Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem. SATB, organ, opt. brass quintet, timpani (also opt. 2 violins and brass quartet). 4′. Commissioned by the Presbyterian Church of Barrington, Kirsten Hedegaard, Chorus Director, for Easter Sunday, April 21st, 2019. Premiered there with Gaudete Brass.
The new tune is named in honor of the commissioner, Kirsten Hedegaard. She and the Gaudete Brass contacted me about composing an Easter anthem for the Presbyterian Church of Barrington, about an hour outside Chicago.
The text, Chorus novæ Ierusalem, was written by St. Fulbert of Chartres (952–1028), and translated by Robert Campbell (1814–1868). The only alterations I made were substituting “Sing” for the first word “Ye,” which other hymnal editors have done, and in verse two, to change “th’imprisoned” to “prisoned.” I’m fond of archaisms, actually, and if they’re apt, they can be useful, but I thought “Ye” a bit too precious, even for Campbell’s time. The verse two change drops a syllable and removes an irregularity in the scansion.
This is an Easter anthem of moderate difficulty, within the reach of most church choirs with adequate numbers in each voice part. The tune and much of the part-writing are fairly easy to learn. Verses one and five are musically the same. While there are no unison passages, there is a two-part verse, much of which is doubled in the instruments. The descant also is doubled.
It can be performed with organ alone, with organ and brass, or with organ, brass, and timpani. The brass and organ parts are the same either way. There is also a version for organ with optional two violins and a brass quartet of two horns and two trombones (tenor and bass), an unusual but quite workable ensemble we had at our church, Holy Trinity Lutheran in Abington, Pa.
Throughout the entire melody, voicing, and phrasing there are echoes, to my ear, of shape-note writing—a kind of music from the earliest years of the United States that has inspired me often with its strength, vigor, and at times, rawness.
Sing, choirs of new Jerusalem,
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy.
For Judah’s Lion bursts His chains,
To crush the serpent’s head;
And cries aloud through death’s domains
To wake the prisoned dead.
From hell’s devouring jaws the prey
Alone our Leader bore;
His ransomed hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before.
Triumphant in His glory now
To Him all power is given;
To Him in one communion bow
All saints in earth and heaven.
While we, His soldiers, praise our King,
His mercy we implore,
Within His palace bright to bring
And keep us evermore.
All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Ghost, to Thee,
While endless ages run.