Next Sunday at the 10:30 service the LCH choir will sing two pieces by Igor Stravinsky. I know that we have the reputation of singing only Renaissance and Baroque music, but the truth is that the choir sings in a wide range of musical styles.
The offertory anthem will be “The dove descending” which is composed using a serial technique. That means that all twelve notes of the chromatic scale are ordered in a fixed and unique sequence, called a “tone row.” The row is further presented backwards (retrograde), upside down (inversion) and upside down and backwards (retrograde inversion).
The effect is definitely atonal and extremely dissonant. As I was typing the bulletin this week, though, in light of the tragic shooting in Tucson, this dissonance is terribly appropriate when you consider the text:
The dove descending breaks the air With flame of incandescent terror Of which the tongues declare The one discharge from sin and error. The only hope or else despair Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre To be redeemed from fire by fire. Who then devised the torment? Love is the unfamiliar name Behind the hands that wove the intolerable shirt of flame Which human power cannot remove. We only live, only dispute Consumed by either fire or fire.
Needless to say, the piece is extremely challenging especially when you consider that the choir is only rehearsing on Sunday mornings during January (Thursday nights are free).
The organ music will be contemporary, too (although not quite so dissonant) played by my former student, Joey Fala, who came home from college for the Christmas break. We’ve kept him busy, as he played the continuo organ on Christmas Eve, and will also sub for me at Iolani Chapel. This weekend I’ll be back in my hometown of Burbank, CA, as I will be playing the organ at the memorial service for my high school choral music teacher, Regnal Hall. I’m really honored to have been asked to play, but I’m sorry I’ll be missing not only Stravinsky but “The Starks Go For Baroque” concerts on Saturday and Sunday.