Saturday, April 4, 2015

Oh, All ye Works...

The book of Daniel has in the third chapter a bit that's usually cut out, separated and used on its own. It's called The Song of the Three Children (starting at verse 28 there) or Benedicite, Omnia Opera. It's a marathon.

So's my setting.

It's an SATB-with-divisi a capella setting, using the English text, and abbreviating out a lot of the repetitions of "Bless ye the Lord; Praise him and magnify him forever," which happens in literally every line. A little bit of inclusive language is added, as well (just "Children" instead of "Children of Men," for example) and for more, "Praise him" can become "Praise___"; "magnify him" turns in to "magnify God." So, "Praise him and magnify him forever" becomes "Praise___ and magnify God forever." Easy enough to edit in, even if I didn't.

About this setting, musically; it's divided along the lines of the text into four large sections. The first section details all these wonderful things in the heavens that are to bless, praise and magnify God forever. It's homophonic to begin with, then moves in to a more call-and-response segment.

The second section is all about the various meteorological and astronomical phenomena - heavenly bodies, weather effects... all of these things. This section is more soloistic, with an accompanying "Bless ye the Lord" running underneath it to provide a constant solid rhythm.

Third comes a slower segment, beginning with an introductory section on the words "O let the Earth bless the Lord," while the basses chant "For ever" (yes, it's two words) on a constant drone. Once we're through that, we get to the variety of things on and about the Earth - living things, geological features, that sort of stuff - culminating in "O ye children." Generally, the style is one of overlapping homophonies, where two voices will sing one line together and the other two will sing the next line together a little later, and so on.

Finally. A little fugue, going on in four voices for a while, until the basses drop out and begin singing the rest of the text, eventually bringing us back around to conclude as we began, with "All ye works of the Lord."

It's an interesting thing, revisiting a piece from six years ago. I was very firmly riding the Romantic Tonality section of my brain, which hasn't totally given me up yes. I do like the warmth of the chords and the logical sense of the structure. Would I write it this way now? ... probably not. My mind goes in other directions now. But I'm still proud of this, all the same.

PDF download is here,
PDF download with keyboard reduction is here.

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Benedicite, Omnia Opera by Mike Cutler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.