Choir Sunday features two new pieces from our own, esteemed Steve Main. Here’s what he has to say about them:
“The task of composing vocal music is made infinitely easier when one starts with good texts. And what a privilege it is to set these words to music! Although very different in their historical and cultural contexts, the poets I’ve used for these two pieces share important similarities, including a profound conviction of God’s presence throughout creation.
“The English poet William Blake (1757-1827) published ‘The Tyger’ in 1749. It presents a duality between aesthetic beauty and primal ferocity, as Blake believed that to see one (the Divine hand that created ‘The Lamb’), one must also see the other, the hand that created the fearsome tiger. Could it be, Blake asks, that the merciful hand of God could create such a terrifying beast? (‘Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’) Commissioned by a PCC chorister, The Tyger at PCC on June 11th.
“Where Everything is Music was commissioned by the Contra Costa Chorale. The texts are drawn from the poetry of the Islamic mystic Jalal-ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) whose ecstatic poems have been revered for centuries and play an important part in the spirituality of the Sufi mystics. He sees music as woven into the very fabric of reality, not just an art form that is sung or played. Music, like its sister, poetry, springs up from something deeper than words: the primal source is the divine being who plays us like instruments. I arranged the poems so that the piece would hinge on the question: ‘who are we, that we should remain in being beside Thee?’ For Rumi, though we are unworthy instruments for the divine, a life without music is unthinkably bleak. The climax, presented by solo soprano, is the realization that, like the ecstatic song of a bird, the task of a musician is to allow the Universal Soul to ‘practice some song…through me.’ According to Rumi, beyond rational thought, beyond society’s rules, beyond the ups and downs of everyday life, we find ‘the joy of our Music Master.’”