2013-03-10 Notes from the Bench

“Freedom Trilogy” by Paul Halley
A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James Gerber, Music Associate

imageToday, we celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of All Saints’ Episcopal Day School.  Our Choristers and Adult choirs will joining together and singing “Freedom Trilogy” by Paul Halley during the Offertory; a work that will surely inspire and excite you as it is presented as part of our festivities.  This work is an arrangement of a chant-style “Kyrie eleison” from the sixteenth century mass setting, “Missa de Angelis”, the traditional folk hymn, “Amazing Grace’ by John Newton, and two South African spiritual songs “Haleluya! Pelo tsa rona” and “Siyahamba”. “Siyahamba” is sung in English and South African, however, “Haleluya! Pelo tsa rona” is only sung in South African.

 

image

Haleluya! Pelo tsa rona
Di thabile kaofela
Ke Morena Jesu, ya re dumeletseng
ya re dumeletseng, ho tsamaisa evangedi.

Hallelujah, we sing Your praises
All our hearts are filled with gladness
Christ the Lord to us said “I am wine, I am bread,
I am wine, I am bread, give to all who thirst and hunger.”

 

As this piece progresses, the melodies are sung individually, then set in layers and sung simultaneously.  The addition of African percussion enhances the entire work.  “Trilogy” in the title refers to the three vastly different sonic worlds or music traditions this work draws from and combines: ancient chant, European-American hymnody, and African song.

The composer, Paul Halley, was born in Romford, England in 1952.  He was an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, awarded the organ scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his Master of Arts degree, and made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Halley has been awarded prizes in composition and performance.  For twelve years beginning in 1977, Halley served as the organist and choirmaster at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City.  In addition to his work at St. John’s, he was a principal member of The Paul Winter Consort and earned four Grammy Awards for his contributions as a writer and performer.

Following is departure from St. John’s, Halley founded “Joyful Noise, Inc.” which administers the activities and tours of his children’s choir, “Chorus Angelicus” and the adult choir, “Gaudeamus.”  He is also the Co-Founder and Creative Director for “Pelagos Incorporated”, the publishing and recording company that distributes his works.  Halley continues to compose and receives commissions to write music in a variety of genres, voicing, and instrumentations.

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