And Seeing the Multitudes is a cello concerto commissioned by the Helena Symphony as part of my 2014-15 residency with them for their 60th anniversary. It was written for Ovidiu Marinescu. The music director, and the driving force behind this project and the entire residency, is Allan R. Scott. The work is dedicated to Ovidiu and Allan. It was premiered January 31st, 2015 at the Helena Civic Center, Helena, Montana.
It is in one movement, 20 minutes long. The instrumentation:
2+pic, 2,2,2—4,3,3,1—timp+3(incl marimba)—piano, harp—solo cello—strings
The title is taken from the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount passage in the Gospel of Matthew. It is built upon the Beatitudes, with the chorale Herzlich lieb’ ich dir, O Herr following. It is not a well-known chorale, even among those who sing chorales, but if it is known in America, it will be in its Catherine Winkworth translation: “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”
When I began to compose this in earnest, news of police shootings and angry riots was inescapable. Wondering what a composer’s response might be, “Blessed are the peacemakers” kept coming to mind. I considered a work hanging on the Beatitudes as a framework, but soon realized that a response to them was needed, which is when I turned to the chorale tune to end the work. I then used that as material for the eight Beatitude sections—sometimes obvious, sometimes not—so in effect the piece is a theme and variations, with the variations coming first.
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came to him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel of Matthew 5:1-10
“Lord, Thee I love with all my heart” translated 1863, Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878), from Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dir, o Herr (c.1567), Martin Schalling (1532-1608), based on Psalm 18; Bernhard Schmid, Orgelbuch, Strassburg (1577)