for tenor solo, chamber choir, organ, harp, trumpet, and cello(2016)
|Text information||Text based on three spirituals and a traditional prayer|
|Commission||Commissioned by the Cincinnati May Festival|
|Premiere||May 22, 2016 · Cincinnati, OH, Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (USA) · Conductor: James Conlon · Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra · May Festival Youth Chorus · Choir director: James Bagwell|
Prayer is one of the composer’s most original and sophisticated works. The typical African-American church service seems to be a source for this piece with its interplay of sections and colors, yet the work in form and rhythmic choices is clearly ‘classical’ and never breaks out into easy imitations of, for example, gospel music. The work opens with the choir singing the spiritual ‘My Lord, What a Mornin’’ in octaves, sung flat-out a cappella, as might happen in church. The instrumental section following this opening feels very much like a thoughtful response by the congregation. Instruments seem to behave like individual churchgoers, colorfully dressed and answering various episodes with individual thoughts. As for any fears that the mighty organ might drown out the proceedings, Singleton puts that to rest by employing it almost like another choir or section of the choir. The trumpet soloist does not blast us into heaven, it tends to sing and, we find out later, is preparing us for the spiritual ‘Where Shall I Be When the Firs’ Trumpet Soun’?’ Even the tenor soloist behaves much like just another (but still important) instrument. The composer has chosen to not only feature spirituals, but also to set a poetic text called A Christian Prayer, whose main message, almost like some modern-day Kyrie, calls out ‘save us … teach us …’ and extols the importance of humility and the defeat of violence. Singleton has always been a composer who has simultaneously answered the call to carry out what he feels is his duty to his fellow humans while using the finest of his art to do so, and Prayer finds him at the top of his game.
– Carman Moore