2014-02-09 Notes from the Bench

“O Lux Beatissima” by Howard Helvey

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

English translation:

O Light most blessed,
Fill the inmost heart
Of all thy faithful.

Without your grace,
There is nothing in us,
Nothing that is not harmful.

The text for “O Lux Beatissima” comes from the Latin sequence, (a hymn or chant sung before the Gospel reading) Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) that dates back to the thirteenth century. The authorship of this text is uncertain, but is most frequently attributed to Pope Innocent III (c. 1160-1216) or the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton (c. 1150-1228).

Howard Helvey (b. 1968) is an active composer, arranger, and pianist. He serves as the organist and choirmaster of the historic Calvary Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, OH, where he currently lives. Mr. Helvey is a native of Missouri. He studied music at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in composition, and the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music where he earned a Master of Music degree in composition and piano. Additional studies include his work at the Chautauqua Institution in New York in piano, and organ with Gerre Hancock, particularly hymn-accompanying and improvisation.

Helvey’s best known compositions are those for choir; his other works include those for instrumental ensembles, and has published over one hundred original compositions and arrangements. He is in high demand as a guest conductor and speaker, and is frequently commissioned to write works for prestigious choral ensembles. Helvey’s works have appeared on numerous recordings, and are regularly performed in prestigious concert venues and on public broadcasts, both within the United States and internationally. Helvey has repeatedly been a first prize recipient from the John Ness Beck Foundation in recognition of his outstanding achievements in choral composition.

In addition to a rigorous writing schedule, Helvey is the co-founder and conductor of the professional chamber choir, Cincinnati Fusion Ensemble. He has been a member of the Steinbach/Helvey Piano Duo since 1997, which features piano literature for four hands and two pianos, as well as a member of the Hannaford Piano Trio with violinist Mari Thomas and cellist Susan Petersen.

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