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New Bach Choir piece gets strength from Sept. 11 events

Composer Glenn Rudolph says the deadly events of Sept. 11 taught him a lesson he hopes to convey in a composition for one of the happiest times of the year.

“Some people are just not going to get what peace is all about until it happens,” he says. “Sept. 11 makes the words in this work just really stand out.”

The terrorist attacks on the United States that killed thousands of people also shaped the way Rudolph finished his new work, “The Dream Isaiah Saw,” to be premiered Sunday by the Bach Choir.

“I guess I could have finished the piece the way I did if Sept. 11 never happened, but I doubt it,” he says.

He says when he started putting the final touches on the work, he was driven to make the finale sweeping and satisfying, contrasting with the rather simple opening.

Besides Rudolph’s work, the concerts also will include other new works:

  • “Cantate Hodie (Sing Forth the Day)” by Joseph Wilcox Jenkins, professor of composition at Duquesne University, Uptown.

  • “Two Carols” by Mack Wilberg.

  • “We Sing Thy Birth” by Stephen Paulus.

  • “Wither’s Carol” by Kieren MacMillan.

    The concert also will feature other works and the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass. That group is led by the orchestra’s principal trumpet George Vosburgh, trumpeter Neal Bernsten, principal French horn William Caballero, principal trombone Peter Sullivan, principal bass trombone Murray Crewe and principal tuba Sumner Erickson.

    “And how great it is to write for them,” Rudolph says of the brass crew, admitting he wrote their parts with those individuals in mind. “It’s so nice to write a piece and know it is going to be played well.”

    While the work of the brass players might have been obvious, the role of Sept. 11 wasn’t.

    Rudolph says he was commissioned to write a Christmas piece in early August and began searching for lyrics.

    “It has taken me enough time to learn how to write music, I don’t want to mess with words,” the Cranberry, Butler County, resident says.

    For that reason, he says, he files away works that he might use sometime. He went to his collection of possible Christmas lyrics and came across Thomas Troeger’s 1994 poem, “Lion and Oxen Will Sleep in the Hay.”

    He sent a rough draft to Bach Choir music director Brady Allred by Sept. 1, and Allred returned it with his approval four or five days later, Rudolph says. The creation of a new work was moving along smoothly.

    Then Sept. 11 came about – and the lyrics took on a new significance, Allred says.

    “I loved the words when I first saw them,” he says. “I thought they were very poignant, but that poignancy became even stronger after Sept. 11.”

    Rudolph points to some verses as particularly meaningful.

    Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
    God will transfigure the violence concealed
    deep in the heart and in systems of gain,
    ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.

    and

    Nature reordered to match God’s intent,
    nations obeying the call to repent,
    all of creation completely restored,
    filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.

    Rudolph says he chose the work initially because he found its philosophy to match his. He adds that he tries to guide works in that direction to make their presentations easier.

    “I don’t just crank it out,” he says. “It’s tough for performers to do a piece they really don’t care for.”

    ‘In Dulci Jubilo!’


  • The Bach Choir and the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass performing five new works
  • 7 p.m. Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Upper St. Clair; 8 p.m. Monday at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland
  • Tickets $7 to $18
  • (412) 394-3353


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