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Canticle 5

for soprano, oboe and piano

Year:  2008   ·  Duration:  5m 10s

Year:  2008
Duration:  5m 10s

David Hamilton

Composer:   David Hamilton

Films, Audio & Samples

David Hamilton: Canticle 5 ...

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Sample Score

Sample: page 1 and 2

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The 'stations of the cross' are traditionally 14 depictions of the final hours of Christ’s life, each with associated devotions. They are particularly associated with the Catholic Church although other Christian denominations follow similar rituals during Easter week. The object of it is to make a 'spiritual pilgrimage' to each important event and place of Christ’s suffering and death.

Canticle 5 was commissioned as part of an arts project promoted by St Heliers Presbyterian Church for Easter 2008. Visual artists were invited to prepare a response to one of the stations, and composers were asked to provide a musical response. My ‘station’ was number two – Jesus receives the cross.

In wanting to write a work incorporating voice, my starting point was a text. I decided to use the biblical text that follows on from the story of Christ’s appearance before the governor, the placing of the crown of thorns on his head, and the mocking. Although John’s gospel refers to Christ carrying the cross by himself, other gospels record Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross behind Jesus. In Luke’s gospel it is recorded that a large crowd of people followed, mourning and lamenting. Christ turns to the crowd and tells them not to weep for him, but to weep for themselves and for their children, because terrible days are to come. Those with children will wish they had never given birth.

I set just the first line of Jesus’ speech. It is turned into a lament which repeats the same words over and over at progressively higher pitches and with an increasing intensity in the accompaniment. The oboe weaves it’s path through the texture, sometimes commenting on the vocal line, sometimes at odds with it. The relentless tread of the music suggests the steps of Christ on his way to Golgotha.

Musically the piece draws on the few chords which appear in Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the beginning of the chorus Hail, hail King. Much of the harmonic material is derived from the tonic and dominant harmonies of D minor – often superimposing the two chords. The final bars of the piano part are a fragmented version of the opening bar of the choir part from that chorus.

Commissioned note

Commissioned as part of an arts project promoted by St Heliers Presbyterian Church for Easter 2008

Text note

Text from Luke 23:28