Religion

Religion (5′, 2015)
for six voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, countertenor, tenor, baritone, bass)

Premiere: EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble, James Weeks conducting, Milton Court Concert Hall, London, 30 March 2015

Score

Wallace Stevens’ Sunday Morning is a dense, virtuosic, intensely referential text jam-packed with multiple voices and tightly-wrought conundrums. Above all, however, I understand it as a celebration of the natural world – the ‘old chaos of the sun’ in which we live, as the final lines read – as the proper subject of our adoration and the true model of paradise. This setting of the poem’s third stanza is an attempt to join Stevens in that celebration, both in the ecstatic and contemplative senses of the word.

Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

—Wallace Stevens