About I Will Meditate
The worldwide revival of Compline, a late-night service dating from early Christian times, began with this choir and the vision of its founder, Peter Hallock. Today, hundreds of young people fill Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, every Sunday night to hear this choir, and they are joined by thousands who hear Compline over radio and the Internet.
This recording honors the musical craft of Peter Hallock and Richard Proulx, who wrote much of the music sung by this choir since its founding in 1956.
- Producer: Brian Fairbanks
- Audio Engineer: Bill Levey / VIA Audio Seattle, Washington
- Recorded in June 2011 at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, Washington
- Label: Gothic Recordings G-49284
- Release date: 4 June 2013
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Recording Artists for I Will Meditate
The Compline Choir
Jason A. Anderson, II Director
- Jeremy Matheis, reader
- Thomas Adams, cantor
- Jeff Fair, French horn (track 10)
- Brian Fairbanks, tabor (track 10)
Meditation and contemplation, folded in prayer, chant, and music are the essence of Compline at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle. The very existence of Compline in Seattle is due to the untiring efforts of Peter R. Hallock, who, through his own music-making with the Compline Choir, inspired countless church musicians to “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful” (Psalm 149:1). Among those inspired musicians is Richard T. Proulx.
This recording offers a sampling of ten of Hallock’s nearly 50 psalm settings and premiere recordings of Proulx’s works for the Compline Choir. Proulx’s haunting setting of Psalm 119:47-48 entitled I will meditate serves as the title track for this recording. The hymn tune Land of Rest (Jerusalem, my happy home) was arranged by Proulx for the Compline Choir in the early 1970s; from the same time comes his Nunc dimittis—a simple, two-part setting with a repeating handbell throughout. The Compline Choir commissioned Proulx’s large-scale anthem In Praise of Music for its 50th anniversary celebration (celebrated two years early in 2004—now we know better) and features choir, French horn, and tabor.
The Compline Choir worked with Richard Proulx on November 22, 2009 (four months before his death) at Holy Sounds for a Holy Space, a concert in honor of Peter Hallock upon his retirement as director of the Compline Choir. Proulx substantially revised In Praise of Music, traveled to Seattle, rehearsed with the Compline Choir and Jeffrey Fair (French horn), and directed its premiere.
In the first several centuries of the Christian church, the books of Judaism, including the psalms [Greek: psalmoi, or “songs of praise”], were interpreted in the light of the good news of Jesus Christ, and became known as the Old Testament. Recitation of the psalms became the central part of the daily offices. In the monastic tradition originating in Egypt and spreading to southern France and the British Isles, psalms were sung one after the other—sometimes all 150 in a single day. St. Benedict apportioned all the psalms among the offices so that the entire psalter was sung weekly. For Compline he appointed the same three psalms—4, 91, and 134—to be sung each and every day.
Since Compline at Saint Mark’s was sung only once each week, it soon became too restrictive to sing only the three psalms appointed by Benedict; rather, the choir sang a psalm appropriate to the Sunday or particular liturgical occasion for which the service is offered. After the publication of new translations of the psalms in the Book of Common Prayer (1979), Peter Hallock began to compose musical settings of all the psalms for the three-year lectionary cycle (the Ionian Psalter). He also wrote settings of the psalms for the Compline Choir.
Psalm 119 provides both the text for the orison I will meditate as well as the psalm sung as part of the Office of Compline for the recording. This psalm, the longest chapter of the Bible, consists of 22 stanzas, in which the eight verses of each stanza begin with the same Hebrew letter. It is a type of psalm called a “psalm of orientation,” indicating confidence in God—a stable, happy, and blessed state. Almost every verse refers to or extols God’s word (or its synonyms such as “laws,” “commandments,” or “statutes”); for this reason 119 is often called a “Psalm of Torah”. The verses set are 33-48, which have as their common theme a desire to know and follow God’s commandments.
Another Psalm of Torah is Psalm 15; here Peter Hallock has captured the psalm’s essence into an antiphon: “The righteous shall abide upon God’s holy hill.” This psalm enumerates ten moral qualities that are necessary to those who want to have a relationship to the Divine; although not the same as the Ten Commandments, the parallel is striking. A particularly moving section is at the end, where the higher parts hold onto the last chord of “shall never be overthrown”—without being “thrown off” by the bass entrance of the final antiphon.
Psalms 29 and 103 are also psalms of orientation, as well as hymns of praise; the former has also been called a “psalm of creation” because it refers to God’s voice in many manifestations, such as breaking the cedars, or making Mount Hermon (a prominent peak in an area of Baal-worshippers) shake “like a young wild ox”. Psalm 103, by contrast, praises the God of mercy and compassion, whose kingship is extolled along with the angels, the “mighty ones who do his bidding”.
Psalms 4 and 134 are two of the three psalms appointed for Compline by St. Benedict. Peter Hallock has chosen to use the two-verse Psalm 134 as an antiphon before and after Psalm 4. “Behold now, bless the Lord” is the last in a series of pilgrim songs, or “songs of ascent,” sung thrice-yearly on journeys to the temple mount in Jerusalem. The psalm refers to the priestly worship in the temple, and was chosen for Compline because of the verse “you that stand by night in the house of the Lord”. Psalm 4, sometimes called a “psalm of re-orientation” because it contains both laments as well as declarations of faithfulness, has elements that connect it to the “Shema Israel” that was said on arising and retiring; and verse 4 (“…speak to your heart in silence upon your bed”) is not only foundational to Compline, but occurs as well in the Jewish Bedtime Shema.
Psalm 89 is the only psalm in this collection that is truly classified as a lament, or “psalm of disorientation.” However, the portions set here deal with God’s faithfulness in his covenant with David, and so are similar in tone to Psalm 4. Christians regard the verse “I will establish his line forever, and his throne as the days of heaven” as prophetic. Psalm 84, another hymn of praise, is a pilgrim psalm, even though it is outside the group of “psalms of ascents;” it expresses a deep love for the temple, and the desire to be like the small birds that nest in the cracks of the temple stones.
The recording closes with two of the final psalms in the psalter, psalms 147 and 149. These hymns of praise are both “Hallelujah” psalms because they contain the word that means “Praise YHWH,” or “Praise God!” Psalm 147 has creation-images such as the giving of food and blessing with children, while 149 is a pure song of victory—with striking images of a banquet where victors recline on their couches, with the praises of God in their throats and a “two-edged sword” [Heb. “sword of mouths”] in their hands.
—Kenneth V. Peterson
© 2013 Gothic Records and The Compline Choir.
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