EMMANUEL - with us + for us + in us
Sacred music has been composed throughout the centuries by incredibly gifted individuals who strove to express the tenets of their faith through the sounds of voices and instruments. It is only natural that the most inspired of these compositions should rise to the top and become pillars of the music world. EMMANUEL tells both the story of God's action in human history and humanity's response to that action. The story of EMMANUEL is divided into three sections subtitled "with us," "for us," and "in us."
1. Overture - Muffat (Gratitudo)
2. Kyrie - Mozart (Requiem)
3. Comfort Ye - Handel (Messiah)
4. He, Watching Over Israel - Mendelssohn (Elijah)
5. He Shall Feed His Flock - Handel (Messiah)
An instrumental work by Georg Muffat sets the stage for the drama about to unfold, a solemn overture and fugue in d minor evoking the poignancy of humanity's fallen state. The Kyrie from Mozart's Requiem follows, an impassioned cry for God to have mercy on sinful humanity and rescue His creation. In a stroke of compositional genius, Mozart hides the answer to this plea within the music itself, borrowing the Kyrie fugue theme from Handel's Messiah where the same music sets the text, "and with His stripes we are healed." The following tenor aria, also from Messiah, here transposed down from E major to D major to fit both the preceding Kyrie and the following Mendelssohn chorus, pronounces God's response more explicitly as a plan to pardon His people's iniquity by sending a Savior, and commands all to "prepare the way of the Lord." The following movements are among the most serene in all sacred music, transforming the desperation of the Kyrie into calm assurance that God "slumbers not" but will "gently lead His flock." The duet, from Messiah, provides an ideal transition into the In Us section describing the life of Christ. Listeners are urged to "come unto Him" and "learn of Him" in order to "find rest unto your souls."
6. Et Incarnatus Est - Bach (Mass in B Minor)
7. Quia Respexit - Bach (Magnificat)
8. Omnes Generationes - Bach (Magnificat)
9. Crucifixus - Bach (Mass in B Minor)
10. Here We Sit Down - Bach (St. Matthew Passion)
11. Recordare - Mozart (Requiem)
12. Meditation - Bach (Magnificat)
The story of Christ begins not with His birth, but with His miraculous incarnation. In Bach's Et Incarnatus est, believed to be the master's final choral composition, a beautiful descending figure in the violins depicts the alighting of the Holy Spirit on Mary. She responds to this gift of the Spirit with awe and wonder in words from the Magnificat, and the choir sings agreement that all generations will call her blessed for her humble acceptance of God's will. But, Omnes Generationes refers equally to the Crucifixus that follows. Christ bears the sin of all generations on the cross, a fact Bach makes personal by including fourteen repetitions of the word "crucifixus," a numerical signature of his own name, B(2) -A(1) -C(3) -H(8). The next three movements provide a musical depiction of the Triduum, the three holy days surrounding the death of Christ. In the final chorus from the St. Matthew Passion penitent sinners mourn at the foot of the cross. This performance employs the use of a new arrangement for a single choir in place of Bach's original double choir setting. The first eight notes in the soprano are identical to the first eight notes of Mary's aria, Quia Respexit, a marvelous repetition through which Bach recalls the hour of Mary's greatest joy at the very hour of her greatest sorrow. Next, penitent sinners pray for forgiveness in the Recordare from Mozart's Requiem, no longer demanding as in the Kyrie, but expressing true contrition that the longed-for salvation required so terrible a sacrifice. That prayer is answered in the closing Meditation, an oboe duet setting of the original text "His mercy is on those who fear Him, from generation to generation." In this arrangement, the answer is not sung because Christ is still in the tomb and His victory has not yet been revealed to those weeping at the foot of the cross. It is a meditation on the text - a "song without words."
13. Et Resurrexit - Bach (Mass in B Minor)
14. Here On Earth - Brahms (Requiem)
15. How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place - Brahms (Requiem)
16. O Rest In the Lord - Mendelssohn (Elijah)
17. Worthy Is the Lamb - Handel (Messiah)
18. Hallelujah - Handel (Messiah)
Bach's Et Resurrexit, all the more joyful after the intervening three movements, explodes in musical laughter at the vanquished tomb. The story of Emmanuel does not end with His resurrection however, but continues with His ascension and promise to return as judge. God's people continue to wait, this time for the glorious end of time when Emmanuel will reign as King forever. As Brahms portrays in Here on Earth from his German Requiem, at the sound of the trumpet "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed." Like Bach, Brahms laughs at death with a waltz on the text "death, oh where is thy sting?" Death, the cause of so much grief at the crucifixion, has transformed into a doorway to a "lovely dwelling place" where the faithful "praise Thy name evermore." Mendelssohn's O Rest in the Lord echoes the serenity of He Shall Feed His Flock with the call to "commit your way unto Him and trust in Him." This beautiful aria provides simple instructions for how the faithful should live as they await the second coming. The final movements from Messiah, in which Hallelujah replaces the Amen after Worthy is the Lamb, complete the musical circle by transforming the d minor of the opening Muffat to a triumphant D major. The transformation effected by God's action in human history is proclaimed in a line of the Hallelujah text often overshadowed by the familiar repetitions of "hallelujah:" "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." Amen is simply not a sufficient response to the dramatic story of EMMANUEL, and God's people cannot help but burst forth in joyful cries of Hallelujah!