Tenor Solo, Male Voices (TBarB) Unaccompanied
Text: Psalm 51: 1–4, 12, 13 (Latin and English)
Duration: ca. 4 minutes
Publisher: C. F. Peters Corporation, Edition Peters 67783
Miserere mei, Deus was composed for the men of the Choir of All Saints Church, New York City, where I have been singing in the choir since 1985. The work was premiered by this ensemble under the direction of David Hurd on Ash Wednesday of 1997. The text, from Psalm 51, is for the most part sung simultaneously in English (by the choir) and Latin (by the tenor soloist). What strikes me now about the piece is the fact that to me the Latin portions, i.e. those in the “dead” language, seem to be set to more overtly intense and expressive music than those in English; in fact, in several sections, including the very end of the piece, the choral parts are actually drawn into singing the Latin text, almost in spite of themselves. In retrospect, perhaps this symbolizes a desire to move from the mundane and vernacular to a higher plane by means of what Stravinsky would have called, because of its greater age and more venerable status, a more “sacred” language.