Commissioned by Pacific Chorale and Artistic Director Robert Istad and graciously underwritten by Lenora Meister and Salt-Away Products. The work received its world premiere performance by Pacific Chorale at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on May 7, 2022 in Costa Mesa, California.
The Quickening was commissioned by Pacific Chorale a ‘choral fanfare’ to open the final concert of their 2021-22 season. The performance was the Californian choir’s largest-scale event since the lockdowns of the previous two years. Below, composer Tarik O’Regan and writer Marcus Omari share their perspectives on the collaborative process behind the piece.
This collaboration with Marcus Omari emanated from a conversation in August 2021 with Marcus and Robert Istad (Music Director of Pacific Chorale) essentially about how “to be” in the world today. How can one advocate in the moment - creatively - without pandering or lecturing? As Marcus wrote to me when he first sent me his poem, is there a way to think about lasting significance not bound to any one incident?
I’ve taken Marcus’s text, which very much stands as a work in its own right, as a means to investigate textural density through various combinations of voice and instrument. Texture, for me, speaks to the middle ground - the nuance of discourse, the liminal space - around which our initial conversation circled.
Thus The Quickening is centered on exploring the depth of one simple idea: a recurrent middle C. Everything fans out from this single pitch, both harmonically (clusters surrounding it) and rhythmically (the note is repeated in ever-changing syncopations throughout the piece). Speaking in three dimensions, then, the music explores the z-axis, while keeping the x- and y-axes as minimal as possible.
the quickening took shape from a lofty vision of a piece with my collaborators that would escape the anchors of our own egos and contribute beyond the limitations of these urgent times. Such a mountain of artistic meaning can only be ascended with a collective sincerity that I am most thankful to have found in Tarik & Robert.
The poem maneuvers the very human desire to experience purpose in life. The verse touches on the oft felt emotional dissonance when our great moment(s) come to us wearing terrifying masks. The journey toward harmony in spirit and action.
The work is framed around the phrase “i am scared, & I am here.” The “I” in the later phrase representing a change in self knowledge. The soft enjambing refrain again, nearer the poem's end, speaks to the resilience of a quickening moment/movement that will continue in different forms in the face of uncertainty. Still recognizing that the choice to be present and used in service to a higher calling comes with the courage of vulnerability. Thus, the poem ends much like it began with an earnest yet vulnerable request...