Friday, May 22, 2009

St. Olaf Sunday - Part 2

This Sunday's prelude will kick off the St. Olaf theme in a big way for anyone familiar with the choir's classic repertoire. I'll be playing "O Day Full of Grace," trying my hardest to replicate the sound and phrasing of 80 voices.

On Sunday morning, I encourage you to open your hymnals to ELW 627 to follow along. The verses are 1, then the alternate versions of 2 and 3 on the facing page, and ending with verse 5, and the arrangement provides a beautiful tone painting of that text.

The first two verses are an extended sunrise - the perfect music for a beautiful spring morning. The first verse starts in the bass voice and grows to the soprano entrance with the familiar tune, which grows to a mini-climax. It grows in both pitch and intensity out of the opening mist to the line "Children of earth in every clime may prove that the night is ended."

The second verse continues with a hushed, reverent tone. A four-part men's chorus reminds us of Christ's birth at a figurative midnight. Half-way through the verse, the women join in, providing the rays of sunshine that lead to the climax: "Then rose o'er the world that sun divine, which gloom from our hearts hath driven."

That leads to the boisterous celebration of nature in verse three. "Every tree and leaflet" sings praise to God. The melody is transferred to the men/pedal line, and the higher voices provide the glittering excitement. This is the most frantic verse, as the text depicts the soul bubbling over with joy.

Finally, the chorus of heaven takes over and the closing verse describes our final journey where we join in an endless song of praise and enjoy perpetual sunlight. The hymn has a big finish, and I will always be able to picture Dr. Anton Armstrong conducting the piece as he asked for even more intensity in the closing measures. This is a hymn of rebirth, a new day, joy, praise, and love. I hope you enjoy it and all of the mini-St. Olaf festival this weekend!

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