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moon east: the path

The Path for soloists, choir, and orchestralearn more
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moon east: nativity

Nativity SATB a cappellaBuy Now
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Nativity After John Donne
Notes on the Program

Nativity After John Donne is based on the poem (1610) by the poet John Donne.

The music is a literal setting of the text, with every note of the melody corresponding to a word of the poem. You could sing along. It is from his collection La Corona which tells the Christ story as a collection of sonnets. It is a simple retelling of the Christmas tale but also filled with paradox (cloistered immensity, well-belov’d imprisonment) and riddles (He Which fills all place, yet none holds Him). It is also a deeply human tale of motherly love and suffering.

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

-notes by the composer

moon east: adoro te devote

Adoro Te Devote SATB a cappella       Buy Now
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moon east: hay dias

Hay Dias SMsATBarB a cappella       Buy Now
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Jaime Quemain was the editor of an independent newspaper in San Salvador. In 1980 he was arrested by plainclothes men in a cafe. The next day his dead body was found on the street tortured and mutilated with a machete. He was 30. He was almost certainly murdered by paramilitary death squads associated with the Salvadoran army. He was killed at almost the same time and place as the more well known Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who assassinated by Rafael Alvaro Saravia while celebrating mass on Monday, March 24, 1980.

Hay Días is not a poem of political protest. Rather it is a poem expressing the lives of the people during a time of violence and upheaval. This work has moments of dread and visions of death, moments of red-blooded exuberance, and a reminder of the power of crowds to strive for change amid violence and repression. This idea of cycles is expressed by the four stanzas of the poem roughly corresponding to the four seasons of the year: winter/death, spring/sex, summer/heat and violence, and a return to darkness and fear. The piece expresses this by a subtle harmonic progression that leads, over the course of the work, through all 12 key areas before returning to the original c# minor/A Lydian at the close. The poem ends with hope amid terror, the image of a flower growing from a grave. In a final ironic twist, the last bittersweet word of the poem, “flores” (flower), is the name of the right wing Arenero President Francisco Flores who ruled El Salvador from 1999-2004.

This work was composed as a part of The Esoteric’s Polyphonos Competition, polyphonos meaning, “having many voices or manifold in expression.” I was inspired by this idea of many voices to create a work in which each of the many voices within the choir would have a chance to be heard individually. This work features a profusion of intertwining solos and extremely divided textures.

moon east: agnus dei

Agnus Dei SATB a cappella       Buy Now
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One of the five hymns St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) composed for Pope Urban IV (1261-1264) when he first established the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. The hymn is found in the Roman Missal as a prayer of thanksgiving.

ADORO te devote, latens Deitas,
quae sub his figuris vere latitas:
tibi se cor meum totum subiicit,
quia te contemplans totum deficit.

Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
oro fiat illud quod tam sitio;
ut te revelata cernens facie,
visu sim beatus tuae gloriae.
-St. Thomas Aquinas

HIDDEN God, devoutly I adore Thee,
truly present underneath these veils:
all my heart subdues itself before Thee,
since it all before Thee faints and fails.

Contemplating, God, Thy hidden presence,
grant me what I thirst for and implore,
in the revelation of Thy essence
to behold Thy glory evermore.
-Translation by John O’Hagan (1822-1890)

moon east: lamentations

Lamentations SATB a cappella       Buy Now
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O Lord

He hath led me, and brought me into darkness
Surely against me is he turned
He turneth his hand against me
My flesh and my skin hath he made old
He hath broken my bones
Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer

He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone
He hath made my paths crooked
He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces
He hath made me desolate
He hath filled me with bitterness
He hath broken my teeth with gravel stones
He hath covered me with ashes

Their heart cried unto the Lord,
let tears run down like a river day and night:

Arise, cry out in the night:
lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children,
that faint for hunger in the top of every street. 

Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever;
thy throne from generation to generation. 
Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever,
and forsake us so long time?

moon east: miles and miles

Miles and Miles SATB a cappella       Buy Now $35
with optional Nordic fiddle
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I began writing Miles and Miles almost exactly 10 years ago for the VocalEssence Welcome Christmas competition. My wife and I had just traveled from Texas to Minnesota for me to start a new job at St. Olaf College. I was literally in the middle of composing when I got the phone call from my wife that she was going into labor with our first child. I missed my first day of class to see my son born. Needless to say, I missed the deadline for submission, and never got back to this little carol.

Ten years later I was going through my old files and stumbled on this little half-finished piece. I was struck that it is of course the Christmas story told from the point of view of a young couple about to have their first baby. Miles and miles to go indeed. In the final perfect coincidence, I got the call that I had won the Welcome Christmas competition on my son’s 10th birthday.

The dead of winter on the road
Miles and miles from home
The desert dust stings my eyes
Miles and miles to go
Miles and miles and miles and miles
Miles before I sleep
Miles and miles and miles and miles
On this Christmas eve

Now nine long months have come and gone
Miles and miles from home
Can’t wait to see my first born son
Miles and miles to go

My baby will be born tonight
Miles and miles from home
Who will give me shelter here?
Miles and miles to go

We have to flee to save our child
Miles and miles from home
God only knows when we’ll return
Miles and miles to go

Still they cry in Bethlehem
Miles and miles from home
Mothers comfort little ones
Miles and miles to go
-Justin Merritt

moon east: corde natus

Corde natus SATB a cappella       buy from JWPepper
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recorded on the album Christmas in Norway

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Corde natus ex parentis (Of the Father’s Love Begotten) was commissioned by Scott MacPherson and the Vokalensemble Kölner Dom and premiered in the Cologne Cathedral. The text was written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c.348 – c.413), a Roman judge. The principle melody, Divinum Mysterium, is from an 11th Century Sanctus trope. Both the text and tune are familiar as Christmas hymns.

I have tried to take my setting closer to its source than the typical hymn setting. The work opens with the tune sung as a chant in the sopranos. Slowly, the rest of the choir “picks up” individual pitches in the melody, as though there were a very selective reverb in the hall, forming a diatonic sheen around the melody. The second verse is set mostly in strict modal counterpoint among the upper voices, but the men sing in parallel 5ths, echoing early organum. Finally, the text, tune and choir are desembled into 4 soloists and multiple separate parts, each presenting small portions of the preceding counterpoint in overlapping waves.

Corde Natus ex Parentis
Corde natus ex parentis
ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus,
ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt,
quaeque post futura sunt.

Saeculorum saeculis.

O beatus ortus ille,
virgo cum puerpera
Edidit nostram salutem,
feta Sancto Spiritu,
Et puer redemptor
orbis os sacratum protulit.

Saeculorum saeculis

Of the Father’s Heart Begotten
Of the Father’s heart begotten,
ere the world from chaos rose,
he is Alpha, from that Fountain
all that is and hath been flows;
he is Omega, of all things
yet to come the mystic close,

evermore and evermore.

O how blest that wondrous birthday,
when the Maid the curse retrieved,
brought to birth mankind’s salvation;
by the Holy Ghost conceived;
and the Babe, the world’s Redeemer
in her loving arms received,

evermore and evermore.

all posts

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16the sixteenth floor
16on seeing weather-beaten trees
16november night & triad
16may evening in central park
16london thoroughfare, 2am
16five prophecies
16the bookshop
16the aviary
16drum break
16broken consort
16album leaves for trumpet
16album leaves
16monkey king versus the spider wizard
16monkey king battles the generals
16house on the hill
16still harbor
16bar for hans sachs
16standard deviation
16cube dance
16rococo suite
16chaconne mercy endures
16blender project
165 preludes
16a gauze of misted silver
16the day florestan murdered magister raro
16sturm und drang
16the path
16adoro te devote
16hay dias
16agnus dei
16miles and miles
16corde natus
16janus mask
16river of blood

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