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!




Violadiva is an oxymoron, a musician, a yogi, a Suzuki violin teacher, a late-night baker of sourdough breads, proud Mormon feminist, happy wife of Pianoman and lucky mother to three.

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6 Responses

  1. Patty says:

    My new favorite piece of religious music! Thank you!!

  2. ESM says:

    I mostly listen to sacred music – I have very little tolerance for most secular music.

    I’m always so impressed with this type of music, but most impressed by the talented people like Dr. Powell, conductors, et al, who put together this type of music, just so inspiring. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Emily U says:

    Love it! Thanks for bringing this piece and her work to my attention.

  4. Ziff says:

    This was gorgeous! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    Lovely! And Dr. Powell’s website has so many more beautiful pieces. Thank you for sharing this, Violadiva.

  6. Rachel says:

    I keep coming back to this hymn. Thank you!

    (And: I love, love, love St. Olaf. I studied there for two summers, and created some of my best life and student memories.)

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