The Prayer of St. Francis
SATB, Piano, Violin, and Cello
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Text: attr. St. Francis of Assisi
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I began composing this much-loved text in 2012, creating a series of melody fragments for much of the text, and a few ideas for an accompaniment.
While reviewing incomplete composing projects during the lockdown of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I came upon these fragments and decided to complete the piece once and for all. Ten years later, I was still fond of each of these melodic fragments because I felt they had the potential to set the text with great clarity and natural emphasis. I also found that what would become the opening melodic theme fit naturally with the closing lines of text, allowing me to unify the piece with these two bookends.
As I started piecing it together, I notice one big problem: I didn't have any ideas for the middle section of text, "Where there is darkness, light. // Where there is sadness, joy." These phrases seemed too important to take up only two lines of music, and I took quite a lot of time exploring ways to create an entire section of the piece, and ultimately paired the ideas of darkness and sadness together, and the ideas of light and joy together.
The result is a felicitous moment when the works "light" and joy" are repeated by each part over and over. The music is at its highest intensity of the piece, with the string instruments playing in their highest register, projecting what I hope is a radiant moment around these two highly symbolic words we so often express in many languages in choral music.
Text (attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)
Lord, grant me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.