A Good Understanding (2005)
For Tim Brown & the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge
& the Trebles of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York
SATB, trebles, percussion, organ
A Good Understanding was written for Tim Brown and the choir of Clare College, Cambridge with the generous cooperation of John Scott and the Boys of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. A Good Understanding, with texts culled from two psalms, was originally designed to share a program with Rutter’s expansive and expressive Mass of the Children. The piece unfolds episodically ““ short choral phrases alternating with longer instrumental interludes. The first half of the text is typical psaltry praise-making: outlining agreements, explaining the rules; the music is, accordingly, severe but practical. The second half of the text begins, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom / a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.” I find the idea of “a good understanding” to be an especially exciting reward for following the rules; the boys sing pulsed syllables and long descants to celebrate the covenant while the choir sings a lilting, repetitive refrain. – Nico Muhly
[audio:02 A Good Understanding.mp3]
The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge & the Trebles of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue
James McVinnie, organ
Tim Brown, conductor
The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.
The LORD is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people.
Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.
He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.
(Psalm 99, 1-3, 7)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
(Psalm 111, 10)