NEC Concert Choir under the direction of Erica Washburn, and wind ensembles, under the direction of Charles Peltz, and Contemporary Improvisation ensembles led by Hankus Netsky join forces to explore the idea of David – the warrior/poet King. The eclectic mix of musical styles offers a multi-faceted prism through which to see and hear David.
The evening begins with a prelude of Middle Eastern music as well as Psalm settings from different epochs and places presented by Contemporary Improvisation ensembles, followed by the NEC Concert Choir's performance of Arthur Honegger's King David.
NEC President Tony Woodcock will provide narration, with student soloists Adrienne Arditti, soprano, Erica Petrocelli, soprano, Julia Partyka, mezzo-soprano, and Joshua Quinn, tenor.
Composed in 1921, Honegger's symphonic psalm tells the biblical story of King David’s life from the time he was a shepherd, to his conquests in battle, his rise to power, his lust for another man’s wife, his agony over his son’s death, his disobedience to God, and finally to his own death.
The Song of David, the Shepherd
Psalm: All Praise to Him
Song of Victory
Psalm: In the Lord I Put my Faith
Psalm: O Had I Wings Like a Dove
Song of the Prophets
Have Mercy on Me, my Lord
Psalm: God, the Lord Shall Be my Light
March of the Philistines
The Lamentations of Gilboa
Festival Song (Song of the Daughters of Israel)
The Dance before the Ark
Song, Now my Voice in Song Upsoaring
Song of the Handmaid
Psalm of Penitence
Psalm; Behold, in Evil I Was Born
Psalm: O Shall I Raise mine Eyes unto the Mountains?
The Song of Ephraim
March of the Hebrews
Psalm: In my Distress
Psalm: In this Terror, the Great God which I Adore
The Coronation of Solomon
The Death of David
Charles Peltz, Director of Wind Ensemble Activities, offers the following program note:
Tonight was conceived first as a stand-alone performance of Honegger’s symphonic psalm “King David”, an artistic aspiration fully self-sufficient. As we moved the venue from Jordan Hall, a spectacular but secular space, to this church, a spectacular and sacred space, we were compelled to ask: how does one present David, a person of an ancient religion and time, into a most modern and increasingly post-religious time? If indications are real that we are moving from a time when fewer and fewer know the Biblical narratives, do we risk throwing our listener into a world of ideas and characters unknown and inaccessible? If there is that risk, what context could we create to make a transition from a clanging winter city street to a world warm and ancient, a world severely human and spiritually passionate?
We are neither theologians nor historians, we are musicians. So to create this transition we use the tools we have. Your transition to the world of Honegger’s “David” will be made by the creative brilliance of student musicians in the NEC Contemporary Improvisation Department, a place where music of all cultures and epochs mix and live together in the vivid harmony that such a mix creates. We will try, by performing music which ranges from the place David is believed to have lived, to settings of his psalms composed in places that David could never have imagined, to create a world in which David might be made sonically incarnate.
But who is David? – The three great Abrahamic faiths recognize David. To Jews he is the second King of the United Kingdom of Israel, who established Jerusalem as the central Jewish holy city and who was preceded by Saul and succeeded by his son Solomon. To Christians, one adds that it was from David’s lineage – “House” - that Jesus descended. David is further recognized by Muslims as a great prophet, considered one of the three great monarchs.
A central point of disputation between the Muslim and Christian/Jewish views is that to Muslims, David, as a prophet ordained by God, is incapable of great sin. The Judeo Christian view not only accepts and recites in horrifying detail David’s great transgressions, but holds essential those sins as part of a profound and essential narrative of repentance and redemption.
It is this redemptive narrative which compels an artist such as Honegger. The tales of the giant-slayer David, the warrior David, the cunning survivor David, the poet musician David, the imperial monarch David are the stuff of the superhuman and divinely favored. A rich, fanciful, exciting portrait to paint in music. But it is the all too human David – adulterer and murderer - stricken by conscience, who is punished by God and tempered into true greatness by repentance and redemption, that makes the story of David a deeply resonating human one.
Did David really live? Is he a mythical character in western civilization’s great work of religious fiction, the Bible? Or is he an historical figure, a real person who lived and reigned? As archeologists uncover more and more of the ancient civilizations that inhabited the Middle East, the Old Testament narrative is increasingly historically verified or made, at the very least, plausible. David’s story is no exception. The Tel Dan Stele and the Mesha Stele (stele being a stone inscription), the latter having been discovered and the former re-interpreted in recent decades, make references to a “House of David” from the period of David’s life which can be inferred from the Bible (c. 1040–970 BCE).
To put tonight in a narrative context we should remember that the Hebrews up to this time were a small semi-nomadic tribe marked by their odd commitment to a single, non-human, omnipotent God. Our story begins as this tribe is developing into a more settled urban civilization, but still mortally threatened by many persistent foes, especially the powerful Philistines. Within this societal evolution emerges the entangled life of David and the first King of Israel, Saul.
Saul, chosen by God and ordained by Samuel, proves to be often disobedient and falls from God’s favor, as is so often the story of the ancient Israelites. David (not Saul’s son) emerges into Saul’s life as a favored child of God, with skills revealed early as musician and poet, a person brave and strong. As David and Saul exist together, Saul’s jealousies of David’s talents and achievements grow, his resentment of David’s close bond with Saul’s son Jonathon festers, and Saul attempts to kill David. David, through his wiles and God’s sustaining grace, avoids death by Saul’s hand. David proves himself the greater man when, given the opportunity to kill Saul himself, he spares his life. When Saul, after losing the battle at Gilboa, kills himself by falling on his own sword, David seems free to reign as godly King. But temptations yield the toxic fruit of sin. The deep consequences of those “heavy transgressions” set David on his path of redemption and eventually to a peaceful autumn, the harvest from which brings forth gratitude to God for a life of rich blessings.