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Download an a MP3 file of this work performed by Choral Arts, Seattle, Washington, Robert Bode, conductor.
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Commissioned by Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, Seattle, WA, Loren Pontén, Music Director
The texts for God's Grandeur are three poems by English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899). These poems, which are presented without break, are: "God's Grandeur," "The Windhover" (excerpted) and "Pied Beauty." The strong common focus is the glory of God as especially manifested in the beauty of nature.
"He fathers forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him."
The musical settings endeavor to allow the inherent rhythms of the words to speak. Therefore, especially in the first song, meters change often. The rhythms are fluid. The tempi accommodate comfortable articulation of the words.
Central images in the opening song are "The world is charged with the grandeur of God" [Triumphant octave leaps in the chorus to portray "charged" ] and "...the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods...with ah! bright wings" [followed by fluttering of wings as "la-la"s]. The image of wings connects the first and second song (based on "The Windhover"). Against a fluttering background, soli voices sing this ecstatic poem: "I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's dauphin..."
The thrill of watching the bird in flight leads directly into the closing song: "Glory be to God for dappled things..." As in the opening song, this is triumphant music. Yet also tender ("finches' wings"). The combination of delicacy and grandeur is the essence of these poems, and of the musical settings.
Notes by the composer