David’s Kyrie

Listen (simulation)

For SSAATTBB a cappella Chorus

David’s Kyrie is a setting of selected verses from Psalm 51. It is a challenging piece suited for advanced choirs in an academic or concert setting or for adventurous ensembles in sacred services. It mixes ancient and modern forms and sonorities to depict the contrition, repentance, absolution, and salvation portrayed in the psalm, juxtaposing medieval chant with Whitacre-esque clusters and dissonances. In structure, David’s Kyrie roughly follows the Kyrie of the Christian mass and even borrows a melodic line from a medieval Kyrie.

The heading for Psalm 51 states that it is “For the director of music ” underscoring the fact that all 150 psalms in the Bible were meant to be sung, as they have been for most of the last 3,000 years. It is my hope that David’s Kyrie will be an encouragement to continue that great heritage.


Duration: ~6’00”




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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.


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