July 15: Petker – Te Deum to Music, 2002

Jon CurtisSeason of the Day, SOTD - July

On July 10th we looked at Kevin Memley’s “Magnificat,” which was performed at Carnegie Hall in May of 2015. Today we will hear Allan Petker’s “Te Deum to Music” which was performed at Carnegie Hall in 2018. Consort performed it for Opus 9 in 2002.

Once again, we have no recordings from the Carnegie Hall concert, but we do have this set of photos of Allan conducting. You can see more Carnegie Hall photos from the May 2015 concert, here.

2018 Carnegie Hall
2018 trip to Carnegie Hall, Allan Robert Petker conducting his "Te Deum to Music."

Here is an audio recording of Allan’s “Te Deum to Music” with Consort in 2002:

Program Notes

God is Singing Over You

Movement One uses the text from Zephaniah 3:17, “God is singing over you…” The verse begins with “The Lord is in your midst…” and the music creates a sound that suggests the fear we would undoubtedly feel to be in the presence of the Creator of all things. Then the music moves to portray comfort and assurance as we realize we need not be in fear – that this is a God of love. When the scripture reveals that God dances and sings over us the music moves into a lively jig, incorporating both Irish and American Country flavors. The dance is suspended by a brief revisit to our emotions of fear, but is soon followed by assurance. Then the dance returns in earnest.

We Sing to the Majesty of God

Movement Two uses the verses from I Chronicles 16:23-25 which calls us to “sing unto God,” almost as a command given by a monarch. The music captures this regal and stately flair by using Handelian (like a Handel anthem) construction. A typical Baroque fugue ensues with an obvious affinity for the heralding interval of the fifth. Following the exposition, a very modern, arrhythmic theme interrupts, “Declare God’s marvelous works among the people.” This contrasting theme is still very orderly but noticeably contemporary. Eventually the fugue returns, but now in the midst of a development section containing inversions, double canons and strettos in homage to our heritage of Baroque church music. A final surge to the dominant and it is as if the interval of the fifth gives way and leaps from the Baroque to the new millennium. Fifths spiral up and down into a cacophony of sound that finally explodes into the modern, secondary theme – a symbol that the God of our heritage is the same God we worship today.

We Sing to the Grace of God

The third movement depicts the gentler side of singing to God – from within. Colossians 3:16 states, “Let the words of Christ dwell richly in you … singing hymns and songs to God.” The secondary theme of the previous movement become the first thread that links movements two and three together. Although displaced rhythmically and harmonically, the connection will be immediately apparent. The same interval of the fifth will become the building motif for the contrapuntal statements of the middle section. Connecting the second and third movements celebrates how we worship God in different ways: using music to praise God in strength (Movement Two), or in quiet meditation (Movement Three). The movement concludes as gently as it began, and disappears sonorously, but leaves the listener suspended harmonically, so we can be assured there is more worship to come.

Music Itself Glorifies God

Movement Four awakens us from our meditation and throws us into a driving ostinato. The subject of this movement is that “music itself glorifies God.” The choir enters with the opening words of the “Te Deum” in a primal chant. The “Te Deum” is perhaps the oldest song of praise to God that has been set to music by composers through the ages. Stated first in the traditional Latin, the English translation appears in the very next section where the music paints images of God and worship in strikingly twentieth century colors using tone clusters, bitonality and minimalistic tendencies. The centerpiece of the movement is the elegant text of Fred Pratt Green, “When in Our Music God is Glorified.” The melody is grand, reassuring and passionate, and only alters between verses to portray the magnificent lyrics of Rev. Green. The Te Deum text returns in a surprising burst of energy that drives to an exhilarating conclusion.