The Word of God is a setting of an original hymn of mine on a text by the Rev. Michael Tavella. I composed the hymn for our church, and the anthem for the combined churches celebrating the 300th Anniversary of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, in 2011.
It’s probably wrong to admit it, let alone to feel pride in the first place, but there’s one feature of the anthem I’m proud of. I’ve always—no, that’s too strong—I’ve usually had the opinion that I could take or leave descants. No, that’s too weak. I usually despise descants. One finds reams of quite harmless if formulaic arrangements with last-verse descants clumsily riveted on top. This type is everywhere, written in a pick-a-card-any-card style from whatever notes happen to align at the moment, and then tossed at the sopranos, with high notes predominating at, often, inopportune and ill-prepared points, because the high notes are the thing, because they’re sopranos, and because, otherwise, why write a descant?
Well, I thought I’d challenge myself to see if I could write a descant and not just have opinions about it, or, as it happens, one opinion. The challenge always is, for me, for whatever voice, to write a melody.
I’m proud, as I say, of how it came out, although that usually—no, that’s too weak—that always makes me nervous.