I am happy to report that I have received a commission from the extraordinary chamber choir The Crossing, to compose a work to be premiered in the performance space called The Icebox, part of the Crane Arts Building here in Philadelphia.
Here is what I wrote about my proposed piece in my application to the commission competition:
In describing the Crane Icebox space, the competition guidelines refer to it as an “industrial cathedral.” This suggested to me a work that would reflect both the cathedral-like qualities of the space as well as the paradox inherent in the juxtaposition of those two terms. I propose a work that will set portions of the traditional Latin texts for the Mass alongside excerpts from Denise Levertov’s cycle of poems “Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus”. Levertov’s choice to refer to the apostle known as “doubting Thomas” in her cycle’s title reflects the struggles of her own faith journey. “Industrial cathedral”, with its suggestion of human effort set alongside divine possibility strikes me as resonating with the figure of St. Thomas, whose story in the Gospel brings together both the skeptical and the faith-filled.
My proposed work will call for a small group of singers, perhaps three or four, to function as a schola, singing the traditional Latin Mass texts using a musical vocabulary that evokes plainchant but in a modern harmonic idiom; something ritualistic, austere, stylized. This schola will be placed at one side of the Icebox space, while the main body of the choir will be positioned at another side, and will sing the Levertov texts in a more dramatic and expansive idiom, though motivically related to the music for the Latin settings. The possibilities for choral antiphony are obvious. At times the groups will simply be contrasted, at other times they may be more dramatically juxtaposed, with the schola being heard amidst openings in the larger choral texture, or with the larger group providing a contemplative sonic space in which the schola can perform its rituals.
I am very excited to be working on this. Although I have written a number of short motets (and am presently trying to finish another one for a January premiere at Emmanuel Church), this piece is the biggest unaccompanied choral work I will have attempted. The premiere will be June 28, 2014.