A Prophetic Day (2009)

I. The Trappist Abbey: Matins

II. St. Agnes: A Responsory

III. A Psalm

This piece is commissioned by soprano Elaine Niu. The premiere performance on September 26, 2009 was an event to celebrate of the 50th Anniversary of the St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, WI.

Program Notes

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), also known as Father Louis, was a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. A famous proponent of interfaith understanding who pioneered dialogues with leaders from other religions, his sensibility to different world views is re?ected in his poetry. In these three poems that I choose, traditional Catholic prayers are reborn with imageries of nature and Zen. The title for the set, “A Prophetic Day,” refers to a diary entry of Mr. Merton, which praised the ?rst day of “the real shining spring.”

While the sound of soprano and trumpet are often thought of as extrovert, I am more interested in exploring their introvert side Their melodies intertwine, at times becoming one, at times supporting each other. Sometimes they take on their heroic pro?le out of joy. All the while, the piano remains a gentle and continuing presence, as both the calm clearing in the backdrop, and a loving companion to the singer and the trumpet.

Performance Notes

At the end of the ?rst song, when the trumpet is muted with a Harmon mute (stem out), the player is asked to use a plunger to facilitate closing and opening. The idea of changing between close and open on the long notes is to imitate the singer’s words.

At the beginning of the second song, the pianist is advised to use her/his ?ngers for plucking. However, a pair of bird feathers have proven to be a great tool for this as well (wild turkey feathers were used during the premiere performance).

At the end of the third song, it will be ideal for the trumpet to hold the (sounding) Gb as written. If a breath is needed, take the breath in measure 111 (where the dotted slur is). If necessary, stop playing on the second beat of measure 111.

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