Four Sacred Songs

James Primosch

Performing Ensemble: Voice with Instrument
Duration: 12:00
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

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Four Sacred Songs · James Primosch · 21st Century Consort

Quick Overview

When Christine Schadeberg asked me to compose a new work for her 1989 Town Hall recital, she asked for something lighter in tone than my usual style, suggesting that I consider writing some folk song arrangements. I agreed to the idea of arrangements, but rather than folk songs, I chose three old sacred melodies; the idea of sharing with a concert audience a few of the musical riches that I had encountered in my work as a liturgical musician was particularly attractive. In 1990, I orchestrated these piano and voice songs, adding the second movement which exists only in the chamber ensemble version.

The first song is a strophic chant hymn with a text by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the great Cistercian monk and preacher.

I have set "Corde Natus Ex Parentis" using a somewhat free version of the medieval technique known as a mensuration canon: except for a few freely imitative phrases, all the parts have the same melody, but played at different speeds. For example, the low cello and harp notes mark out the tune at a pace six times slower than the voice.

The chant "Christus Factus Est" appears in the Liber Usualis as part of the Holy Week liturgy; the melody is unusually wide-ranging and highly melismatic. The text is part of St. Paul's famous "Philippians Hymn," and speaks of the mystery of Christ's suffering and exaltation.

The origins of the tune for "O Filli" are obscure, and may be secular in nature. The words somewhat discontinuously narrate the Easter story, closing with a call to give praise and thanks to God.

The "Four Sacred Songs" are dedicated to my dear friend and colleague, the distinguished soprano Christine Schadeberg.

Additional Information

Composition Date 1990
Orchestration Sop. or Mezzo-sop.; Fl.(Picc.) Cl.(B.Cl.) Vln. Vcl. Perc. Hp.
Premiere November 4, 1991. Christine Schadeberg, soprano, Voices of Change; Dallas, TX.


I. Jesu Dulcis Memoria (St. Bernard)
II. Corde Natus Ex Parentis (Prudentius [348-413])
III. Christus Factus Est (Philippians 2:8-9)
IV. O Filii et Filiae (Tisserand)

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