Description of Works (Program Notes)

An Episcopal Mass:(2004)   This work is entitled a Mass as a musical form, notwithstanding that in the Episcopal church the celebrated Liturgy is called a service rather than a mass.   It is conceived in the grand tradition of orchestra-choral works of Vaughan Williams, Durufle and Hanson, but designed so that a synthesizer and sequencer could provide the instrumental parts.   Although intended for the concert hall, a good four-part choir with a suitable synthesizer and sequencer could properly perform it.   If instruments and players for strings, trumpets, French Horns, fluegelhorn, flute, organ, church bells, harp, string bass, snare drum, cymbal, triangle and tympani are available, all the better.   If real instruments are not available and the chorus and conductor did not want to try to follow a sequenced playback, it would be possible to perform the work with live synthesizers, but four would be required to play all the parts.   It would be possible to perform it with fewer synthesizers, by having a sequencer play back those passages requiring more synthesizers than available.

The choir sings a capella frequently in this work.   For the purpose of helping keep in tune when orchestral parts re-enter, there are cues on the organ part.   The organ can play these cues as required to prevent the choir from drifting out of tune, using as unpretentious a tone as possible.  If a synthesizer is used for the organ, the Church Organ voice can be used for the actual notes, and another unpretentious voice used to play the choir cues.

The varied energies of joy, wonder, mystery, reverence and penitence are in Episcopal services expressed primarily through the seasons of the liturgical year.   In this work however, the varied energies are expressed through the selection of service elements that form the movements of the work.

Processional opens with church bells and organ, followed by the Easter season introit, to bring the blending of joy and reverence in which first the people and then the procession enter the sanctuary.   The modal tension is between Ionian (major) and Aeolian (minor), bringing joy and reverence respectively.

Choral voices entering one at a time help bring the humbleness of penitence and reverence to Kyrie Eleison. The modal tension is between Lydian and Phrygian modes, bringing a plaintiveness and a longing for absolution respectively.

In Credo the chorus enters forcefully, for the Christian strongly and courageously proclaims his beliefs.  The Creed however, developed over a long and stormy history.  The mysterious instrumental opening brings the vastness of this historical perspective.   The tension is between the rhythmic, almost dance-like passages of the creed itself, and the Locrian mode and polytonal passages which bring the discord and conflict of the historical process in which the Creed developed.   A brass fanfare accompanies 'we look for the resurrection of the dead', after which there is a catharsis for 'the life of the world to come', which resolves itself to a C major chord - all white keys.

For Humble Access, a prayer present only in the Rite 1 Eucharist, we return to the penitential energy, here brought by choral voices entering one at a time, by gentle polytonality and by very little instrumentation, the choir singing almost entirely a capella.   The urge for absolution is brought by a climax of reverential ecstasy 'and to drink His blood'.   This is followed by a quiet but mystical riff for the choristers 'so that we may be in Him, and He in us'.

Recessional brings joyfulness once again with a recap of Processional's opening riff, but now with a feeling that we are charged, 'send us out to do the work You have given us to do'.   The modal tension is between Ionian, bringing joy, and Myxolydian, bringing a sense of other-worldliness, with which we re-enter the world.

Prayer of Contrition(2005)   is a short work where the Andante is taken literally for the desired effect is a walk, a slow walk of penitence.   The strings enter only as an inner part (mutes are suggested), to give a texture to the somberness; which rises slightly at 'Create in me a clean heart', only to sink again into somberness which is nonetheless not devoid of hope.

Anglican Sanctus(2006)   is written for SAB choir and piano.  It is intended to be Episcopal / Anglican service music; its aim is to bring the emotional joy with reverence, awe and mystery of the ancient Sanctus back into contemporary service music.   To this end it uses the polonaise rhythm similar to what Durufle used in the Sanctus of his Requiem.   Of course this Sanctus is in English, quoted from Rite 2 of the Book of Common Prayer.   It is modal rather than in any standard key; modes used are Lydian, to bring a sense of wonder and mystery, along with some Dorian, to bring the acerbic quality connected with YHVH Tsabaoth ("Lord of Hosts") or God of Power and Might; some Ionian and some Myxolydian.   The piano part, resembling Chopin's polonaises, further brings emotional joy.

The secular Three Waltzes for Orchestra begin with Hodgdon's Waltz(2000).  I was camping in Hodgdon's Meadow when the basic riff first came to me, hence its name.   It is a waltz in the tradition of What the World Needs Now and various other waltzes of that period.   It features a solo tenor saxophone, and a flute in the middle part and at the end.   Authenticity Waltz(2005), so named because the basic riff for it came to me when I was in a program in a mystery school where authenticity was very important to me, features a solo alto recorder.   It is arranged as a bogen, where the three riffs introduced are then recapped in reverse order.   The third waltz, to be entitled The Lark in memory of the Southern Pacific passenger train that used to run nightly between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is still 'in the works'.   These works could be used by an orchestra as fill-ins, possibly at a pops concert.

A Sierra of Clouds and At the Touch of This Divine Light and Nocturne are two short works that have been "spun off" of A Sierra Cantata, still a work-in-progress,   A Sierra of Clouds is the unaccompanied Chorale in the Cantata; the words are John Muir's eloquent and imaginative description of cloud forms seen in the Sierra Nevada.   Divine Light is an instrumentalized version of the soprano solo in the Cantata that is Muir's fanciful description of dusk in the Sierra Nevada; it is followed by the Nocturne, directly from the Cantata which is already an instrumental-only part of it, with its violin solo which was inspired by the solo violin that was sometimes played at Camp Curry during the old Fire Fall.   Together the two, as a single work for orchestra only, no chorus, "tuck us in" for an evening and night in the Sierra Nevada as John Muir knew it.

©2006 Dave Smart. All Rights Reserved.