Performers: Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Choir (Neil McEwan, cond.) with soloists Jenny Liu (sop.) & Alexander Knight (bar.) @ Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Communion of Reparation (for Our Lady of Sorrows) was commissioned by Rev. Dr Arthur E. Bridge on behalf of Ars Musica Australis, in commemoration of the Centenary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The work is based upon a poem of the same name by Sister Mary Julian Baird, RSM, of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.
In three verses, the poet describes the deep sorrow felt by Jesus’ mother, Mary, upon the occasion of her son’s crucifixion. Mary’s grief is likened to a great and profound sea:
… endless to sight
and deep beyond the sounding
of our shallow hearts …
My setting of the poem commences with an alto drone, representing the sea extending into the distance. Against the drone, a melody of “fish flashes” is heard, their sound arising from the soprano, tenor and bass parts. As in my earlier choral work, Tides of Ocean, the “fish flashes” are intended to evoke something of the colour and sound of the sea. In this setting of Sister Mary’s poem, they are intended also as an allusion to the “Jesus fish” (ichthus), a popular Christian symbol.
I have set the verses of Sister Mary’s poem in a more-or-less strophic fashion. The first and second verses employ the soprano and baritone soloists, respectively. Accompanied by the choir, they sing of Mary’s grief, asking “How can we comfort thee?” and “What comfort can we bring?”
During the work, the soprano, alto and tenor parts are frequently scored in close harmony. The bass voices provide pizzicato-like rhythmic impetus, singing individual syllables and words sourced from the opening lines of the medieval Latin poem, Stabat mater, as well as from Sister Mary’s poem.
My setting of the third verse presents the soprano and baritone soloists in octaves and close harmony. In this final verse, it is revealed that comfort comes to Mary by way of “the infinite Heart of God alone”. Like a frame for the work, the “fish flashes” heard in the opening bars return in the final, fading moments of the piece.
I thank Father Arthur E. Bridge for commissioning the work and gratefully acknowledge the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas for kindly granting me permission to set music to Sister Mary Julian Baird’s poem. I also thank Dr Neil McEwan and the Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Choir for affording the work its premiere performance.
SATURDAY 27TH AUGUST, 2016
Performed by Brisbane Chamber Choir, with Kathryn Morton (soprano) & Timothy Grantham (baritone), dir. by Graeme Morton @ St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, QLD, Australia + CD Launch (Tall Poppies TP239)
SUNDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER, 2012
Performed by Cantores (Munich), directed by Tobias Debold @ Himmelfahrtskirche, München, Germany.
TUESDAY 28TH AUGUST, 2012
Performed by Cantores (Munich), directed by Tobias Debold @ Accademia di montegral, 55100 Ponte a Moriano, Lucca, Italy.
SATURDAY 14TH JULY, 2012
European Tour – Performed by Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Choir, directed by Dr Neil McEwan @ Würzburg Cathedral, Bavaria, Germany.
SATURDAY 14 AUGUST, 2010
ABC Classic FM Broadcast: ‘Saturday Session’.
Performed by Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Choir, with soloists Jenny Liu (soprano) and Alexander Knight (baritone), directed by Dr Neil McEwan @ Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
MONDAY 24 MAY, 2010 (World Premiere Performance)
Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Performed by Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Choir, with soloists Jenny Liu (soprano) and Alexander Knight (baritone), directed by Dr Neil McEwan @ Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia.