The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service

The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service (2022), for SATB and TTBB Choruses and Two Organs, was composed during the spring and summer of 2022. It was commissioned by and the Harvard Glee Club Alumni for the Harvard Glee Club, and it is dedicated to the Harvard Glee Club (Dr. Andrew Clark, conductor) and to the Choir of Men and Boys of the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont, in Dorchester, MA (Mr. Andrew Sheranian, Organist and Master of Choristers). In addition to the primary canticles, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service (2022) commission requested two additional pieces: 1) An introit for SATB Chorus, a cappella, Seek Him, based on traditional opening sentences for evensong from Amos 5:8 and 2) a motet for TTBB Chorus, a cappella, Salve Regina, based on the traditional Latin Marian antiphon of the same name.

The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service (2022) was commissioned to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Archibald T. Davison (1883–1961). Dr. Davison, after previously serving as organist at the Parish of All Saints Church, Ashmont, was the conductor of both the Harvard University Choir and Harvard Glee Club. Through his work with these institutions, and as a faculty member of Harvard’s Department of Music, Davison championed music education at all levels. His powerful legacy includes books, articles, collections of scores, and a tradition of collaboration extending up to today through the Harvard Glee Club’s Archibald T. Davison Fellowship program, numerous joint musical projects, and new commissions. Owing to Dr. Davison’s vision and work, the rich and ongoing musical partnership between Harvard and the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont, continues.

The fundamental tonal center relationships in The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service (2022) stem from the whole-tone scale, even though the melodic and harmonic essence of both Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis lies with the Lydian mode. Underpinning the Nunc Dimittis is a descending whole-tone scale, heard in sustained pedal points over the duration of the piece. Not until near the end of the Nunc Dimittis is the sound of the whole-tone scale made obvious. Throughout Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, dialogues and antiphonal writing between the two choirs and organs abound, all with the intention of freshly heightening the meaning of these powerful ancient texts and creating a thrilling sound that embraces the congregation.

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Duration of Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis = ca. 10 minutes

Magnificat [The Song of Mary] (Luke 1:46-55)

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded
the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me;
and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him
throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel;
As he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

Nunc Dimittis [The Song of Simeon] (Luke 2:29-32)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles,
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

Performance notes:
1) For the most ideal performance of The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service (2022), Choir I (SATB) and Organ I should be placed in the front of the church, with Choir II (TTBB) and Organ II placed antiphonally in the rear. Yet, everything in the piece is dependent upon the amount of practical and spatial separation that is musically possible between the two performing groups. Since the placement of the two organs is a given, an alternative arrangement for the choirs would be to have the two choirs separated as much as possible in the front of the church. Such logistics are left solely up to the discretion of the conductor(s).

2) Since the sizes and resources of organs will vary widely, very few registration suggestions are offered. Indications for Organ I and Organ II, however, are given, as each organ has an intended identity with each choir. If, however, it proves musically impractical for these indications to be observed, dialoguing between the two instruments may be modified and problematic passages assigned to one of the organs (i.e. likely Organ I).

3) In the absence of two organs, The Harvard/Ashmont Evening Service (2022) may effectively be performed on a single organ. In that situation, the organist should treat the alternating organ indications as contrasting manual changes.