This concert features Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater performed with a professional orchestra and with world-premiere choreography by Mitch Flanders and the Griffin Ballet Theatre . Like our 2010 joint performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, this evening promises to be a thrill for the eyes and the ears.
When in 2009 Griffin Choral Arts Artistic Director Stephen Mulder approached Mitchell Flanders, Artistic Director of the Griffin Ballet Theatre, with the possibility of highlighting the inherent musical drama of composer Karl Jenkins’2000 cantata The Armed Man: a Mass for Peace with dance and other visual enhancement, a world-premiere idea was born. Soon followed the March 2010 collaboration in stagings of that Jenkins work in this same auditorium.
So artistically successful was that staging that Jenkins’ more recent Stabat Mater again cried out for a second Griffin-area world premiere: tonight’s production of A Mother’s Tears. In re-titling the program Mulder and Flanders emphasize the universality of the subject matter, as explained by Jenkins himself in the Composer’s Note prefacing the score:
Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Roman Catholic poem attributed to Jacopone da Todi. Its title is an
abbreviation of the first line, Stabat Mater dolorosa (‘the sorrowful mother was standing’). This text, one of the most powerful and immediate of medieval poems, meditates on the suffering of Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, during his crucifixion.
It has been set to music by many composers, among them Haydn, Dvořák, Vivaldi, Rossini, Pergolesi, Gounod, Penderecki, Poulenc, Szymanowski, Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti and Verdi.
In addition, I have set six texts that lie outside the original poem. These comprise a choral arrangement of the Ave verum that I originally composed for [fellow Welsh baritone] Bryn Terfel; And the Mother did weep, comprising a single line of mine sung in English, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic (the common language of the period in the Middle East); Lament by Carol Barratt, written especially for this work; Incantation, semi-improvised . . . and sung partly in early Aramaic; then two settings of ancient texts, revised into the original Stabat Mater rhyming scheme by the poet Grahame Davies, which is sung in both English and Aramaic.
Of the two ancient texts Are you lost out in darkness? comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the world’s oldest written story, recorded on clay tablets in the 7th century BCE, and based on material from the third millennium BCE. It is from the ancient Babylonian civilisation, which means, of course, that it has come from what is now Iraq, so it has real resonance for our current time. It tells the story of the hero Gilgamesh and his exploits. The central point is the cursing and subsequent death of Gilgamesh’s friends and companion, Enkidu. Gilgamesh laments him bitterly and, stricken with the fear of death, goes in search of immortality, ultimately without success. [The chosen text] is where Gilgamesh laments his friend.
Now my life is only weeping is by Jalal al-Din Rumi, the 13th-century Persian mystic poet, for whom grief was a central fact of his personal history. He had an intense relationship with a spiritual mentor called Shams al-Din Tabrizi whose apparent murder turned Rumi into a poet and mystic who sought consolation in the Divine.
The scoring of Stabat Mater features ancient instruments and modes from the Middle East/Holy Land: percussion such as the darbuca, def, doholla and riq; the double-reed woodwind instrument the mey [or duduk]; and, alongside western harmony, scales or modes (magams) such as Hijaz and Bayati.
(Copyright Karl Jenkins, reprinted by permission)
Jenkins conducted the world premiere of his Stabat Mater in Liverpool Cathedral on 15 March 2008 featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.
The son of an organist/choirmaster in a seaside village in southern Wales, Karl Jenkins (b. 1944) studied classical music at the University of Wales at Cardiff and as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His musically eclectic spirit also led him into the fields of jazz and even rock, as a member of the well-known 1970’s band “Soft Machine” and eventually as guiding force of the crossover classical/world-music/new-age/pop Adiemus album-recording project. His credits include important successes in commercial music and film-scoring. He holds a Doctor of Music from the University of Wales and was awarded an additional honorary doctorate from the University of Leicester. In 2005 he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Even if they don’t know his name, audiences are probably familiar with some of his music, especially from television commercials for Delta Airlines (the African-chant-sounding “Adiemus”) and the De Beers diamond company (the string-orchestral, classical-sounding “Palladio”). While Jenkins’ use of musical styles with such strong affinity with commercial advertising and other popular art forms (especially film scores) sometimes comes under criticism, the appeal of this music to a wide spectrum of listeners makes Jenkins’ music uncommonly accessible. The Armed Man: a Mass for Peace has been performed by thousands throughout the world, and his equally universal Stabat Mater is quickly rivaling that extensive appeal. While no evidence is available that either The Armed Man: a Mass for Peace or Stabat Mater has ever been expanded into ballet presentation anywhere else in the world, Jenkins’ powerfully kinetic and “visual” musical style has been recognized for its choreographic potential by commissions from the Royal Ballet.
Movement-by-Movement Texts, Translation, and Notes
1. Cantus lacrimosus (Latin)
Stabat Mater dolorosa juxta crucem lacrimosa, dum pendebat Filius.
Cujus animam gementem, contristatam et dolentem, pertransivit gladius.
O Quam tristis et afflicta fuit illa benedicta mater Unigeniti!
Quae maerebat et dolebat pia Mater dum videbat nati poenas incliti.
The grieving Mother stood beside the cross weeping where her Son was hanging.
Through her weeping soul, compassionate and grieving, a sword passed.
O how sad and afflicted was that blessed Mother of the Only-begotten!
Who mourned and grieved, the pious Mother, with seeing the torment of her glorious Son.
The text presents the first four verses of the traditional Stabat Mater (variously attributed to Italian Franciscan monk Jacopone da Todi, d. 1306, and even earlier to Pope Innocent III, d. 1216). In keeping with the universal theme of the grieving mother, this first movement sets the stage for the many other elements of the music through which Jenkins seeks universal reach and inclusiveness, but with special focus on the many cultures and faiths which center on the ancient Middle East, beginning here with Latin, the language of the medieval Roman Christian Church. While later in the work Jenkins imitates a wide variety of styles of world music, this opening movement unmistakably shows “the Karl Jenkins style,” which attendees at the 2010 GCA/GBT staging of The Armed Man: a Mass for Peace may readily recognize. In fact, Jenkins even borrows from his own earlier work, in further extending variations upon his “Cantus—Song of Tears” from his 1997 Adiemus II album. Jenkins’ musical eclecticism often includes wit, as evidenced almost exactly halfway through the long opening movement by a brief “quotation” of Schubert’s familiar sacred song “Ave Maria,” sung to the word “Filius,” further emphasizing the central connection between Christ and his grieving mother as the heart of the rest of the cantata to follow.
2. Incantation (Arabic)
Salli li ajinaa, ya qaddisa Maryam, ya walidat Allah, al adharaal adhara, salli li ajlinaa.
(Pray for us, O Holy Mary, O Mother of God, O virgin of virgins, pray for us.)
This traditional Arabic text is sung by a contralto soloist, with great expressive freedom. At least to Christian ears Jenkins’ universalist surprise is to have the equivalent of the opening lines of the Rosary sung in Arabic language and musical style. The Virgin Mary is the only female mentioned by name in the Qur’an. Islamic tradition does not exclude the possibility of a scene in which Mary stands at the foot of the cross, but at the same time does not generally believe that Jesus died there. Yet Jenkins imagines an Islamic “Stabat Mater” scene not so much theologically as, more importantly, to foreground the universal Suffering Mother theme.
3. Vidit Jesum in tormentis (Latin)
Quis est homo qui non fleret, Matrem Christi si videret in tanto supplicio?
Quis non posset contristari, Christi Matrem comtemplari dolentum cum Filio?
Pro peccatis suae gentis vidit Jesum in tormentis, et flagellis subditum.
Vidit suum dulcem natum moriendo desolatum, dum emisit spiritum.
Eia Mater, fons amoris, me sentire vim doloris fac, ut tecum lugeam.
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum in amando Christum Deum, ut sibi complaceam.
Is there anyone who would not weep, if seeing the Mother of Christ in such agony?
Who would not have compassion upon beholding the devout mother suffering with her Son?
For the sins of his people she saw Jesus in torment and subjected to the scourge.
She saw her sweet Son dying forsaken, while he gave up his spirit.
O Mother, fountain of love, make me feel the power of sorrow, that I may grieve with you.
Grant that my heart may burn in the love of the Lord Christ that I may please him.
The music is again recognizably Jenkinsian, here setting verses 5-10 of the Stabat Mater poem with dramatically insistent repetition and rising intensity through unusual key changes. The climax of the effect is the loud, high “She saw Jesus in torment [Vidit Jesum in tormentis],” just before the sudden, hushed close, drawing us into Mary’s overwhelming despair.
4. Lament (English)
Feeling all the grief and sorrow we live life with shadows in our hearts and minds
With tears that wait to fall when sorrow in the world is more than we can truly bear.
We hear the cries of children, we see death cast shadows on their hearts and minds,
As mothers in their grief stand crying, weeping, weeping, crying, crying, weeping, weeping for this world.
On our bed of thorns such sorrow must surely end, our tears can wash away the sins of the world,
No more crying, weeping, weeping, crying, crying, weeping, weeping in this world, this world.
This poem was written expressly for Jenkins’ new Stabat Mater by his spouse, Carol Barratt. Also for contralto solo, this English-text and more familiarly Western music contrasts the previous Arabic “Incantation” as a means of further emphasizing the solidarity of grieving mothers everywhere in the world.
5. Sancta Mater (Latin)
Sancta Mater, istud agas, cricifixi fige plagas cordo meo valide.
Tui nati vulnerati tam dignati pro me pati poenas mecum divide.
Fac me tecum pie flere cricifixo condolere, donec ego vixero.
Juxta crucem tecum stare et me tibi sociare in planctu desidero.
Holy Mother, grant this of yours, that the wounds of the Crucified be well-formed in my heart.
Grant that the punishment of your wounded Son, so worthily suffered for me, may be shared with me.
Let me, pious one, weep with you, bemoan the Crucified for as long as I live.
To stand beside the cross with you, and for me to join you in mourning, this I desire.
The intensity of the suffering expressed in verses 11-14 of the traditional Stabat Mater finds its musical counterparts in this “relentless” (the composer’s performance indication), turbulent, angular movement realizing the full emotional impact of the death of Mary’s son on the cross. While the insistent Latin word “fac” first appeared in movement 3 (“fac” meaning “make [me]”), from this point forward throughout the rest of the cantata the music forces us into the emotions expressed. Jenkins’ affinity for film scoring reflects in a climactic repetition of the words “Sancta Mater” in a sweeping phrase highly reminiscent of the Nino Rota music for the Godfather film series, in which similar themes plead for help in bearing tragic pain by sharing it with other sufferers.
6. Now my life is only weeping (English and Aramaic)
Now my life is only weeping, like a candle melting, like a flute my cries are song.
Barchay bal choordd hasha haina, sharach barmooth shaooth shra, barmooth baroof rauvai kal.
Following the virtual shrieks of pain in Movement 5 this movement—and indeed most of the reminder of the cantata—expresses quiet reflection on the aftermath of deep loss. As mentioned in Jenkins’ “Composer’s Note” at the beginning of the score, this text is from the Quatrains by Jalal al-Din Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and best-known exponent of Islamic mysticism. Also for contralto solo, this time those expressions of grief are accompanied by wordless “Ahs” of sympathy from the multi-divided voices of the rest of the chorus. Although the source of the text is Persian, the language itself is Aramaic, the language of Jesus and of the common people he lived among. Despite the grieving subject, the musical effect approaches a rarefied form of ecstasy (in some sense resulting from rather than in spite of the difficulty of the voice parts), in keeping with the mystical, Sufist source of the text.
7. And the Mother did weep (English, Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Greek)
And the Mother did weep, she did weep.
Vehaeym bachetah (Hebrew)
Lacrimavit Mater (Latin)
Warkath hahi imam (Aramaic)
Kai eklausen he meter (Greek)
In these latter movements Jenkins frames the Mother’s grief in a variety of different musical forms, as a way of widening the emotional perspective on the depth of that grief. This seventh movement also adapts an earlier Jenkins work, the seventh movement of his first Adiemus album in 1995. The chosen musical framing effects here begin with a Bach-like chorus setting the English words written by Karl Jenkins “And the mother did weep, she did weep.” In contrast to this homophonic (chord-like) opening follows a somewhat more rapid polyphonic section using four different languages (Sopranos in Hebrew, Altos in Latin, Tenors in Aramaic, Basses in Greek) yet all singing the same words “And the Mother did weep.” Although associations with the Tower of Babel initially arise, the effect is not confusion but instead a statement about the impact of this grief throughout the ancient world. Not only are multiple languages used but so are further borrowings from world musical styles, in the case of this middle section of harmonies reminiscent of Italian Romanticism, especially the Verdi Requiem. Yet as if to realize that little can truly be done to lessen the grief, the slower Bach-like homophony returns to conclude the movement. So rich is the homage to Baroque style that period structures such as the passacaglia (featuring a downward-moving ostinato bass line as foundation to the upper voices) are prominent among both musical and emotional effects in both the opening and the closing sections.
8. Virgo virginum (Latin)
Virgo Virginum praeclara, mihi iam nos sis amara; fac me tecum plangere.
(Chosen Virgin of virgins, be not bitter to me now; let me mourn with you.)
If musical consolation was sought from the Bach-like preceding movement, Brahms-like Romanticism is the hope in Movement 8. The use of triple meter (waltz-like ¾ time), especially of the 18th and 19th-century ländler folk-dance tradition, implies some lightening of mood, though that is balanced by the minor-key setting. As in Movement 3, a series of unusual key changes intensifies the longing to share Mary’s grief. Never a loud movement, the music crescendos near the end, but even then only to a dynamic of mp (medium soft).
9. Are you lost out in darkness? (English and Aramaic)
As mentioned in the prefatory Composer’s Note, the text comes from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh (which contains a flood story that pre-dates and may even have influenced the Old Testament Noah story).
Are you lost out in darkness? In your sleep, your silence, endless? Can you no more hear my voice?
Ahtu sheereek bercheshka? Damkuthak shetkaak dalalam? Meshar arlam mashma kaalee?
Sharp contrast from the preceding movement’s Romantic musical style is provided by the ancient modal (even non- Western, pre-scale) sound of the melody, introduced by contralto solo, which then moves into a choral texture of almost modernist, Phillip Glass-like minimalism. A haunting semi-canon on the forlorn words “Can you no more hear my voice?” follows before the contralto soloist re-intones the words in the even more ancient and desolate-sounding Aramaic, to which the chorus again replies in semi-canon, also in Aramaic.
10. Ave Verum (Latin)
Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine. Vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine.
Cujus latus perforatum fluxit aqua et sanguine. Esto nobis praegustatum mortis in examine.
Jesu dulcis! Jesu pie, Fili Mariae. Amen.
Hail, true body, born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, sacrificed on the cross for mankind,
Whose pierced side flowed with water and blood, be for us a foretaste in the trial of death.
Sweet Jesus! Blessed Jesus, Son of Mary. Amen.
The setting of the “Ave Maria” by Mozart is among the most familiar and recognizable of choral anthems. Jenkins pays tribute to that famous precedent but also in a style reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein. The text is that of the traditional 14th-century Communion hymn Ave Verum Corpus.
11. Fac, ut portem Christi mortem (Latin)
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem, passionis fac me sortem, et plagas recolere.
Fac me plagis vulnerari, fac me cruce inebriari et cruore Filii.
Grant that I may bear the death of Christ, share his passion and the remembrance of his wounds.
Let me be wounded with his wounds, let me be inebriated by the cross and the blood of your Son.
The text consists of verses 16-17 of the traditional Stabat Mater. Musically, the slow tempo and the labored rising and falling intervals in the voice lines may form the emotional climax of the work, in the most deeply intimate identification with Mary’s suffering at the loss of her beloved child.
12. Paradisi gloria (Latin)
Flammis ne urar succensus, per te, Virgo, sim defensus in die judicii.
Christe, cum sit hinc exire, da per Matreum me venire ad palmam victoriae.
Quando corpus morietur, fac, ut animae donetur paradisi Gloria. Amen. Alleluia.
Lest I burn, set afire by flames, Virgin, may I be defended by you on the day of judgment.
Christ, when it is time to pass away grant through your Mother that I may come to the palm of victory.
When my body dies, grant that to my soul is given the glory of paradise. Amen. Alleluia.
The concluding verses 18-20 of the Stabat Mater suggest the character of the final movement of the music: a Dies Irae (musical representation of the Day of Wrath) in an awe-filled admixture with a raucous excitement in the hope for the glories of Paradise, in this case perhaps especially for those–including us in the listening and watching audience–who perhaps daily join the Tearful Mother(s) who stand in grieving witness at the world’s too-many crosses.
Program notes by Bill Pasch, with thanks to Steve Mulder and Marty Watts.
Notes, texts, publicity, and performance of Stabat Mater, by Karl Jenkins, by arrangement with Hendon Music. Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher and copyright owner.
Angele Lawless, concertmaster, violin 1
Shawn Pagliarini, violin 1
Michele Mariage Volz, violin 1
Sally Martin, principle, violin 2
Sinisa Ciric, violin 2
Robert Givens, violin 2
Julie Rosseter Sweeney, viola
Elizabeth Wood, viola
Sarah Park, viola
Martin Georgiuv, cello
David Lloyd, cello
Lyn DeRamus, bass
Ann Lillya, oboe
Russell Williamson, French horn
David McCurley, French horn
Paul Poovey, trumpet
John Lawless, percussion
Jeff Kershner, percussion
Ron Volz, percussion