Dei is a continuation of the Mother of God project. Selections
from the collection of
anonymous English pieces known as the Worcester Fragments are
paired with my pieces,
interspersed with five readings from Rainer Maria Rilke's
13-poem cycle The Life of Mary,
translated to English by Jessica Gordon.
Mater Dei is a work in progress. Medieval motets blend and
interact with modern pieces inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s
cycle of poems Das Marienleben, which narrates in a very
personal voice the life and passion of Mary. The idea came from
Malcolm Bruno, who had encountered the music of Andrew Smith in
performances by the Norwegian group Trio Mediæval.
The first stage of the project involved live performances by the
choirs and musicians of Washington National Cathedral in
which a specially commissioned translation of Rilke’s poems was
recited in between motets by Smith and the great Spanish
renaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria.
Smith’s music is inspired more by the medieval paradigm, however;
the next stage was to develop a new version which
explicitly linked the old with the new. Thus New York Polyphony
became involved, and a new sequence was prepared by
Geoffrey Williams of the group (who had also been part of the
original performances in 2006) with new pieces added and
existing ones adapted specifically for the male four-voice
quartet and organ.
The veneration of Mary is not difficult to understand in the
context of the patriarchal history of the Roman Catholic Church;
Mary’s joy at becoming a mother and her grief at losing her son
are emotions with which we all can identify, regardless of faith
or absence thereof. The many beautiful texts which honour Mary
have at their core the very essence of human experience –
birth and death.
Andrew Smith ©