Commissioned by the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra, Donald Spieth, Music Director, and premiered by them on February 15th and 16th, 2002, at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.
1. Lumen ad revelationem
2. Passer invenit sibi domum
3. The Lord God is a sun and shield
This work is a meditation on the day of The Presentation of Our Lord, the 2nd of February, a festival of the Church close to the dates of the premiere. Though nothing is sung, the music follows texts associated with the day. For the first movement I was drawn by the beauty of the chant in Latin which is the antiphon repeated throughout the singing of the Gospel in Luke 2, the story of Simeon: “Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel,” (“A light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel”). For a variety of reasons, not least among them being the events of September 11th, 2001, I decided on a literal “setting” of the entire text in Latin of verses 22-32, using the syllables and accents of the words as well as the punctuation itself, as generators of the musical material.
Continuing with the Latin, verses 3 and 4 of the Psalm for the day, Psalm 84, become the second movement, which can be translated as: “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in thy house; they will still be praising thee.”
The third movement comprises the remainder of the Psalm, although here the musical setting is of the text in English. The entire text is followed, including a brief percussion solo at the indication of “Selah,” a word which is believed to be a break or a musical instruction of some sort to the original singers of the Psalms. The movement begins with its own antiphon, which is verse 11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” This antiphon—specifically, the first return of it—is what I used for the theme for the radio program Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection.