About the Piece
Commissioned by Michael Ballard for his Master's Degree recital. Premiered by a choir comprised of various professional musicians from the Denver area under the direction of Michael Ballard on June 26th, 2020 at the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Denver, CO.
As a staff singer at an Episcopal Church in Denver with a proclivity to celebrate and support art, I was introduced to George Herbert's poetry during a standard Still Point service. Falling in love with his poem, "Love (III)," I wanted to someday set this text (and his other "love" poems) in a work for the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church of Denver choir. Eventually, I decided to write an Evensong Service for the church, using themes from popular hymns, service chants, and even favorite anthems/composers to personalize the work for them. The "Anthem" and the "Canticle of Light" for this service were the beginnings of this set-- the first movement and the last movement, respectively.
When Mike Ballard and I were roommates prior to our graduate studies, I told him that I really enjoyed the remainder of the texts that I had not used from Herbert's love poems, and would love to someday expand the pieces into a larger set. Fast forward a few years and Mike, ever my greatest supporter, asked that I write something for him to premiere at his Graduate recital. In brainstorming, we landed on the completion of this set as the work he'd commission.
"Herbert's Love; the Journey of a Martyr," is a reflection on the journey of one who believes so strongly in a message or creed, that they are willing to give up their lives to spread it. I personally believe so strongly in the power of music to transform lives, that the resolve and pure passion a Martyr must possess in order to be willing to sacrifice their biggest personal asset for that belief profoundly inspires me.
In "Immortal Love, Immortal Heat," the Martyr comes to the realization that their creed needs to be shared. It's the "call-to-action" for the Martyr. The text the choir sings in this movement essentially asks for the strength to take the journey in the first place. The second movement, "Wit Fancies Beauty,"is the actual sharing of that message. The chromatically falling lines accompanying a marcato melody in this part of the journey represents the cold world without "truth" that the Martyr possesses. They then get to share the warmth of this message to end this section. "Our Eyes Shall See Thee," the third movement, is the actual action of the disciple giving their life to stand for the message they're trying to share. My goal with this movement was to start intense, and stay there until the actual death. The movement completes with an atmospheric chant; the final breath has been taken and the spirit moves to the next part of its journey. "Love Bade Me Welcome" is the last part of the Martyr's journey; they ask if they succeeded. Was it worth it? Did I accomplish what I set out to do? This last movement uses the entirety of the "Love (III)" poem by Herbert, and is a dialogue between the believer and their god. In the end, their god invites them to eternally sit at the table and eat.
See the Score:
Poems by George Herbert
I. Immortal Love, Immortal Heat ("The Awakening")
Adapted from "Love (I)," and "Love (II)"
Immortal Love, author of this great frame,
Sprung from that beauty which can never fade,
How hath man parcel'd out Thy glorious name,
And thrown it on that dust which Thou hast made,
While mortal love doth all the title gain!
Immortal Heat, O let Thy greater flame
Attract the lesser to it; let those fires
Which shall consume the world first make it tame,
And kindle in our hearts such true desires.
II. Wit Fancies Beauty ("The Gospel")
Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit;
The world is theirs, they two play out the game,
Thou standing by: and though Thy glorious name
Wrought our deliverance from th' infernal pit,
Who sings Thy praise? Only a scarf or glove
Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.
Order the Music:
III. Our Eyes Shall See Thee ("Martyrdom")
Thou shalt recover all Thy goods in kind,
Who wert disseized by usurping lust:
All knees shall bow to Thee; all wits shall rise,
And praise Him Who did make and mend our eyes.
Our eyes shall see Thee, which before saw dust,
Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind:
Thou shalt recover all Thy goods in kind.
Then shall our hearts pant Thee, then shall our brain
All her invention on Thine altar lay,
And there in hymns send back Thy fire again.
IV. Love Bade Me Welcome ("Reconciliation")
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.