About Each Anthem

6 thoughts on “About Each Anthem

  1. Set Me Like a Seal

    “Set Me Like a Seal” is dedicated to my mother, Debbie Gaffney, who died in 2015 at the age of 56 from cancer. The text very much spoke to me during that difficult time. The piece is somewhat polyphonic and while it should sound warm and gentle, the entrances of each part should be confident and slightly accented. Rubato may be used throughout. I was influenced by Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “O Taste and See” when composing this piece. Specifically it’s form and the beauty that can arise from a short, well composed anthem.


  2. Seek The Lord

    Seek the Lord
    “Seek the Lord” was composed for an annual meeting of the “North American Academy of Liturgy” in the early 2000’s (I don’t remember the exact year). The piece uses “Twentieth-Century” type harmonies that contain a lot of dissonance. The choir should sing with a tall, round sound making the dissonances lush rather than harsh. Rubato should be used throughout, especially at the end of phrases allowing the dissonant chords to ring out and sorround the listener. The dynamics should be carefully observed. The Isaiah-based text can be found in the Lectionary appointed readings for The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Year B), and the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).


  3. Our God Has Gone Up

    “Our God Has Gone Up” is based on Psalm 47 and was composed for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. At the time I was Director of Music and Liturgy at a large parish. It was the day of the last rehearsal before Ascension Sunday. The choir had been working on an early music motet but I knew they would not have it prepared with just one more rehearsal. I looked through the choral library and couldn’t find anything else extremely appropriate for the Solemnity. So I composed, “Our God Has Gone Up” in my office in an hour or two. It turned out to be a fun, one-rehearsal anthem. Ironically it is my best selling published piece.

    The piece ended up sounding very Classical, even Baroque to me. So it should be sung with a “tall”, light Baroque type sound. The last A section will naturally grow louder and intense as the last chord is reached, however the sound should stay light.


  4. Prayer to Mary

    I discovered the text for “Prayer to Mary” while visiting a friend and colleague, Ron Gollatz (an ordained priest in the Chicago Archdiocese) when he was in the hospital. It was a prayer he used often during his year of illness and other times in his life when in distress. Ron was truly a minister to God’s people. When I saw the text, I immediately knew it had to be turned into a choral anthem. This was the easiest and one of the fastest pieces I have ever composed. The Spirit was definately at work helping me to compose this piece. Ron got to hear it before he died and it was sung at his funeral.

    “Prayer to Mary” should sound lush and “heavy” (which can be achieved with a strong bass section). Each of the three soprano solos should be gentle yet sound urgent and cut through the choirs “Oohs”. Tall vowels is a must in this piece.


  5. Salve Regina

    “Salve Regina” is a SATB setting of the text from the glorious Salve Regina Chant. I kept hearing a melody line and harmony for the first phrase of that text and couldn’t get it out of my head so I wrote it down. I continued to set the rest of the text and what emerged was a somewhat Classical sounding Anthem with pretty straight forward harmonies (there are some dissonances and cluster chords here and there). The piece will be interesting for the conductor to interpret. Most of the piece needs to stay at a strict tempo, However, a few of the phrases can use some rubato. While the chant is glorious this anthem provides a choral alternative.


  6. Ave Maria

    St. Raphael Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, IA has begun a tradition of Christmas Lessons and Carols each year, sometime after Christmas Day, during Christmastide (not before Christmas Day during Advent!). The program is a combination of scripture readings, assembly-sung carols and choral selections. Each year, Music Director James Mendralla selects a choral setting of “Ave Maria”. In 2019 I was commissioned to compose a choral setting of the “Ave Maria” text to be used for Lessons and Carols. The premiere was a glorious and successful occasion!


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