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Commissioned by the College of Communications and the Arts, Seton Hall University, Dr. Jason C. Tramm -- Director of Choral Activities
Premiered December 4, 2019, South Orange Performing Arts Center (South Orange, New Jersey)
Notes Almost Divine is a collection of songs for a cappella choir inspired by texts from the American hymnal The Sacred Harp (1844). Many of these lyrics were written by 18th-century British hymnists, such as the well-known Isaac Watts. These words are charming and colorful, with imagery both genuine and musically evocative. A few examples follow:
You are my soul's sweet morning star, You are my rising sun.
I'd soar and touch the Heavenly strings, and vie with Gabriel while he sings.
Oh, the transporting, rapturous scene that rises to my sight,
Sweet fields arrayed in living green, and rivers of delight!
These new musical settings enjoy the abundant opportunities for word painting which these texts provide. Perhaps the listener may hear the sweet morning star (first song) brought to life through delicate staccati (sweet) and lofty, suspended chord (star). And of course, the rivers of delight flow often through the rapturously ebullient refrains.
The musical language is sparse and straightforward, reflecting the legacy of the Early New England Sacred Harp hymns. However, the new approach to these songs comes with the joy of personal expression. Qualities of reverence, beauty, humor (!) and energy lie within the almost divine notes.
Notes by the composer