Sacred Music: The Word Was God
Allow me to acquaint, or reacquaint you with Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell, one of America’s premier female composers of choral music. She is a Professor of Voice at Auburn University and has created choral works for women’s, men’s, children’s and mixed voices in a variety of genres, including spiritual and secular.
This work, The Word was God, is a sacred choral anthem for unaccompanied mixed voices and was written in 1996. It is a setting of John 1:1-3
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
As you listen, take note of the 6 iterations of “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God…” — each time with increasing dynamic intensity, from piano to fortissimo. Symbolically, the 7th iteration is replaced by a rest (a rhythmic pause of music). You’ll notice that the various voice groups, Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass, seem to chase one another around on the text — not just an ordinary, every day “round”, but a 3-part canon with the Bass part droning on perfect 5ths.
This exquisite recording by the St. Olaf choir is a near-perfect rendering of the markings in Dr. Powell’s score. The nuance of every small dynamic marking, from phrase shape to arch crescendos and decrescendos, are executed flawlessly by this experienced choral group. You’ll hear every word with crystal clear diction and the tone is just beautiful.
Dr. Powell’s piece begins at the 1:00 minute mark. I love the energy of the piece and the performance done by this choir! Enjoy!