Inaugural Choral Performances Champion Community, Love
As Paula Ring Zerkle contemplated an appropriate choral piece for the April 12 Inauguration Ceremony for President Bryon L. Grigsby ‘90, she gravitated toward the compassion and sincerity of Love Is the Key by Zebulon M. Highben (b. 1979).
An unaccompanied SATB divisi work on a text by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional and children’s poems, Love is the Key resonated with Moravian College’s director of choral music. As a result, she selected Highben’s piece for the Moravian College Choir to perform at the formal presidential installation ceremony, scheduled for 2:30 p.m., in Johnston Hall.
Zerkle said the honesty and straightforwardness of Rossetti’s writing really appealed to her. Case in point, Rossetti begins her poem, A Song for the Least of All Saints, with the line, “Love is the key of life and death.”
“She just dives in and gets instantly to the point. Love is a powerful force, and it is an essential part of all our lives’ transitions,” said Zerkle. “I also like the section, ‘I have such feeble faith ... but love is as strong as death.’ This section alludes to the opening text and creates a powerful climactic point in the piece.”
According to Zerkle, the piece has an “aleatoric phrase,” which leaves some rhythmic decisions up to the performers, and stacks three lines, “And I love thee,” “Lov’st thou me?” and “Love is the key.” This creates the effect of a crowd of voices speaking individually, yet forming a strange coherence. (A full text of Love is the Key can be seen below.)
We all need to feel our struggles are as natural as the weather, and they are accepted – and even supported – by others.”
– Paula Ring Zerkle
Asked why the piece was appropriate for the Inaugural festivities, Zerkle offered a personal, yet fitting, reason: the works tie into the College’s sense of community and togetherness.
“My thinking was that the key to any good leadership or community building is compassion and love,” she explained. “We all need to feel our struggles are as natural as the weather, and they are accepted – and even supported – by others.”
For those who attended last December’s Vespers services, Love is the Key will sound familiar. It was also sung at the Moravian traditional event.
According to Highben’s website, Love Is The Key was premiered in May 2011 by Magnum Chorum, a 50-voice chamber choir, in St. Paul, Minn.
Following its Inauguration Ceremony performance, the Moravian Choir will perform Hear My Prayer by Moses Hogan and Louez le Seigneur (translated as Praise the Lord), a traditional Cameroon melody, at the Inaugural Worship Service on Sunday, April 13. The service will begin at 10 a.m. in the Seminary’s Bahnson Center.
For more information about the Moravian’s Inauguration, including details about the schedule and to RSVP, contact the Inaugural Office at 610-861-1467. Or visit the Inaugural website, www.moravian.edu/inauguration.
Love Is the Key
Zebulon M Highben (b. 1979)
Love is the key of life and death,
Of hidden, heavenly mystery;
Of all Christ is, of all he saith,
Love is the key.
As three times to his saint he saith,
He saith to me, he saith to thee,
Breathing his grace-conferring breath:
“Lov’st thou me?”
Ah, Lord, I have such feeble faith,
Such feeble hope to comfort me;
But love it is, is strong as death,
And I love thee.
Hear My Prayer
words and music by Moses Hogan (b.1957)
O Lord, please hear my prayer,
In the mornin’ when I rise
It’s Your servant bound for glory.
O dear Lord, please hear my prayer.
O Lord, please hear my prayer;
Keep me safe within Your arms.
It’s your servant bound for glory.
O Lord, please hear my prayer;
When my work on earth is done,
And You come to take me home
Just to know I’m bound for glory
And to hear You say well done.
Done with sin and sorrow, have mercy. Amen
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