Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Lux Aeterna: Premiere

In January 2011 I wrote a short piece of a capella music for men's chorus, "Lux Aeterna," on the Latin text from the Requiem Mass.

It's a favorite text of mine, since, although I am post-Christian, there are many areas of spirituality that I find to be universal and eternal. The aspects of the existing organized religions that I find to be congenial and meaningful are those that speak of unconditional love, acceptance, compassion, universal siblinghood (if you will), and holiness.

To define the essential core of my personal spiritual practice more truly than I ever have before, my personal religion is that of the Light. I follow the Light. I may have been born in the darkness, but I work for the Light.

On one level, that's just another label, ultimately misleading because incapable of fully encapsulating what I mean into one word that functions as a label. What do I mean by "the Light"? So much more than I can put into words. Which is one reason I periodically choose to set sacred texts about the Light to music. Music goes deeper than words.

This isn't by any means the first piece I've written about the Light that was written during the dark days of winter, near the winter solstice, or soon after. Nor is it likely to be the last.

The Light is a recurring theme in much of my art-making, including my composed music, and I return to it again and again.

Indeed, when I operate as a fine art landscape photographer, every image made in the camera is made with light, and most are, if you look past the obvious subject of the photo, about the Light. I photograph the quality of the ever-changing light, as one my primary subject matters.

Here is the Latin text of "Lux Aeterna," followed by an English translation. (My own rendition from the Latin, based on a handful of other translations.) It is a text that begins and ends with eternal light:

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal light shine on them, Lord,
with your saints in eternity,
for you are merciful.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and perpetual light shine on them.

To say that I serve the Light doesn't mean that I deny the darkness, without or within. If anything, I know the darkness so well that I have chosen to serve the Light. (There are a lot of personal biographical and spiritual stories about how I was led to that choice, but those are irrelevant here.)

When I am writing the music to an existing sacred text, the words lead me towards how to depict them in music. I could go into a detailed analysis of my music and how it relates to the text, but in truth I don't think that matters. What matters is that the music have the emotional impact and depth found in the text.

Here's a sample of the music, from the middle of the score, to give you a sense of the setting and musical style:

(Click on image for larger version.)

In just a few days, on December 8 & 9, 2012, "Lux Aeterna" will be premiered by Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus, in Madison, WI, as part of their 2012 winter concert series. The concert this year is themed as Warm Wishes from Wisconsin, and consists this year of mostly popular songs in gorgeous choral arrangements, a few novelties that will make you laugh out loud, and a few story-songs and carols that are powerful and moving, including some of the beautiful Alfred Burt carols. "Lux Aeterna" is the only sacred choral work on this year's winter concert.

I am pleased and proud to have my music sung by this group of excellent singers. I am doubly pleased that so many chorus members have told me that they like this piece a great deal. It is a piece in a fairly modern, somewhat challenging harmonic style (remember what I said earlier about depicting the text in its emotional impact), and they have worked in rehearsal, and that hard work has paid off. We will be premiering "Lux Aeterna" in a resonant performance space well suited to choral music, that will maximize the music's effect, so I look forward to hearing it there.

May the Light preserve and protect you, and lead you home!

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