Peace, Everywhere

for mixed choir and 3-part descant; 5′ (2013)
text: traditional Latin and traditional Hindu prayers
(commissioned by the UW-Madison Choral Department)

performed by the combined choirs of the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

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Dona Nobis Pacem

from the Hindu:
Let there be peace in the heavens,
Let there be peace in the atmosphere,
Peace on the earth.

Let there be harmony in the planets and in the stars,
and perfection in eternal knowledge.
May everything in the universe be at peace.

Let peace pervade everywhere, at all times.
May I experience that peace within my own heart.

composer’s note:

luthers_DonaNobisPacemI’ve always been surprisingly moved by the classic three-part round “Dona Nobis Pacem.” It’s very simple, but something about the way in which it keeps asking for peace in a cyclical way inspires me every time. In “Peace, Everywhere” I take that round as a starting point, and add a 4-part choral piece on top of it, interacting with it in rich, beautiful ways.

First, “Dona Nobis Pacem” is presented in its basic form. Soon, a 4-part chorale is added above it, combining those Latin words with a Hindu prayer that asks for peace not only on earth but in the atmosphere and heavens above it. That 4-part chorale, in addition to enriching the harmonic language of “Dona Nobis Pacem,” erases the borders between its verses, creating a more free-flowing prayer for peace. As that chorale winds to a close, the “Dona Nobis Pacem” round stops, leaving the 4-part chorale in the clear to deliver the final twist on this prayer: not only peace everywhere in the universe, but peace in our hearts. After that prayer is given its shining moment, the “Dona Nobis Pacem” round starts up again, but this time both choirs sing it, as a 7-part round full of cascading lines and ultra-lush texture.

“Peace, Everywhere” is not particularly difficult to sing; it is meant to be singable by many choirs, in many different contexts, in many different worlds. It takes something familiar (“Dona Nobis Pacem”) and extends it out, stretching it into a bigger context, a bigger cross-cultural statement about peace, and how peace needs to be not only everywhere in the world, but in ourselves as well.

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