Strengthen for Service
SATB Choir and Organ
$2.00 per score
About the Work
Strengthen for Service was composed in 2022 for the Cathedral of the Madeleine Founders’ Day Concert in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Madeleine Choir School. It is dedicated to the Rectors of the Cathedral of the Madeleine: Monsignor M. Francis Mannion, Monsignor Joseph M. Mayo, Fr. Martin Diaz, in gratitude for their leadership and support in the first twenty-five years of the ministry of the Cathedral's Choir School.
As an alumna of the Madeleine Choir School, I was deeply honored to compose this piece to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The text comes from a post-communion prayer in the Syro-Malabar liturgy, and it was immediately familiar to me, having sung Richard Proulx’s setting of this text as a young chorister. Because this text reminds me of my musical roots at the Cathedral, I wanted to honor the legacy of the Choir School and all it has meant to me in my musical and spiritual development. Once I started setting the text, the music came to me very quickly (which is usually not the case).
The piece begins with a sustained E in the violas, accompanied by a rising and falling ostinato in the violins. The treble voices then enter on the initial phrase, “Strengthen for service.” As the remaining voices join in, the harmonies begin to fill out, with the strings growing in intensity as the voices sing “may eyes which saw your love be bright,” and “heavenly hope perceiving.” At the words, “true light,” the strings echo the choir’s proclamations, building to a climax on the text “from your true light never be banished.” This climax is followed by a passage for the strings expressing the intense feelings of the text. The choir then serenely sings a cappella “May bodies by your body fed, be with your new life replenished,” gradually blossoming on the final phrase. With the return of the opening string ostinato, the choir sings the final “Amen,” and the music eventually returns to the lone sustained E that began the work.
Strengthen for service, O Lord,
hands that holy things have taken;
and let ears that heard your most holy word
to lesser things never awaken.
Lord, may tongues which “Holy” sang
be free from all deceiving,
may eyes which saw your love be bright,
heavenly hope perceiving;
and may feet that walked along hallowed courts
from your true light never be banished.
May bodies by your Body fed
be with your new life replenished.
– from the Syro-Malabar Liturgy (5th century)