All Saints Choir Commission
Like servants...we're watching, we're waiting
All Saints Music + Arts ministry has overseen the commission of a new choral work: We Lift Our Eyes by Susan Meitz. We are pleased to announce the date of the premiere performance:
- March 25, 2019
- Pre-concert Reception at 7:00 PM in the Narthex.
- Concert at 7:30 PM in the Sanctuary.
- RSVP here to reserve seats.
Listen to Kristie Kummerer, Susan Meitz, and Jamie Taylor tell the story of how this piece came into being.
Trinity Chamber Singers
The concert will feature the Chamber Singers of Trinity University, under the direction of Dr. Gary Seighman, performing a selection of choral music appropriate for the season of Lent. They will be joined by members of the All Saints Choir for the world premiere of We Lift Our Eyes at the end of the concert.
This new choral work is based on a rare 15th century Dominican gradual - a collection of chants or hymns for worship - housed at Trinity University in San Antonio. It was the subject of recent scholarship by former All Saints member and musician, Kristie Kummerer. Kristie's undergraduate thesis inspired the commission.
With the support of the Virginia M. Howard Foundation, All Saints has commissioned an artistic setting of one of the pages that Kristie transcribed and recorded with the University's choral program. The text is from Psalm 123, one of the songs of ascent.
Psalm 123 is an instance of service. In this...we are not instructed in what to do, we are provided an instance of what is done. A Psalm is not a lecture; it is a song. In [it] we have the observable evidence of what happens when a person of faith goes about the business of believing and loving and following God. We don't have a rule book defining the action, we have a snapshot of players playing the game. In Psalm 123, we observe that aspect of discipleship which takes place under the form of servanthood. " - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience In The Same Direction
This particular page helped Kristie discover some significant details, like the fact that it was a Dominican (as opposed to the better known Gregorian) manuscript. Other details from her research shaped our vision for the composition. Some of the musical notation was less ornate than other contemporary versions of the same texts and chant melodies. The manuscript seems to have been in regular use for some time, needing to be re-covered and repaired at one point in it's working life, so it was no rarely used decorative object. It has wonderful marginalia, small written moments of personal devotion from those who used it to lead worship centuries ago.
THE EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY
The commission wanted a stand alone choral work that could serve for an offertory piece or meditation for most volunteer church choirs. We wanted to adopt the same posture of care and stewardship toward the source material modeled by Kristie and her teachers to create a work that would be more accessible to modern ears than the plainchant alone, yet still clearly inspired by it.
Composer, Susan Meitz, is a long time member of the Austin choral music community, singing with Conspirare, Austin Cantorum, Panoramic Voices, and many other excellent ensembles. She is an accomplished soloist and pianist, a teacher, a graduate of Texas State University's School of Music, and works as a Soprano soloist at St. David's Episcopal church. Susan also has a daughter who graduated from Trinity last Spring. She was excited about the vision for the commission and committed to collaborating with Kristie to ensure the original material would deeply inform the final composition. It has been a joy to see her embrace the constraints of this commission and work to balance all the various goals without losing her own unique voice as a composer.
We Lift Our Eyes is a wonderful tribute to the manuscript. It's modern, haunting, with a thoughtful English translation and a lush, warm Violin obbligato. The instrumental line is woven throughout the piece, sometimes moving in opposition to the slower, more lyric vocal lines, sometimes quoting the original chant, and sometimes aligning with the voices to create lovely and varied harmonic textures. The overall effect is a sense of longing and expectancy -a steadfastness and readiness - that beautifully illuminates the meaning of the text.
We are so thankful for our collaborators - Kristie, Susan, Dr. Seighman and Trinity University - for their months of thoughtful effort in coordinating this premiere concert. We are also thankful for Dr. Cina Crisara, Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor with Austin Opera, and Director of Music at St. John's U.M.C., who served as an artistic adviser on the project and editor for the final manuscript. A special note of thanks to the Virginia Howard Foundation and All Saints members Martha Rochelle and Joel Howard. Thanks to all of our donors, both members and friends of All Saints. Your generous contributions have allowed us to fly Kristie home from her graduate studies in Ireland to play the Violin for the premiere!
All Saints Staff
On behalf of the collaborators and donors, I'd like to thank members of the church staff for their particular help with the commission. We couldn't have done this without you! Special thanks are owed to David Lutes, David Breeding, Sumner Pickering, Sonya Menges, Mary Freiberger and the session of All Saints. Their support behind the scenes made this a very seamless and wonderful project for all involved.
In light of Eugene Peterson's words about Psalm 123, and in honor of the life of faith our community was privileged to witness for so many years, We Lift Our Eyes is dedicated to the memory of founding All Saints member Betty House who passed away in November 2018. She "went about the business of believing and loving and honoring God." Most of the time she did so with a song of victory on her lips, eyes looking toward home.