20. Concord (an American cantata of 5 numbers)

Score of whole cantata in one document:

Complete score (PDF)

Organ parts (PDF)

Piano & harpsichord parts (PDF)

Or, obtain as separate songs:

1. Musketequid: Score (PDF)     MIDI     MP3     Sibelius8     MusicXML

2. Meetinghouse: Score (PDF)     MIDI     MP3     Sibelius8     MusicXML

3. North Bridge: Score (PDF)     MIDI     MP3     Sibelius8     MusicXML

4. Sleepy Hollow: Score (PDF)     MIDI     MP3     Sibelius8     MusicXML

5. Great Meadows: Score (PDF)     MIDI     MP3     Sibelius8     MusicXML

Musicians: SATB chorus; S, A, T, & B solos; organ; harpsichord; and piano.
Although a real organ with chiffy flutes is ideal, a one-manual electronic synthesizer can substitute.
If a harpsichord is not available, piano played an octave up (8va) can substitute.
However, note that 3. North Bridge requires two keyboard players at the same time.

Length: 5:11 + 2:30 + 6:03 + 5:05 + 4:55 = ~24 minutes.

Program notes:

This cantata honors a small town in Massachusetts where I grew up among wonderful role models and learned music. More broadly, it honors many places in eastern North America where Europeans came to a relatively peaceful accommodation with Native Americans, built a new civilization, and yet eventually learned to honor the one that went before.
As New England history spans almost four centuries, there are giant steps in time between the numbers of this cantata: AD 1636, ~1736, 1775/1837, ~1925, and 2012, respectively. As far as my limited knowledge and skills permit, I have tried to capture the style of the choral music that was current in the period in some part of each number.

Concord: 1*. Musketequid
(*peaceful purchase)

Musketequid (“grass-grown river”) is the Indian name for the land that they sold in 1636 to a group of Puritan settlers. One has to wonder if this would have happened, had the Native Americans not been devastated by two decades of plagues from Europe which few of them were prepared with immunity to resist. Unfortunately, none of their words or songs have come down to us. I take my texts from the inscription on Egg Rock, the historical marker at 32 Lowell Road, Lemuel Shattuck’s [1835] History, and the Bay Psalm Book [Cambridge, 1640; the oldest extant book to be published in British North America].

Concord: 2*. Meetinghouse
(*harmony despite diversity)

One of the less-known stories about Concord is how the somewhat strait-laced founding Puritan congregation of Rev. Peter Bulkeley evolved into the liberal Unitarian Universalist congregation of today. To symbolize this process, I have taken the Puritan favorite Old Hundredth (words of William Kethe [1561, after Psalm 100]; music of Loys Bourgeois [1551]) and arranged it as a 4-part canon (in verses 1 & 3) and a celebratory variation (in verse 2), to show that harmony is possible even when many individuals chose to worship in diverse ways.

Concord: 3*. North Bridge
(*not conquered)

The words of Gen. Thomas Gage and Samuel Prescott in 1775 (in counterpoint to popular British tunes of the time) are used to set the stage; then Ralph Waldo Emerson’s [1837] poem Concord Hymn describes the outcome and its significance.

Concord: 4*. Sleepy Hollow
(*sympathy of mind and spirit)

Three soloists represent Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott. They were friends in life, and are buried together on Authors' Ridge on the crest of the esker. This number borrows techniques from Bartok, including polymodal chromaticism: the soloists sing in the Dorian, Mixolydian, and Lydian modes (on a shared tonic of C); alternatively, the listener might hear them as singing in the keys of Bb, F, and G. These authors jointly created the Transcendental movement, which I define as a novel exhortation to enlightened self-determination combined with an old New England faith in Providence (through Nature). The sunny face of Transcendentalism is emphasized by a refrain which, thanks to polymodalism, includes 6 different major triads, not just the 3 that are found within one key in ordinary diatonic music.

Concord: 5*. Great Meadows
(*the natural order)
Great Meadows is the long swath of wetlands beside the Concord River downstream from Old North Bridge. A corner of it is visible from Authors' Ridge in Sleepy Hollow. It was protected as an undeveloped bird sanctuary by enlightened landowners until it recently became a federal preserve. The chorus and organ describe the scene in slow stanzas decorated with lush borrowed and extended diatonic chords. Twice they are interrupted (a Post-Modern conceit) by piano and soloists who represent day-visitors hiking through. Finally, the chorus imagines a time before European immigration when most of New England was as wild as this.

[tundra, Alaska Range]

1. Musketequid
Egg Rock, below the former site of Musketequid village
Peter Bird, 2012

[Gjesvaer, Norway]

3. North Bridge
over the Concord River
Peter Bird, 2012

[midnight sun at Nordkapp]

5. Great Meadows
downstream from North Bridge and adjacent to Sleepy Hollow
Peter Bird, 2012

Fresh Choral Music Online, by Peter Bird of Los Angeles