Music: Pilgrims’ Hymn

This evening the community choir I sing in presented a concert of American music, mostly from the time of the Civil War. (I think this was at least in part related to the Sesquicentennial.) My favorite piece from the concert, however, is “Pilgrims’ Hymn” by Stephen Paulus.

The text by Michael Dennis Browne (adapted from a prayer of the Russian Orthodox church, according to rehearsal notes by the composer) fits perfectly with the music by Paulus. Every time we rehearsed it, I felt moved by the fusion of words and music, and absorbed as much by the prayer as the notes and rhythms.

A recording played on computer speakers hardly does justice to the beauty of the piece, but you can get an idea of it from this performance at the Saint Paul Seminary Chapel by Kantorei, an acapella chamber choir in Minnesota.

One Response to Music: Pilgrims’ Hymn

  1. […] Paulus, who died in 2014, wrote “Pilgrim’s Hymn” in 1997. One of the most notable things about the piece is how traditional it sounds, given the contemporary nature of the composition. The harmonies, tempo, and key sound more in line with the 1890s than the 1990s. This is no accident, as the piece is written from the perspective of early American settlers, and the lyrical themes remind me very much of the traditional Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts.” Let’s look at these lyrics by Michael Dennis Browne, as adapted from a Russian Orthodox prayer: […]

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