Evening Prayer (grade 4)
Evening Prayer was commissioned by Michael Buck and the College of St. Scholastica. The work honors the legacy of musician, mentor, and friend, Sister Monica Laughlin and celebrates the 125th anniversary of the founding of the St. Scholastica Monastery.
As we began the process for this work, Michael Buck sent me thoughts from three of his colleagues who worked with Sister Monica in the music department: Dr. LeAnn House, Dr. Penny Schwarze, and Marianne Connelly. Each of them shared similar thoughts on the wonderful character of Sister Monica, describing a woman who loved God, clarinet (she played in the University of Michigan Symphony Band under Revelli!), dogs, ping pong, hard work, her students, and Gregorian chant (her dissertation was on Medieval and Renaissance music and she authored a textbook on the subject).
It was this last element that finally inspired my concept for the piece, which at its surface is intended to be nothing more than a beautiful, peaceful prayer. I chose to use one of the chants that Sister Monica included in her text as the basis for the piece, Ut Queant Laxis (Hymn to St. John the Baptist) by Guido of Arezzo. This particular chant is famous for establishing our system of solfege, with the successive phrases of the chant beginning on the syllables Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, and La. My piece, therefore, begins with a short clarinet solo (Sister Monica introducing us to the piece), followed by six sections and a coda that trace the phrases of Guido's original work, both through key area (C, D, E, F, G, and A) and through their use of musical material from that particular phrase as inspiration for that section. There is also a short improvised solo in the middle of the work which can be played by any instrument. After finally arriving at a fortissimo and returning home to D, the piece concludes with the final phrase of the chant in the clarinet, with distant bells and a choir intoning Guido's complete work, before fading into silence.