for Chorusa cappella (2006)
Duration: 6 minutes
Commissioned by Seraphic Fire
Availability: For Sale
Premiere: November 10, 2006 at First Methodist Church (Coral Gables, Florida) Seraphic Fire, Patrick Quigley, conductor
In September 2006, Patrick Quigley and his Miami-based choral group, Seraphic Fire asked me to write a short choral work for a performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s sacred music. I was to write an Elevation motet – the motet sung during the ritual raising of the consecrated bread and wine used for the Eucharist – to replace Scarlatti’s own setting in his Missa Breve “La Stella.” Such a commission always presents me with a number of aesthetic, technical, and personal questions and challenges.
Creating a new work that would be heard within an older larger, unified Mass setting was the first and most obvious challenge. As opposed to a concert performance, the liturgical celebration of the Mass is often a musical dialogue between centuries and styles, ranging from plainchant to the avant-garde; and though Scarlatti composed his own Elevation motet, Cibavit eos, it was common and appropriate to substitute settings of the feast-specific Proper within the more generic Ordinary of the Mass. In Scarlatti’s case, the Elevation motet served structurally as the contrasting center panel of a formal triptych framed by short, nearly identical settings of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei and any substitution would still need to solve this musicial problem. With that in mind, my thoughts turned to architecture. Renzo Piano’s recently completed entrance to the Morgan Library in Manhattan or I.M. Pei’s famous pyramid at the Louvre are bold, radical, contrasting works that refract their “subjects’” contexts in novel ways- the apposite visual correlatives to my own aural ambitions. - Matthew Barnson