• Gunther Schuller
  • Thou Art the Son of God (1987)

  • Margun Music (World)
  • fl(pic), ca, cl, hn, tpt, perc, vn, vc, db
  • SATB chorus
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:
Thou Art the Son of God, written in 1987, was composed on commission from Johannes Somary to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Horace Mann School where Professor Somary has been Director of musical activities for many years. The idea of composing a work based on that remarkable episode in the New Testament scriptures recounting Jesus’ and his disciple, Peter’s walks on the sea of Galilee, has been with me since my early teen years. As a very young composer and chorister in the St. Thomas Church choir in New York (boy soprano, to be exact), I became acquainted with a vast amount of choral literature, much of it based, of course, on Biblical texts. I vowed then that, along with the many Te Deums and Nunc Dimittis’s I was already writing, I would someday soon write a work based on the St. Matthew account of the just-mentioned episode, little realizing that it would take nearly fifty years to fulfill this particular ambition. With Mr. Somary’s commission, I jumped at the opportunity.

Composed for chorus and a chamber ensemble of 10 instrumentalists, the work, along with its basic “sacred” mood and sense of scriptural mystery, indulges in a fair amount of “secular” musical pictorialization – a venerable tradition in choral music since long before the days of Bach’s Passions: the tossing of the waves of the sea, the wind and sudden storms, the fear and fright and disbelief of the disciples, and so on. The work thus reflects at once my awe of the sacred–mystical and the rational–historical that makes the Bible such a unique spiritual and human document.

— Gunther Schuller