds of blaring trumpets, trembling earth, the horses of the apocalypse, a blackening sun, and falling stars can all be heard throughout this shorter, final installment. The entire piece ends in a shimmering clangor as the throne of God emerges from the chaos.
for Jake Gunnar Walsh
with my greatest admiration