SOUTH CANAAN, PA [St. Tikhon’s Monastery Communications] – 30/10/15
Benedict Sheehan, the artistic director of the Chamber Choir of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery here is dedicating the world premiere performance of one of his original compositions to the memory of Father Matthew Baker, a friend and fellow alumnus of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary who passed away earlier this year in a tragic car accident.
The composition forms part of “Till Morn Eternal Breaks,” a benefit concert for the seminary to be held at the Roman Catholic Church of Saint John Nepomucene, 411 East 66th Street, New York, NY at 7:30 p.m. on November 12, 2015.
Following Father Matthew’s untimely death, thousands of people across the US rallied to aid his widow, Presbytera Katherine, and six young children, resulting in a viral on-line fundraiser currently featured as No. 4 in the “All-Time Most Successful GoFundMe Campaigns.”
“Father Matthew was one of those rare, integrative, thinkers who saw deep connections between seemingly disparate things,” Sheehan said. “I am dedicating the world premiere performance of Triduum Paschale—a piece that explores both the agony and hope of loss and attempts to connect a number of disparate realities along the way—to Father Matthew’s memory.”
Sheehan’s Triduum Paschale, a three-movement work for chorus and soloists that blends motifs from Eastern and Western Christianity, is a musical journey through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. “The first movement, ‘The Crucifixion,’ is based on a translation of a 12th century Middle English lyric (famously set by Samuel Barber in his Hermit Songs) that acts as a kind of Stabat Mater—or in Orthodox terms, a stavrotheotokion—a heartbreaking glimpse into the Virgin Mary’s grief at the crucifixion of her Son,” reads the composer’s liner notes. “The second movement, ‘Nondum,’ uses a poem by the great Jesuit poet and forefather of modernist poetry, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), interspersed with exclamations in Hebrew of Christ’s words from the Cross, ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?’ (‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’), coupled paradoxically with the joyful (and in the West, paschal) exclamation, ‘Alleluia.’ The movement speaks of a world where God is seemingly and unaccountably absent, dead, and yet it conceals a profound hope that God will finally and fully reveal Himself in the end: ‘Yet to behold Thee as Thou art / I’ll wait (Alleluia) till morn eternal breaks….’ The final movement, ‘Easter,’ also based on a poem by Hopkins, is a profusion of paschal joy and exuberance. Anyone who has ever attended an Orthodox Easter vigil will immediately recognize the sort of reckless and overflowing spirit with which this movement—composed in a style faintly reminiscent of Early American psalm singing, and in mixed meter and mixed modes—is imbued.”
Among those giving solo performances at the concert will be Portland-based baritone John Michael Boyer, known for his work with Cappella Romana, and soprano Laura Soto-Bayomi of the Chatauqua Opera Festival and the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
Tickets will be available at the door, but may be ordered in advance online. Discounts are available for students and for groups by purchasing early.
The Chamber Choir of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery is a professional vocal ensemble under the monastery’s auspices. Founded in 2015 by artistic director, Benedict Sheehan, and Archimandrite Sergius, Abbot, the Chamber Choir’s mission is to explore, promote, and build up the tradition of Orthodox sacred music in America and to bring people of today’s world into contact with the living tradition of ancient Christianity through vibrant and inspiring choral singing. The group is comprised of some of the finest solo and ensemble singers in the New York area and across North America.