#41: Friday, January 18, 2019
“Deep Peace, Healing Light” by Leonard Enns
Text inspired by Gaelic traditions
SSA, a cappella
Frequently, choral selections with crunchy harmony or pleasantly-dissonant chords require four voice parts minimum, usually more. By contrast, this lovely selection by composer Leonard Enns, “Deep Peace, Healing Light,” provides ample opportunity for suspensions, non-chord tones, and clusters, while only requiring three voice parts. This piece is ideal for concert or contest; it can also be used for funerals, retirements, graduations, or other community events where peace and/or reconciliation are the focus.
The work is primarily homophonic, with only a few exceptions. The shared vertical/rhythmic structure adds stability throughout and helps support less experienced singers who may be pursuing the piece.
Interestingly, there is a series of six measures on the second page which are scored twice. Labeled “A” and “B,” they differ in range and tessitura, but not in rhythm. The score markings indicate you should choose either A or B, based on the skill set of your group. “B” is good in its own right, but “A” really allows your ensemble a chance to shine, depending on the range of your S1s.
Another point to notice would be the ample opportunities for incorporating dynamics and tempo changes. Dynamics are given throughout and range from mp to f. Tempos ebb and flow as well, including ritards and caesuras. A strong ensemble will likely relish the chance to dig in and shape the emotion of the selection through these means.
Tonally, the piece centers around Eb major, with excursions to c minor, eb minor, and Gb major. In listening to the selection, I am struck by the way the tonality shifts in a such a smooth way. Using solfege might be tricky, if your ensemble is new to added accidentals. It could easily be used for the beginning and ending of the work though without concern. However, if you are interested in practicing the ensemble’s use of added flats (me and te, in this case), this is an excellent and brief foray into the skill.
The ending of the work is another unique point – it is aleatoric, with a series of notes in the score regarding how it is to be performed. After a solid Bb chord (V of Eb major), each voice part freely explores various pitches within the descending Eb major scale, incorporating “oohs” and the text “deep, deep peace.” Voices overlap to create a meaningful, tonal soundscape.
The source of this text is a curious one, without a clear answer. The octavo’s attribution suggests that the words are a “Gaelic Blessing.” John Rutter’s familiar choral selection “A Gaelic Blessing” uses the same text, albeit with an added Christian-themed closing line, and notes a similar attribution (“adapted from an old Gaelic rune”). Of interest though, is that the lines appear as part of a larger prayer within the 1895 novel The Dominion of Dreams: Under the Dark Star, by Celtic-Revivalist William Sharp, writing as Fiona Macleod. There is no doubt the text is inspired by other legitimate Gaelic blessings. However, whether the text is truly from Gaelic tradition, or simply written in that style by a 19th century author, remains in question.
Regardless of the text’s origins, the sentiment of the text is certainly worth considering:
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
The text’s meaning, coupled with Enns’ beautiful setting, make this a quality choice for your women’s/treble ensemble.
|Deep Peace, Healing Light
|Date of Composition:
|Gaelic Blessing* (see notes in description)
|Peace, blessing, compassion.
Can also be suitable for funeral.
|76, gently with rubato
|In Memory of Mary Anne Kowal
|Cypress Choral Music CP-1224
|Further descriptions and details, including program notes, audio, perusal score, and purchasing:
Until next week!
Dr. Shelbie Wahl-Fouts is
associate professor of music, Director of Choral Activities, and music
department chair at Hollins University, a women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia.