In 1987, I set Philippians 4:4-7 in a work composed for a Gaudete Sunday celebration and performed by the student choir of the Catholic Campus Ministry at Columbia University, a vibrant community of which I was a part while in graduate school. I’ve learned a fair bit about writing for chorus since that time, largely because of the series of motets I have written for Emmanuel Church over the past 18 years, and I have long wanted to make a new version of the piece for Emmanuel. I took a few melodic motifs from my student piece, but apart from that, this is a new work.
During my Columbia days, since the students weren’t around for Christmas, we made it a point to have a substantial celebration for the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, and my Latin text comes from the Philippians passage that gives this Sunday its name. The piece passes quickly through a variety of moods that reflect the scripture text: the music is first declamatory, then playfully contrapuntal for the opening call to rejoice, followed by more reflective music when St. Paul speaks of how the Lord is at hand. A solo soprano over murmured choral accompaniment tells of the peace “which passeth all understanding”. Then the opening joyful music returns, now like a great peal of bells, gradually dying away, and interwoven with a reminder of the source of our joy: the Savior who is ever to be born in us is indeed close at hand.
The piece is dedicated to Ryan Turner and Emmanuel Music, with deep gratitude.