I IT AM: THE SHEWINGS OF JULIAN OF NORWICH


Movements:
Prologue Life-Lif Feeling/Love/Darkness – Faylyng/Lov/Blyndhed Light-Lyt

Instrumentation:
Soprano, countertenor, baritone, SSAATTBB chorus, chamber orchestra: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, oboe d'amore, horn, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings

Text: John Mauropus, Folquet de Marseille, Josephus, Konrad von Wuerzburg, Ratpert of Saint Gall, Theodore of Studite, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Psalms 17, 18, 27, 41, 54

Duration: 17 minutes

Commissioned By:
The British Broadcasting Corporation and The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

Premiere:
July 29, 2003 by Tamara Matthews, soprano; Daniel Taylor, counter-tenor; Daniel Lichti, baritone; and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Greg Funfgeld conductor; in BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

Available From:
Oxford University Press, rented by C.F. Peters

Composer's Notes:
Drawn from writings of Julian of Norwich, the title I It Am suggests an exploration of the concept of Unity:  one is all = all is one, and One is all that exists. It seems terribly important to me that we examine the spirituality of “One” in our immediate times, times in which we humans seem to be morally drowning in a political sea of aggression, greed, and cultural intolerance. In thinking about this cantata, I searched for a period of history in which cultures that lived by the spiritual book (the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, etc.) coexisted in a civilization of respect, admiration for each other, and mutually beneficial trade and society. I found that culture of tolerance in the Andulusian culture which existed roughly from 750-1492. Studying the spirituality of Andulusian culture cast a rather blinding new light on the same period of cultural development in Europe, and led me back to the writings of Julian of Norwich which I had previously studied as part of my doctoral work.

The text for the libretto is an amalgam of the writings of Julian of Norwich, John Mauropus, Folquet de Marseille, Josephus, Ratpert of Saint Gall, Theodore the Studite, Mechthild of Magedeburg, and Psalms 17, 18, 27, 41 and 54. For the form of the libretto, I decided against external narrative in favor of an exploration and inquiry which pushes the narrative framework outwards from within. There are three soloists: a countertenor, who takes the role of meditative provocateur; a soprano, who is light and ecstasy; and a baritone, who is doubt and the journey through darkness.

The cantata is an exposition of human experience revealed to us through these writings – that within each person light is dark and dark is light. In our times we might call this experience the inevitable human moral dilemma.

Julian of Norwich reveals to us that in each human being God creates light and dark in equal measure and that God’s plan for us is to experience dark during our lifetime, so that we can arrive at God’s purpose for us: we are here to love. We are to learn that we indeed are God as much as God is us. She shows us that we are “oned” with God and we are “oned” with the Trinity, just as the Trinity is One in Three, so we are One in the Trinity. Moreover, she reveals to us that the Trinity is the Father, the Mother, the Holy Spirit, and that GOD is the One of the Three.

At first glance, one might want to attach the word “minimal” to the music. While the accompaniment is more linear than vertical, this approach is meant to underscore the flow of time, again suggesting a medieval perception of time as cyclic measurement. My wish is to create a work for voices and orchestra which is luminous, hopeful, and empowering to the individual human spirit. The last line of the libretto states “It will last forever.” If Julian of Norwich’s revelation is true, that I It Am, and that the Trinity exists in each individual and each individual exists in the Trinity, then regardless of the callous brutality in our world and in our own culture, It will indeed last forever.

I am grateful to the British Broadcasting Corporation and to the Bach Choir of Bethlehem for their adventurous nature and their steadfast belief in the living composer as an essential herald of our collective spirit.

— Libby Larsen

To rent this piece, please visit C.F. Peters.

Additional Information:
See also: Flee We To Our Lord