Ecce Lignum Crucis (1997/2014) for choir a cappella (and optional handbells)
This piece was commissioned by
The Good Shepherd Presbyterian
Church Choir, Emily Moon, dir.
Unlike all other days in the church calendar, Mass was not celebrated on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Good Friday the principal service that took place after Nones, an ecclesiastical monastic afternoon service. It consisted of a series of distinct observances, many of which were of very early origin. The three principal constituents of this service were the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and the reception of Communion. From the Veneration of the Cross, I chose to reset the text of Ecce Lignum. The priest sings, “Ecce lignum crucis in quo salus mundi pependit / Venite adoramus” while unveiling the cross at the alter. The text roughly translates, “behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world. Come, let us worship.”
I took the original pitches of the chant from the Graduale Romanum* and layered them into chords, creating suspended quality, freely harmonizing them with an additional tone or two, here and there. In fact, the progression of the pitches throughout the piece is roughly identical to that of the chant as found in the Graduale. If the performance includes the optional hand bell part, the original sequence of tones will be reinforced. In previous performances of this piece, choirs have also sung the original chant as a prelude. The goal of the work is to create a deep sense of solemnity.