About this Recording
8.559361 - COOMAN: Sacred Choral Music

Carson Cooman (b. 1982)
Sacred Choral Music


All of the choral works on this recording were originally written in response to commissions from churches, conductors, and other performing institutions. In most cases they were written for première performance in specific circumstances – holidays, feast days, celebrations, anniversaries, and retirements. I am pleased that these sacred choral works have found life beyond these initial occasions and have entered the repertoire of many churches and choirs. My work as a composer has to date been divided in half between the world of concert music and the world of church music. As with many composers of the past, I do not find these to be incompatible pursuits (though many composers today tend to have interest in only one or the other), but rather I find that both worlds inform each other and provide variety to the projects I take on.

The music on this disc is organised by the liturgical year, beginning in Advent and proceeding through Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. Other works for Ordinary Time, Communion, Evensong, Compline, and other occasions are interspersed.

[Track 1] 'Adam Lay Ybounden'(2004; Op. 576; SATB and organ) was commissioned by Robert Delcamp and the University Choir of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee for their 2004 annual service of Advent Lessons and Carols. Each year Sewanee commissions a different composer to write a setting of this traditional fifteenth-century medieval carol text.

Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple, an apple that he took.
As clerkes finden written in their book.

Ne had the apple taken been, the apple taken been,
Ne had never our ladie abeen heav'ne queen.

Blessed be the time that apple taken was,
Therefore we moun singen. Deo gracias!

[2] 'In the Beginning Was the Word'(1999, rev. 2003; Op. 161; SATB and organ) was written for Robert Ferris and the choir of St Thomas Episcopal Church, Rochester, New York. The text is taken directly from the Bible, John 1:1–2, 4–5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. In him was life, and that life was the light of all. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

[3] 'A Cosmic Prayer' (2002; Op. 460; SATB) was written in memory of the Welsh composer William Mathias (1934–1992) and is dedicated to Murray Forbes Somerville and the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir. The text is a prayer by Howard Georgi (b. 1947), a professor of physics at Harvard University.

O God of the heavens and the earth, of the astronomical and the subatomic, of the living and the dead, of science and history, of life and love. We give you thanks for the miraculous variety of your creation. We pray for the energy and time and patience and talent to learn more about the world you have made, and for the humility always to recognize how little we know. Amen.

'New World Carols: An American Christmas Triptych' (2003; Op. 515; SATB and organ) was commissioned by The Memorial Church at Harvard University for the 94th Annual Harvard Carol Services in December 2003. The work was given its première by the Harvard University Choir under the direction of Edward Elwyn Jones. The Harvard services are the oldest carol services in the United States. Because of this history, the three poems chosen are by American religious poets – Abner P. Cobb (1854–1923), Fanny Crosby (1820–1915), and Phillips Brooks (1835–1893).

[4] I. 'Do You Know the Song?'

Do you know the song?

Do you know the song that the angels sang
When the heavens above with their music rang?

All glory in the highest, peace on earth!

Do you know the song that they heard that night,
When the darkened sky was rent with light?

[5] II. 'In a Lowly Manger Sleeping'

In a lowly manger sleeping, calm and still a Babe we see,
‘Tis the Holy Child of promise, light of all the world is He.

Holy angels sing His welcome in the realms of glory bright,
While the morning stars around Him fall in soft and tender light.

Blessed Savior, dear Redeemer, King of Judah, Prince of Peace,
Rock of Ages, Star of Nations, thy dominion ne'er shall cease.

[6] III. 'The Sky Can Still Remember'

The sky can still remember the earliest Christmas morn,
When in the cold December the Savior Christ was born.
No star unfolds its glory, no trumpet wind is blown,
But tells the Christmas story in music of its own.
O never failing splendor! O never silent song!
Still keep the green earth tender, still keep the gray earth strong,
Still keep the brave earth dreaming of deeds that shall be done,
While children's lives come streaming like sunbeams from the sun.
O angels sweet and splendid, throng in our hearts and sing
The wonders which attended the coming of the King;
Till we too, boldly pressing where once the shepherds trod,
Climb Bethlehem's Hill of Blessing, and find the Son of God.

[7] 'Builders for Christ' (2003; Op. 498; SATB and organ) was commissioned by Murray Forbes Somerville in celebration of his first Sunday as director of music of St George's Episcopal Church, Nashville, Tennessee. The anthem also celebrated the end of a long capital building project at St George's. To celebrate this occasion, and Murray Somerville's long history as a builder of music programs, it was requested that the text be an adaptation of Matthew 7:24–27.

Bind us together in Christian love as Builders for Christ,
to do his work together, throughout the world for all eternity!

And Jesus said: "Whoever hears these words of mine and acts upon them
is like a wise man who built his house on solid rock.

The rain came down, and the winds blew mightily against it;
yet it did not fall, for its foundation was built upon the rock."

Let us be Builders for Christ to do his work together, throughout the world for all eternity!

[8] 'O Perfect Life of Love' (2002; Op. 361; SATB and organ) was written for Lenten services at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is dedicated to composer Sally Beamish. The familiar text by Henry W. Baker (1821–1877) is set in a spare, plaintive manner, reflecting the spirit of Lent.

O perfect life of love! All, all is finished now: all that he left his throne above to do for us below.
No pain that we can share but he has felt its smart. All forms of human grief and care have pierced that tender heart.
Yet work your way in me, my self-will, Lord, remove: then shall my love and service be my answer to your love.

[9] 'Premat Mundus' (2004; Op. 597; SATB and tenor) is dedicated to Marguerite Brooks and the Yale Camerata of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. The text by controversial Italian religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498) reflects the fiery religious passion for which he was well known.

Premat mundus,
insurgat hostes, nihil timeo.
Quoniam in Te Domine speravi,
quoniam Tu es spes mea,
quoniam Tu altissimum posuisti
refugium tuum.

Let the world press down upon me,
let the enemy rise up against me, I fear nothing.
Because in you, Lord, I have hoped,
because you are my hope,
because you have founded the highest place
as your place of refuge.

[10] 'The Way, the Truth, the Life' (2002; Op. 381; SATB and organ) was commissioned by St Peter's Episcopal Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts in celebration and thanks for the ministry of Rev. Dr. Titus L. Presler as rector of the parish, from 1991 to 2002. The work is a setting of a text by W. H. Auden, the final chorus from his extended poem For the Time Being. It is cast in three interconnected sections for the stanzas of the poem. Each section is set off by a brief solo phrase (first tenor: "He is the Way", then soprano: "He is the Truth", then tenor and soprano together: "He is the Life"), followed by the rest of each stanza. The anthem moves over its course from a mood of mystical contemplation to joyous outburst.

[11] 'God, You Move Among Us' (2005; Op. 657; SATB and organ) was written for Marisa Green and the choir of Marquand Chapel of Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. The evocative text by Thomas H. Troeger (b. 1945) celebrates the inspirational work of the Spirit.

God, you move among us with grace, with the lift and the sweep of the wind of the Spirit.
But we often refuse to move with you.
We stiffen our backs and tighten our souls and lower our eyes and mumble that we cannot dance.
Send us the truth that will set us free, free to bend with your Spirit, free to follow your beat,
free to give ourselves entirely to you, free to love and to live with the grace that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

© 1994 Oxford University Press, Inc.; used with permission

[12] 'Easter Triumph! Easter Joy!' (2004; Op. 585; SATB and organ) was written for Matthew F. Burt and Christ Episcopal Church, Alameda, California. It was written for a composer residency during Holy Week 2005. Two jubilant outer sections frame a middle section that quotes the traditional Easter plainchant 'Victimae paschali laudes'.

Easter triumph! Easter joy! Jesus lives and death is destroyed. Cross and grave are past. Jesus lives at last.
Sing and shout the gospel message. Let our Alleluias blaze. Alleluia.

Jesus Christ, our world's redeemer, came to earth sent by God's hand.
Now he reigns in heavenly triumph. Tell the news throughout the land.
Bring the blazing gospel message to our world so full of need.

Jesus reigns alive and active, bringing life in word and deed.

[13]–[16] Missa Brevis ("Trottier") (2004; Op. 558; SATB and organ) was written in celebration of Rev. François Trottier's installation as rector of St Peter's Episcopal Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts on Ascension Day 2004. The work was given its première by the church's choir, under the direction of Matthew F. Burt. The text is the ordinary of the Mass (excluding the Credo) and is set in English.

[17] 'I Will Pour Out My Spirit' (2006; Op. 683; SATB and organ) was commissioned by St James Music Press and is dedicated to composer Mark Hijleh. The text of the anthem is adapted from the account of the first Pentecost in Acts 2.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire and all of them were filled with the Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your songs and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. The sung will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

[18] 'Be Present, Holy Trinity' (2004; Op. 586; SATB and organ) was commissioned by St James Music Press and is dedicated to composer Martha Sobaje. The text by John Mason Neale (1818–1866) is a translation of an eleventh-century Latin hymn: 'Adesto, Sancta Trinitas'.The music of the anthem is based upon the York plainchant 'Ave Colenda Trinitas'.

Be present, Holy Trinity, like splendor, and one Deity:
of things above, and things below, beginning that all end shall know.

Light, sole and one, we thee confess, with triple praise we rightly bless;
Alpha and Omega we own, with every spirit round thy throne.

To thee, O unbegotten One, and thee, O sole begotten Son,
and thee, O Holy Ghost we raise our equal and eternal praise.

[19] 'O Bone Jesu' (2003; Op. 517; SATB and organ) was written for Nancy B. Granert and the choir of Emmanuel Church, Boston, Massachusetts. The text is a setting of the traditional Latin Eucharistic poem.

O bone Jesu, miserere nobis:
Quia tu creasti nos,
Tu redimisti nos sanguine,
Tuo pretiosissimo.

O blessed Jesus, have mercy on us.
For you have created us,
You have redeemed us
by your most precious blood.

[20] Psalm 66 (Be Joyful in God) (2005; Op. 664; SATB and organ) was written for Holland J. Jancaitis and the choir of Battell Chapel, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. The text uses the Book of Common Prayer translation of the Psalter and sets verses from Psalm 66 (1–2a, 3–4, 7–8, 18a).

Be joyful in God, all you lands;
Sing the glory of his Name;

Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!
All earth bows down before you,
sings to you, sings out your Name."

Come now and see the works of God,
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

Bless our God, you peoples;
Make the voice of praise to be heard;

Who holds our souls in life,
And will not let our feet to slip.

Blessed be God.

[21] 'The Lamp of Charity' (2003; Op. 489; SATB) was commissioned by Peter J. Gomes and The Memorial Church at Harvard University in honor of Murray Forbes Somerville's ministry there from 1990 through 2003 as Gund University Organist and Choirmaster. The work was premiered by the Harvard University Choir under Somerville's direction on Ascension Day 2003. The text is an evening collect from the Book of Common Prayer.

Grant us, O Lord, the lamp of charity that never fails, that it may burn in us and shed its light on those around us, and that by its brightness we may have a vision of that holy city, where dwells the true and never failing Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[22] Prayer of Julian of Norwich (2003; Op. 528; SAB and organ) was commissioned by St James Music Press and is dedicated to composer Russell Schulz-Widmar. The work is a setting of a brief prayer attributed to the British mystic Julian of Norwich (c. 1342–1416). Julian's writings were the subject of my extended instrumental theater work, Showings of Divine Love (2002).

God, of your goodness, give yourself to me. For you are enough for me: only in you do I have everything. Amen.

[23]–[24] Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis ("St. Peter's, Cambridge") (2003; Op. 470; SATB and organ) was commissioned by St Peter's Episcopal Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts on the occasion of the church's 160th anniversary. The work is a setting of the traditional English text of the evening canticles.

Carson Cooman


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