The Astoria Choir May 16 Sacred Songs concert will include my SATB work, Glistening Lily. Click the photo for details.
As a pianist, I’ve entered a fair share of music competitions. Some were in junior high and high school, on both piano and flute; some were college auditions. Some were professional: in 2002, I won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida. It was my third time there as a finalist, and I remember deciding before the performance that no matter what happened, it was going to be my last time. It paid off!
In more recent years, I’ve been seeking out composition competitions- or, if not exactly competitions, open calls to submit scores for performance or workshop opportunities. So far in 2015, this work has yielded two opportunities: in February, I was chosen as one of five composers for the New Dramatists’ Composer-Librettist Studio, where I collaborated with five playwrights to create five new music-theater works in two weeks’ time.
Now, I’m one of two winners in The Astoria Choir’s (TAC) Sacred Songs contest. For my score submission, I selected “Glistening Lily,” a piece set to a Marian text of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), the German medieval mystic, abbess, botanist, musician, and author. The piece has only been performed once, by the Park Avenue Christian Church Sanctuary Choir, in 2012 (I played piano on the premiere- but played only with my left hand, as the premiere occurred three days after I fractured my right collarbone in three places!).
As one of the co-winners of the Sacred Songs contest, “Glistening Lily” will receive a second performance on Sat, May 16 at 8 pm in Astoria, NY (click here for details):
and this time, I’ll be in the audience, listening to The Astoria Choir. I’m excited to hear the piece again, and to also hear a new work by co-winner of the Sacred Songs contest, Roger Ames. Roger was the music director at the Composer-Librettist Studio, and it’s great to be together on the same program as composers.
Here is the song text and original program notes from the 2012 premiere:
The text of Glistening Lily is taken from Ave Generosa, a liturgical song by Hildegard of Bingen in an English translation by the preeminent Hildegard scholar, Barbara Newman. There are two main images that speak to me in the poem: first, the image of Mary as Glistening Lily. This reminds me of the first time I attended a silent retreat, when I stopped and noticed dew glistening on pine leaves. I drew the leaves in my journal, feeling full of joy at seeing such a simple, beautiful moment of creation I might normally miss.
This relates to the second image, one of “holding joy.” One stanza states, “And your flesh held joy like the grass when the dew falls, when heaven freshens its spring.” In recent years, I have been fascinated at what it might have meant for Mary to literally hold God inside of herself, and to continue to hold the mystery of her son’s short life while probably being bewildered at his arrival, his journey, and his violent death.
Glistening Lily (from Hildegard of Bingen’s Ave Generosa)
For heaven flooded you like unbodied speech and you gave it a tongue.
Glistening lily: before all worlds you lured the supernal one.
How He reveled in your charms!
How your beauty warmed to his caresses till you gave your breast to His child.
And your womb held joy when heaven’s harmonies rang from you,
A maiden with child by God,
For in God your chastity blazed.
Yes, your flesh held joy like the grass when the dew falls,
When heaven freshens its green: O mother of gladness, verdure of spring.
Ecclesia, flush with rapture!
Sing for Mary’s sake, sing for the maiden, sing for God’s mother.
From Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations), Second Edition, edited and translated by Barbara Newman. ©1988, 1998 by Cornell University. Used by permission of the publisher, Cornell University Press and the translator.