The Catholic University of America

Stations of the Cross: Composer Biographies and Program Notes

Program notes provided by the composers


I. Joseph A. Santo, Assistant Dean for Academics and Graduate Studies at the School of Music, received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Composition from CUA in 1986 and has taught theory at the School of Music since the 1980s. He has been active in music education for over forty-five years and a composer throughout his professional career.  Website: http://www.josephsanto.com/

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The First Station is scored entirely in the treble clef, and the cello is almost always the highest sounding instrument, followed by the viola, then violin II, and violin I often as the lowest. These high ranges and this reversal of traditional roles is intended to paint aberration and tension. The Station concludes with a quote from the beginning of the second Tract from the Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified: “Eripe me, Domine, ab homine malo: a viro iniquo libera me.” (Ps 139:2) 

II. Dr. Robert A. Baker, composer and theorist, is an Assistant Professor of Theory and Composition at the Catholic University of America, joining the music faculty in 2013. His research involves post-tonal repertoire, in particular the music of Wolfgang Rihm, as well as issues of temporality and musical form. Visit: robertabaker.net 

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This brief contemplation of the second Station of the Cross focusses on the paradoxical sense of rising under the strain of an immense physical weight. Both a reflection of the act of lifting, and a projection of sounds persistently moving and pointing upward, are at the heart of its musical discourse. Micro-tonal language, unconventional sound colors and passages of freely independent voices combine to create its atmosphere of heaviness with a sense of rising, anticipating Christ’s fate on the cross and subsequent resurrection. 

III. Justus Parrotta’s compositions include music for solo instruments, voice, choir, congregation, chamber ensemble, electronics, film, opera, and orchestra.  His music has been heard in Antarctica, Australia, France, Sweden, Zambia, and throughout North America.  Parrotta is a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists and has received commissions for his Sacred Music from the AGO, and churches in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.  He is currently pursuing a DMA in Music Composition at The Catholic University of America. 

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The music for the station Jesus Falls for the First Time explores the weight of the cross.  The descending line of the opening conveys Jesus’ first fall.  Suddenly, heavy blocked chords dominate the texture, while melodic fragments waft through the different string lines.  The tempo picks up and the heavy chords appear again at a faster pace.  Tremolos at the conclusion impart a trembling timbre in order to represent the physical strain of carrying the cross.  Therefore, the images of Jesus’ struggle play a predominant role in determining the musical techniques employed in this piece.

IV. Dr. Stephen Gorbos
(www.stephengorbos.com), Assistant Professor of Music at CUA since 2008, writes music that has been performed in the US and abroad by groups like the NOW Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, and the Albany Symphony. Recordings of his music have been released on the Sono Luminus and New Albany record labels. 

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Jesus Meets His Mother
A tension runs through my piece, which can be felt in the harmony, the melodic dialogue, and the extreme range of the instruments. Although there is great pain and anguish in the meeting between mother and son, there is also an affirmation of will and courage. Rather than resolve any tension, the focus is to bear one’s burden, and to find the strength, through a maternal bond, to do the will of the Father. Along with my mother, I consulted with my father, who is studying to be a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, while writing this piece.

V. Janet Peachey
teaches theory and composition at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Her works include opera, ballet, orchestral, chamber, and vocal music. She holds DMA (1999) and B.Mus. (1976) degrees in composition from CUA. As a Fulbright grantee, she studied in Vienna, Austria, earning Diplomas in composition and conducting. Website: janetpeachey.com 

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The Fifth Station of the Cross opens with a mournful ascending fourths theme in the cello, soon joined by the other instruments, as Jesus climbs the hill. Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry Jesus’s cross, expressed through a new, resentful theme played by the first violin. Finally, both Jesus and Simon accept their lot and the two themes merge in a resolution of the earlier tension.

VI. Brazilian composer João Guilherme Ripper earned his DMA degree in Composition and Latin American Music at The Catholic University of America in 1997 under Dr. Helmut Braunlich and Dr. Emma Garmendia. He is currently the Director of Sala Cecília Meireles, a concert hall in Rio de Janeiro. For further information and catalogue of works visit www.joaoripper.com.br 

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Jesus staggers dragging the heavy cross through a corridor formed by a hysterical crowd. Wounded and humiliated, He suddenly feels the gentle touch of cloth on his face as a solace. The pain softens as he pictures a woman who wipes His face with her veil. These images worked as a "program" for the composition of the two-minute string quartet. The piece conveys a quick succession of feelings that may have reached Jesus like a vortex on His path to crucifixion. The sorrowful melody in canon at the beginning is gradually mitigated by short motives in quick succession. A slower and lyrical section follows taking us back to the main theme, now accompanied by a dense sequence of arpeggios and scales until the dramatic end.  "Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus" is dedicated to Dr. Emma Garmendia and Dr. Helmut Braunlich, my advisors at the DMA Program at the CUA, both deceased in 2013.

VII. Ulf Grahn MM 1973 and worked as a Visiting Instructor, Recording Engineer and Teaching Assistant in Electronic Music and Composition (9/72-8/76). Works include Orchestra, Chamber, Vocal, solo instruments.  Commissions include Library of Congress, recent work, “Kyrie for 32 voices.” In progress a piece for Zagreb Flute Ensemble.  Performances world wide http://www.societyofcomposers.org/members/UlfGrahn/ 

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In this short piece I tried to indicate the difficulty carrying a heavy burden uphill and stumble and while down on your knees praying and hearing an encouraging voice to help you go on to fulfill your calling, however difficult it may be. Musically, this is done by using pizzicato (and on occasions regular sixteens notes against syncopated sixteens.) The encouragement (aspect) uses a short melodic passage followed by a chord (using harmonics to get a more crystallized sound.)  There are two other motifs that can be seen as comments from the people flocking the road.

VIII. Amanda Bono (b. 1987) is a doctoral candidate in Music Composition at The Catholic University of America.  At CUA, Amanda is a Teaching Fellow in Music Theory.  She also serves as the President of the student chapter of SCI and on the Executive Committee of the Graduate Student Association. 

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The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women
In this station, Jesus approaches the women of Jerusalem who are weeping for him.  He encourages them not to worry, and offers them a bit of comfort.  This musical reflection focuses on this interaction and conversation.  Each instrument represents someone in the station: violins and viola represent the women, and the cello represents Jesus.  The piece begins with the sound of the women’s cries.  As Jesus approaches, he begins to console them, causing the cries to subside.  The gravity of his death begins to take over, creating tension until Jesus finally leaves the women at the end of the piece.

IX. Dr. Allen Bonde
is Professor Emeritus of Music at Mount Holyoke College and earned degrees from CUA: M.M. (1961) and the first D.M.A. (1968).  A prolific composer, his music appears on SOUND SPECTRUM released by Navona Records.  As pianist, he has performed worldwide including Carnegie Hall. 

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The collective voice of the string quartet presents a persistent flow of measured meter mingled with poignant diatonic melodic and harmonic ambient gestures and shadings cloaked with subtle counterpoint. Although not specifically programmatic in intent, the music pervades a coloristic vision of suffering, anguish and despair - and, yet, a deep eternal longing for the atonement of mankind's sinfulness.  As indicated by the composer, in the heading of the score, the music is a resonant soundscape to be performed "with passionate reflection."

X. Maurice Saylor (CUA BM 1980, MusM 1984, MSLS 2006, Music librarian): In 2014, Saylor co-wrote a musical with Susan Galbraith, Vanek Unleashed, for the Prague Fringe Festival. The same team has received a commission to write a full length musical drama on Karel Capek's play R.U.R. for fall 2015. www.MauriceSaylor.net, SnarkEnsemble.org 

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XI. Faye Chiao’s
(BM ‘04) music has been described as “lush” and “exquisitely misty in coloring” (Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun).  An award-winning composer, Chiao is currently writing and producing The Hubble Music Project celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, premiering March 2015 at the Maryland Science Center. 

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This movement interweaves an original theme representing agony, frustration and suffering, with the strains from the traditional spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.”  Throughout the entire piece, the note G is a constant presence.  Insistent, persistent and repetitive, it is meant to suggest the driving of nails into the cross, as well as the human heartbeat.  The last moments of the piece represent the stilling of Jesus’ heart and His final cry to God. 

In addition to the spiritual, the music draws inspiration from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Sympathy, a poem reflecting an intense suffering reminiscent of Christ’s on the cross.  In the score, stanzas from the poem are paired with sections of the piece.  

XII. Dr. Andrew Earle Simpson (joined CUA faculty 1997), composer, pianist, organist, and conductor, is Ordinary Professor and Head of the Division of Theory-Composition Division in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at Catholic University.  He is the coordinator of the Stations of the Cross project. andrewesimpson.com 

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The death of Christ on the Cross is the central event of the Passion narrative.  At this supreme moment of contemplation, music can only play a supporting role, assisting the liturgical meditation rather than competing for attention with it. 

The style of the music is correspondingly spare.  The piece contains three repetitions of a single phrase.  Each time, violins’ high-pitched cries are answered by powerful shudders in the low strings.  The second phrase attains the point of highest anguish, gradually receding to a clouded serenity.

XIII. Leo Nestor
(B.A., Music-Composition, California State University, East Bay; M.M., D.M.A., Choral Music, University of Southern California), Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music; Director of Choral Studies, Director, Institute of Sacred Music; member of the conducting faculty; co-operating member of the composition faculty, CUA. 

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This brief musical tableaux evokes the poignant scene in which Christ, having sent forth his spirit to his Father, is taken down from the Cross. The opening motive evokes sighing, perhaps the last involuntary expulsion of air from the lungs of the Son of God, but surely also the quiet sighs of those who receive his lifeless body, the dulce pondus of salvation. Sighs are juxtaposed to an evocation of their eyes beholding his lifeless form. The gentle multimetric passage which forms the larger part of the tableaux represents the pensivity of Mary, situated in this scene not by the Gospel, but by pious tradition. The content of the reverie of Christ’s mater dolorosa is for the listener to imagine. The scene concludes with a reference to the opening phrase of the Stabat mater sequence colored by a raised fourth. The final measures suggest the solitude of Mary, la soledad de María Santísima. As the other women accompany Joseph of Arimathea to the garden and “the new tomb in which no one had yet been laid” to anoint the Savior’s body, Mary heads homeward down Golgotha’s hill, perhaps on the arm of John the beloved

XIV. Matthew Condic Yost
is a senior pursuing a B.M. in Composition, a minor in Economics and an Honors degree (2015). An alumnus of Salt Lake City’s Madeleine Choir School, sacred music remains Matthew’s primary love as a composer and performer. He is the bass section leader in CUA’s Chamber Choir. www.mcyost.com 

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Those burying Christ are confronted first with menial, banally pragmatic necessity. Here is a corpse that must be laboriously prepared; here are rituals to be followed. Out of this plodding mundaneness arises a growing hopelessness and inner turmoil. Christ was not supposed to die! We staked everything on Him! What do we do now? As this anguish expands tumultuously, at the last moment there is the faintest glimmer of celestial hope—a remembered promise—before the cold finality of stone covering the abyssal entry. The story doesn’t end here, but those at the tomb do not—cannot—yet realize it.

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