The Light and Heavy Chorale (earthbound)


Dust to dust. Whatever. Life is hard. Fires, storms, early deaths, accidents, failures, let-downs, rejections, abandonments, wars. Life goes on. We make our chips and dip, fire up the pickup truck, shingle the roof and sew our wedding dresses. We still smile at the sunrise and hold hands at sunset. We sing through thin air all the time. We go to happy hour. We make sure we have our chargers handy. We contemplate good and evil. When I die, everyone else will keep on living. They will be cooking, singing, blowing things up, trying to stop crimes of all kinds, reading, sharpening their lawnmower blades,  dancing,  downloading and upgrading, forgetting things and having conversations.

I wrote the “Light and Heavy Chorale” because I woke up one morning thinking of a melody. It was jumping around in wide intervals. So I worked it out on the piano and it turned into a Sacred Harp-y kind of tune. Very lovely and kind of happy-sounding. Pure C Major. I decided to let some high-pitched instruments carry this bright melody. Then, a Part B  developed when I wrote the melody upside down, interval for interval, which turned out to be in F Minor. Perfect contrast, I thought.  I harmonized it in four parts with the upside-down melody in the tenor line according to the method my friend Rodin and I used when we prepared music for the International Gospel Choir at the Basilica of St. Mary. In our arrangements, the melody was always in the tenor.  The bass line defined the harmony. The sopranos sang a counter tune, a kind of descant, and the altos always had to fill in what was missing. Right now I’m working on a version where the melody is in the ALTO line.

(Since the concert I have learned that Sacred Harp songs (shape-note) are always harmonized with the melody in the tenor!)

I’ve been writing music with parallel narratives for about 30 years. I performed my third set of pieces with narratives last fall, Piano Stories III. There were 10 of them and Southside Pride is publishing one a month until they are done. This piece was recorded by Mark Klaassen and performed by Phil Stoltzfus, violin; Mary Preus, flute; and myself on piano.

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