Thrilling to glory of hymns Music: Composer's 'Meditations,' and a church full of brass, fill the air with an otherworldly sound.

April 11, 1997|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

On the morning after, Robert Twynham still reverberates from the excitement of hearing the first brass rehearsal of his "meditations" on the Te Deum, the medieval hymn of praise sung for a millennium in Christian churches.

"I'm very filled with that," he says. "I heard what it's going to sound like. You are in a sense overwhelmed when you hear your own child being born."

Twynham is the long-serving organist, composer and music director at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. His "Te Deum: Meditations on an Ancient Hymn" will be one half of the Sunday afternoon concert that will be the high point of the anniversary season of the distinguished Cathedral Concert Series he started 30 years ago.

His work is ambitious. He'll lead a 62-piece orchestra and 150 voices of the massed choirs of three churches, with tympani pounding and brass players deployed in the four corners of the cathedral like heralds of the four winds, or perhaps the four gospels.

"When you hear all that brass racing the room as it did last night," he says, "it can make quite a thrilling sound in there,


But he cheerfully concedes the masterpiece of the afternoon will undoubtably be Mozart's Grand Mass in C Minor.

"Henry Lowe is conducting that with the orchestra and all of the singers," Twynham says. "It's probably the most famous of that genre."

Henry Lowe is organist and choir director at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. Twynham, Lowe and Ray Sprenkle, choir director at Second Presbyterian Church and a professor at Peabody Conservatory of Music, have joined forces for this 30th anniversary series concert. It begins at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

"It's an ecumenical event in many senses," Twynham says. "Something I've been wanting to do for years."

The meditations on the Te Deum that Twynham has set to music are those of his wife, Eileen, his collaborator on about 20 works.

"The text is made up of a collage-type approach," he says. "The rTC Te Deum is sung in Latin while English words of my wife's devising, which either amplify the Latin or speak in some way about the things it says, are superimposed on that Latin background.

"Some of those texts address modern man's quest for meaning and hope," Twynham says. The Te Deum ends with the Latin words In Te, Domine, Speravi: "In you, O Lord, have I hoped."

His Te Deum begins with the procession of a handbell choir, "coming from afar off." It ends with the handbell choir ringing a final peal. He'll encourage the audience to join in and sing the closing words. "The last thing that will be heard will be the handbells fading away," he says, "just as they came from nowhere they go to nowhere."

In between he'll conduct the orchestra and his choir and tympani in the sanctuary. In the gallery Sprenkle will lead the other two choirs along with a brass quartet and more tympani. Lowe will direct the remaining two brass quartets stationed at opposite ends of the transept. Twynham will keep everything under control with six television monitors.

"It'll be one of the biggest noises that has ever taken place in the city, I'm afraid," he says.

Twynham's 'Te Deum'

What: Combined choirs of the Second Presbyterian Church, the Church of the Redeemer and the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen present Mozart's Grand Mass in C minor, K. 427, and Robert Twynham's "Te Deum"

When: 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St.

Tickets: $12 and $16

Call: 410-433-8803

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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