The first performance of my organ piece Christus Vincit was recorded for broadcast on the radio program “Pipedreams”, and I recently stumbled across an archive of the show. Michael Murray is the organist, giving the first performance on a Goulding & Wood instrument at St. Meinrad’s Archabbey in Indiana. Here is my program note for the premiere:
This brief fantasia on Gregorian themes continues a series of works I have composed based on sacred melodies. In the present case I have used two such tunes, both appropriate for the feast of Christ the King: the refrain (in slightly modified form) and verses of “Christus Vincit” (Christ Conquers) and a hymn called “Vexilla Christus Inclyta” (Raise Christ’s Banner). The former is a very old melody, said to have been sung at the coronation of Charlemagne; the latter is a modern conflation of older text and melody probably devised by a monk of Solesmes.
My meditation on these melodies opens with the Christus refrain, then states the Christus verse over sustained chords. A reprise of the refrain leads to a statement of the Vexilla melody over slowly shifting chords related to the Christus material. A slow, soft passage, marked “misterioso” in the score, presents another look at the Christus refrain, and this is followed by a statement of the Christus verse in the pedal, accompanied by passage work on the manuals. A fugato on the Christus refrain rounds off the piece.
Composed for the re-dedication recital given by Michael Murray at the organ of the Abbey Church of the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Meinrad’s in Indiana, Christus Vincit was premiered by Mr. Murray on the feast of Christ the King in 1997. I thank the Benedictine community of St. Meinrad’s, in particular my friend Fr. Bede Cisco, for the invitation to help with the celebration of their organ’s re-dedication.
(The image above is of the Abbey Church)