David’s Kyrie is a mixture of ancient and modern. The text is taken from selected verses of Psalm 51, King David’s great confession and petition for mercy after his adultery with Bathsheba. Studying this psalm, I noted that the first half resembles the traditional Kyrie of the Christian mass. Thus the form, melody, and title of this work are all inspired by medieval chant. The form employs antiphonal discourse between cantor and choir in three stanzas. The cantor role, intoned in the tenor solos, uses a tune derived from the medieval Kyrie Cunctipotens Genitor (being, roughly, “Lord, all powerful father”) and is harmonized over a bass line liberally employing perfect fourths, fifths and octaves as would be found in chant. The cantor is answered by choir using late Twentieth-Century styled chord clusters which resolve into a cadence on extended tertian chords. In the third stanza, the cantor is replaced by the chorus, typically building from a single voice into dense clusters shimmering between dissonance and consonance.
David’s Kyrie is a suited to the advanced high school or higher level choir for the concert stage, or would make a wonderful addition to the sacred repertoire of the adventurous church ensemble.