A pean for SATB and Organ — a laudation of praise, by turns, mysterious and ecstatic, chant-like and exuberant. Not easy, but with enough unison singing to make it manageable by most church choirs.
Text: Psalm 150
Praise God in His holiness;
Praise Him in the firmament of His pow'r.
Praise Him in His noble acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him in the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him upon the lute and harp.
Praise Him in the cymbals and the dances;
Praise Him upon the strings and pipe.
Let ev'ry thing that hath breath praise the Lord!
Psalm 150 is the last poem in the book of Psalms in the traditional Bible. It is the
Omega of the psalms—the final statement of David. 150 is among the few psalms
that do nothing but offer, and enjoin others to offer, praise to God. It’s words are
stubbornly ecumenical. And it is no accident that the last words in the book of
Psalms are, “Let every thing that hath breath, praise the Lord!”
The scriptures reveal a David who is highly passionate with an unbridled love of God and urge to praise. My attempt was to set this praise text in a modern idiom, trying to capture the fervor with which David praised. At the same time offering some glimpse of the God of David’s adoration—infinite, powerful, mysterious, majestic, loving, and above all, worthy of praise. This work reveals in its way, not the mild-mannered God retiring on the throne. But, the God of the burning bush, the pillar of fire, the flood…, the God of the Cosmos.
We hear this God in the note cluster C, Db, F, G. These pitches permeate the work. You can find them as a chord, as a melody; inverted, retrograde…the shape is varied and then used with other pitches. The pedal C that begins the work (and is the foundation for almost every measure) is the infinite God. Into God’s presence, the choir approaches fearfully. Eventually, like David, we forget ourselves; the music dances with syncopated wind instruments and lyres and strings, and God, in might and glory, reappears from the infinite. By the end the choir and organ enjoin all creation to praise the Lord.