I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero • E. Ethelbert Miller & Richard J. Clark

ARCH 24TH marks the anniversary of the assassination of Blessed Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. On Sunday, March 23, 1980, the day before his assassination, Romero addressed the soldiers in his homily:

“En nombre de Dios, pues, y en nombre de este sufrido pueblo, cuyos lamentos suben hasta el cielo cada día más tumultuosos, les suplico, les ruego, les ordeno en nombre de Dios: ¡Cese la represión!”

“In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!”

Listen to a recording of this part of his homily here.

While Romero was not interested in Liberation Theology, he spoke vehemently against the human rights abuses of the Salvadoran government. He gave voice to those who had no voice: the oppressed, the poor, the victims of abject cruelty. For this, he paid with his life.

His cause for canonization was opened in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II. At a standstill for some years, it was furthered in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. On February 3, 2015, Pope Francis decreed that Romero was martyred in odium fidei (“in hatred of the faith”). Romero was then beatified in El Salvador on May 23, 2015.

N 2016 JENNIFER LESTER, Music Director of the The Seraphim Singers, was intent on commissioning from me a work to honor Óscar Romero. The result was music set to I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero by E. Ethelbert Miller (b. 1950).

The text of the poem is here and below.
A Spanish translation by Nancy Morejón can be found here.

Here is a recording of a live performance by the Seraphim Singers in 2016:

E. Ethelbert Miller writes:

I Am The Land: A Poem In Memory of Oscar Romero was first published in my collection First Light: New and Selected Poems (Black Classic Press, 1994). It’s one of the few poems I wrote specifically for a public reading.

The “tone” of the poem echoes the work of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Ernesto Cardenal.

The work was an outgrowth of my interest in liberation theology. One of the major issues in our world today continues to be poverty. “The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.” This line should connect with everyone. I hope my poem also speaks to the role of the church in our society. The doors of this institution must always remain open, for pilgrims and strangers. Our faith must be made visible. I believe it begins with an open heart. Finally, the poem connects life to land. I wanted to link Oscar Romero to the grass, trees and wind. Even after Romero’s death, one should be able to open a window and inhale his beliefs and memory.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.
He who is resurrected believes in peace.
This is the meaning of light.
This is the meaning of love.

– E. Ethelbert Miller
March 14, 2017

From my own program notes: “…Romero’s message is a powerful voice crying out for the voiceless, the oppressed, and the slaughtered. Phrases in a modern harmonized Gregorian Chant style are in complete service of Miller’s text, and therefore Romero’s lifelong example of humble service towards justice and peace.”

NE OF THE GREAT JOYS of the creative process is to work with and meet great artists who also happen to be beautiful people. Out of Jennifer Lester’s vision came the opportunity to live intimately inside of E. Ethelbert Miller’s words. His poetry evokes images far beyond the vivid emotions on the page. His words elicit further questions, leaving in their wake a burning desire to experience more that has already come alive on the page.

A man of kindness and vision, Miller’s work lives well beyond his words, flowing into action, exuding a joy of living.

I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero

I am the land.
I am the grass growing.
I am the trees.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poor.
I am the hungry.

The doors of the church are open
as wide as the heart of a man.
In times of trouble
here is a rock, here is a hand.

God knows the meaning of our prayers.
I have asked our government to listen.
God is not dead
and I will never die.

I am the land.
I am the grass growing.
I am the trees.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poor.
I am the hungry.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.
He who is resurrected believes in peace.
This is the meaning of light.
This is the meaning of love.

The souls of my people are the pages of history.
The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.

I am Oscar Romero, a humble servant.
I am the land.
I am all the people who have no land.
I am the grass growing.
I am all the children who have been murdered.
I am the trees.
I am the priests, the nuns, the believers.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poets who will sing forever.
I am the poor.
I am the dreamer whose dreams overflow with hope.
I am the hungry.
I am the people.
I am Oscar Romero.

– E. Ethelbert Miller

Communion Antiphons for Lent & Easter • NEW • World Library Publications

I AM PLEASED to announce the release of my Communion Antiphons for Easter with World Library Publications. These thirteen antiphons are set from the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. All the verses set are those prescribed by Graduale Romanum. On a personal note, this is perhaps my favorite collection to date.

You may also view and listen to the Communion Antiphons for Lent here or below.

SCORES FOR EASTER are available in hard copies or digital format:

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Easter” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Easter” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

All are chant based.
Can be sung with cantor or unison schola
Ample opportunity for optional SATB

HERE IS A SMALL SAMPLE of recordings—four of the thirteen communion propers are directed by Paul French. French and his singers beautifully captured the joy, movement, and energy of these chant inspired works.

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

HERE YOU CAN LISTEN to recordings of seven of the thirteen communion propers:

 

Sacred Music for Christmas on “Sounds from the Spires”

RECENTLY joined Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, on her program Sounds from the Spires. I am very fortunate to have been on the show several times. This will explain any drop in the ratings.

Pascual’s weekly show can be heard on SIRIUSXM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel, Saturday, 11pm-12am, Sunday, 6am-7am and 8pm-9pm (All Eastern times)

You can listen to a PODCAST of this interview broadcast on 12.4.2016:



MUSIC FEATURED ON THIS PROGRAM:

Light Upon the World | Richard J. Clark, baritone; Produced by Paul Umbach | Available on iTunes and CD Baby.

Communion Antiphons for Christmas | SATB, Organ, Trumpet, Assembly • World Library Publications • Recordings Directed by Paul French

Madonna & Child | Organ • recorded on the Smith & Gilbert Organ (IV/52) at St. Cecilia Church, Boston

Although this conversation with my children happened before a prior interview, the story bears repeating:

My six-year-old son put me in my place before a radio interview. My daughter, who was eight, said, “Daddy is lucky because he is famous because he is being interviewed.” My son who was six responded: “No, he’s not famous. Never, ever! Only God is famous.” This, coming from a boy who loves getting into mischief, especially if it gets a laugh from his siblings and disapproval from his parents. But here he was dead serious and spot on!

Soli Deo gloria!

The Seraphim Singers Premiere “I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero” • E. Ethelbert Miller & Richard J. Clark

ENNIFER LESTER, director of The Seraphim Singers, molds highly adventuresome programming through faith and personal conviction. Seraphim’s upcoming program “Oppression, Exile, and Solidarity” will be another strong statement, musically and socially.

From their website:

This concert of musical works bearing witness and standing with human suffering includes James MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados, on Argentina’s Dirty War; Zachary Wadsworth’s setting of Whitman’s “Old War Dreams”; the premiere of Richard Clark’s I Am the Land, a poem inspired by Óscar Romero, and Howells’ exquisite Requiem. With Heinrich Christensen, organ.

ESTER was intent on commissioning a new work about Óscar Romero, a voice for the voiceless. The result was music set to I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Oscar Romero by E. Ethelbert Miller (b. 1950), a tribute to the late Archbishop of El Salvador. Assassinated on March 24, 1980 while saying Mass, Romero was beatified by Pope Francis on May 23, 2015.

From my program notes: “…Romero’s message as a powerful voice crying out for the voiceless, the oppressed, and the slaughtered. Phrases in a modern harmonized Gregorian Chant style are in complete service of Miller’s text, and therefore Romero’s lifelong example of humble service towards justice and peace.”

The text of the poem is here.

From Miller’s publicist:

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies and a board member for The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Miller is an inductee of the 2015 Washington, DC Hall of Fame and recipient of the AWP 2016 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature and the 2016 DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. His most recent book is The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, edited by Kirsten Porter and published by Willow Books.

IF YOU ARE IN THE BOSTON AREA be sure not to miss this premiere as part the Seraphim Singer’s ” Oppression, Exile, and Solidarity.” There will be two performances:

Sunday, November 6, 2016, 3:00 pm
Eliot Church of Newton, 474 Centre Street, Newton

Sunday, November 13, 2016, 3:00 pm
First Church (Congregational) 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA

$20 general admission and $15 senior/student.

• Tickets are available at the door or purchase online here
• Download the concert poster here
• Watch a video postcard here


HE SERAPHIM SINGERS ARE ENORMOUS ADVOCATES of new music with several new commissions each year. Jennifer Lester’s programming is astonishingly vast, from Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Polyphony to Twenty-first Century works. Yet, her programming flows with astounding unity and beauty.

The Boston Music Intelligencer writes:

“Ingenious programming by Jennifer Lester…”

“Anyone who cares about these genres owes it to him/herself to hear this gifted ensemble whenever possible.”

“Technically, the ensemble was in fine form, performing incredibly challenging choral repertoire with a high degree of finesse.”

Hope to see you there!

Communion Antiphons for Advent & Christmas • NEW • World Library Publications

ORLD LIBRARY Publications, the music and liturgy division of J. S. Paluch Company, Inc. has recently released my collection of Communion Antiphons for Christmas. These nine antiphons are set to the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, with verses according to the Graduale Romanum.

You may also learn about and listen to my Communion Antiphons for Advent here.

Scores are available in hard copies or for digital download:

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Christmas” (for SATB Choir, Cantor, Assembly, Organ, Trumpet)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Christmas” (for SATB Choir, Cantor, Assembly, Organ, Trumpet)

All are chant based including quotes of Puer natus est nobis and the Mode I Ave Maria.
May be sung with cantor or unison schola or optional SATB
Several include optional vocal and trumpet descants.

BE SURE TO LISTEN to recordings directed by Paul French, Director of the William Ferris Chorale and Music Director of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago. You can hear six of the nine antiphons here. (Each antiphon has several more verses than are recorded here.)

*Note the two options for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: Rejoice, O Daughter Zion (Exsulta fiIia Sion) is prescribed for the Mass at Dawn in the Roman Missal. It is also is prescribed also for the Solemnity of Mary in the Graduale Romanum.

HY SING THE PROPERS AT ALL? Forget GIRM 87 that gives singing the antiphons from the Roman Missal or Grandulae Romanum the highest preference. Forget the tradition of the propers being integral to the Roman Rite for well over a millennium. Forget that Sing to the Lord: Music In Divine Worship (SttL) gives singing the antiphons and psalms very high priority.

But remember the wisdom of the faithful who came before us. What matters most is that the antiphons and psalms we sing during communion most always point us back to the Gospel. Often they are from the Gospel itself or another reading. The psalms, which are just as important as the antiphons, shed deeper light upon the sacred mysteries and the Gospel. These scriptures amplify our prayer while receiving the Bread of Life.

I could go on for many pages, but I leave you with this simple story:

The best note I ever received on this topic came from a woman who probably knows nothing about the antiphons, the GIRM, or the rubrics. But she knows prayer and she knows her heart. She said “Isn’t it wonderful to sing the Gospel while receiving the Eucharist!”

This kind of intuitive understanding is born of the wisdom of the ages—from many faithful who came before us. This above all is why we sing the Mass.

Consciously or not, the scriptures sung in the antiphons and psalms touch the heart. Live daily with the Word, and we will be transformed.

Soli Deo gloria

“Sounds from the Spires” with Jennifer Pascual • SiriusXM Radio

RECENTLY joined Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and host of Sounds from the Spires, at the SiriusXM Studio in Midtown Manhattan. Her weekly program can be heard on SIRIUSXM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel.

My six-year-old son put me in my place before our interview. My daughter, who is eight, said, “Daddy is lucky because he is famous because he is being interviewed.” My son responded: “No, he’s not famous. Never, ever! Only God is famous.” This, coming from a boy who loves getting into mischief, especially if it gets a laugh from his siblings and disapproval from his parents. But here he was dead serious and spot on!

PODCAST Broadcast on 2.28.2016:

PLEASE READ MY MIND
Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio. As my choirs well know, it is a requirement that they must read my mind during rehearsal; not everything that comes out of my mouth is reliable. As such, there are two corrections here: 1) “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” is from Psalm 27, not Psalm 122 as stated. 2) Our Lady of the Atonement R. C. Church is in San Antonio, Texas, not Houston. I knew that. I’ve always known that. But I said Houston. Please read my mind.

MUSIC FEATURED ON THIS PROGRAM:

Communion Antiphons for Lent | SATB, Organ, Assembly • World Library Publications • Recordings Directed by Paul French

Variations on Misereris Omnium | Introit for Ash Wednesday • St Cecilia Schola • Variations played on the Smith & Gilbert Organ at St. Cecilia Church, Boston

By the Rivers of Babylon | Allesandra Cionco, soprano; Michael Dahlberg, cello; R. Clark, piano

Magna Opera Domini | Commissioned for the ordination of Bishop Steven Lopes. • Recording Directed by Edmund Murray

122 Messengers of Peace • Dona Nobis Pacem

T’S NEVER just about the music. Music is always about something greater. With sacred music it is about prayer, worship, and putting God at the center. Furthermore, singing in a choir brings about benefits that go well beyond that of making beautiful music. Words are fully inadequate to describe the power of music.

I had the opportunity to compose a work for the Elementary Honor Choir for the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division. It was recently premiered at Boston’s historic Jordan Hall. Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, Director of The American Boychoir would be conducting. Understanding music education as he does, Malvar-Ruiz has often stated that the mission of the American Boychoir is not music. It is education. With this philosophy in mind, he asked me to compose something intriguing.

THE SCORE IS AVAILABLE HERE:
Dona Nobis Pacem | SSA, Piano, Cello • RJC Cecilia Music

While not a liturgical work, we agreed to a universal message Dona nobis pacem. “Grant us peace.” He wanted Latin to teach pure vowels. He wanted easily singable lyric phrases suitable for children’s voices. (He also understands that Gregorian Chant is great tool for teaching children.) Finally, he asked for quotes from St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I jumped at this idea, knowing this would be about much more than music.

HIS HONOR CHOIR OF ONE-HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO CHILDREN (aged nine to twelve) had less than seventy-two hours to learn and memorize a program that included works of Bach, Malvar-Keylock, and others in a variety of styles and languages. Malvar-Ruiz asked me and composer Melissa Malvar-Keylock to discuss our compositions and answer questions from the children. And what brilliant questions they were!

Some asked about why I chose certain harmonies. One asked why the entire piece was not in Latin. Several questions were about the choice of the specific quotes. This opened up a great deal of historic discussion from St. Francis’ famous prayer to the direct connection between Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s use of nonviolent techniques to overcome oppression.

Many were so curious about the composition and creative process. One asked for advice I could offer about becoming a composer. My quick advice to this bright ten or eleven-year old was to not only develop the technical skills, but to develop the heart, mind, and soul. Who we are as a person gives birth to our music. What I wish I had added was this: Develop your own unique voice. Accept technical criticism, never let anyone dismiss or criticize your unique musical voice, because this is you. I really wish I said that. I hope she reads this.

HEN, AS IF one conclusion must lead to another, the final question was fascinating, especially from such from a young child: “What expectations do you have from us?” This is an incredibly mature and insightful thought. It was as if I had planted this question because it led to a question that I had for all the children.

I told them I had a question for them. I said I suspected they were already doing this, but I want them to consider my request. So then asked them, “What happens to the text at measure 132?” They explained the text changed from “Grant us peace” to “Peace be with you.” (The words Jesus spoke after His resurrection. The words he spoke when they were afraid and hiding, after His resurrection.)

While I did not mention Jesus specifically in a secular and mixed setting, I asked them if they could do what St. Francis prayed for: “Can you be an instrument of peace?” I was clear I didn’t mean just when they sing this piece. I told them I didn’t just mean for the concert. But can you be an instrument of peace when you return home to your friends, school, family, and those who care about you? Can you be an instrument of peace…for the rest of your lives?

I asked this of children, because they can carry this out much better than adults can—at least speaking for myself.

I put the words “Peace be with you” into their mouths because I know that coming from children, it is genuine. It is divine love. This is what children singing can do. Children have much to teach us, and I have much to learn from them.

The morning of the concert, Malvar-Ruiz repeated my request to be messengers of peace. They truly responded with their music. I trust they will respond further with their lives. As they do, so will the world change and be saved.

IN ADDITION, here are a few of my choral/liturgical works for Lent and Easter. You can listen to recordings of each or these:

Communion Antiphons for Lent | SATB, Organ, Assembly • World Library Publications

Christe qui lux es et dies | Based on Compline Hymn for Lent, SATB • RJC Cecilia Music

Lumen Christi | Paschal Candle Procession | Deacon/Priest, Assembly, SATB • CanticaNOVA Publications

O Sacrum Convivium | TTB or SSA • includes optional text for tempore quadragesimæ • RJC Cecilia Music

I Am Risen, Resurrexi | Introit for Easter Sunday, SATB, organ • RJC Cecilia Music

The Greatest in the Kingdom

FOR OUR FIRST CHILD, our daughter, I composed a hymn based on the story found in three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) about the disciples arguing over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus then shows them a little child:

Matthew 18: 1-5: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”

It is made available for digital download in two different keys, one lower, which is more ideal for a congregation to sing. A higher key is also provided to allow the sopranos to soar.

($39.00) Digital PDF copy comes with reprint license limited to use for one choir. Upon purchase, you will receive an email from which you can download the score. You do not have permission to disseminate the score in any form.

Here is a live recording (2007—lower key) performed by Youth Pro Musica and the St. Cecilia Choir, Boston, with Peter Krasinski, organ.

The Seraphim Singers • World Première of work by Adam Wood and Richard J. Clark

HAVE LONG ADMIRED the writing of poet Adam Wood (b. 1982); his poetry, prose, and commentary are distinct, stemming in part from eclectic passions which include liturgy, theology, technology, economics and the Open Source. The results of such combination of interests are fascinating.

When Jennifer Lester, Director of The Seraphim Singers, asked me to compose another work for them on sacred poetry, I eagerly dug into Adam Wood’s work. His dedication to the spirit, art, and intellect (often infused with sharp wit) constitute a distinctly unique body of work from which one will elicit much inspiration and insight.

The result of this collaboration is On Emptiness, Wisdom, and Fortune (2014) which combines two of Wood’s poems On Fortune and On Emptiness. You can read Adam Wood’s essays and poems here.

IF YOU ARE IN THE BOSTON AREA be sure not to miss this premiere as part the Seraphim Singer’s “For Heaven Is a Different Thing.” Choral Settings of Sacred Poetry. There will be two performances:

Sunday, October 25, 2015, 3:00pm
First Church (Congregational) 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA

Friday, October 30, 2015, 8:00pm
St. Cecilia Parish, 18 Belvidere St., Boston, MA

$20 general admission and $15 senior/student.
• Tickets are available at the door or purchase online here
• Download the concert program here
• Download the concert poster here

HE SERAPHIM SINGERS ARE ENORMOUS ADVOCATES of new music with several new commissions each year. Jennifer Lester’s programming is astonishingly vast, from Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Polyphony to Twenty-first Century works. Yet, her programming flows with astounding unity and beauty. The Boston Music Intelligencer writes:

“Ingenious programming by Jennifer Lester…”

“Anyone who cares about these genres owes it to him/herself to hear this gifted ensemble whenever possible.”

“Technically, the ensemble was in fine form, performing incredibly challenging choral repertoire with a high degree of finesse.”

Hope to see you there!