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World Premiere- Performance April 17, 2011

Over the past eight months, a new motet has been composed for the Incarnate Word Senior and  

Youth choirs in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Music Series.  


J. Scott Brubacher, a young Toronto-based musician, was selected for this commission, and the process of working with him on the creation of this new work came to fruition in the worship service on Palm Sunday morning, April 17, 2011. While the scriptural texts are drawn from the Palm Sunday narrative, the musical tone will offer an emotional transition from the Palm Sunday cries of “Hosanna” to the themes Holy Week.


The composer shares his own description below: 


The choral anthem, They Took Palm Branches, is inspired, in part, by two melodies long associated with Palm Sunday, which I incorporate into the composition. First, I borrow a medieval chant tune, Pueri Hebræorum, which was sung as a processional antiphon on Palm Sunday for centuries in the Western church. The Latin text associated with this plainchant melody describes the Hebrew children spreading branches and garments out on the path before the Lord as he comes riding into Jerusalem.


My composition begins with a complete statement of the plainchant melody (harmonized in the organ part) as a sort of procession, or introduction, to the rest of the piece. The women’s voices enter with new music, telling the Palm Sunday story in English text, taken from the Gospels of Matthew and John. The music is unmetered, evoking a sense of mystery and timelessness. I intersperse the narrative choral statements with phrases of the plainchant tune in the organ. When the Hebrews address the Lord, the full choral ensemble enters, as well as the youth choir, singing its own melodic line in Latin to the text, “Hosanna in excelsis!” The youth choir “Hosanna” melody grows into a longer phrase, in a minor key, which is then taken up by the full choir.

halfway through the piece, my second inspiration appears: the 17th-century hymn tune, Winchester New, commonly sung to the Palm Sunday text, “Ride on, ride on in majesty!” It is played in the organ pedals, accompanied in the manuals by Pueri  Hebræorum in a triplet rhythm. When the hymn tune reappears later in the piece, the choir sings the first phrase in a celebratory unison. The organ continues on it own, leaving the listener to contemplate the meaning of the next phrase of this hymn, “In lowly pomp ride on to die.” The full choral ensemble concludes the composition with a major version of the “Hosanna” melody, which is now revealed as the second half of the Winchester New melody.”