Twenty-Third Psalm (2016)
Composed for the Philippine Madrigal Singers
There is a rich tradition of choral singing in my native Philippines, which is probably what intimidated me out of writing choral music for so long, until my friend Enrico Lagasca, an alumnus of the highly awarded “Madz,” approached me with the opportunity to write my first piece for chorus. The only stipulation was that it had to use a sacred text.
Although—or perhaps because—I have had a complicated relationship with religion my entire life, I could not cast aside thoughts of Psalm 23, which was fresh in my mind, if only because of its popularity and the many musical settings of it that already exist. Reading through the Book only confirmed my instinct that out of all the psalms, the twenty-third is most universally compelling. My setting of it is straightforward for the most part, and I chose to focus on familiar choral gestures rather than to experiment, but half of the piece is devoted solely to the final lines of the text: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Less than three weeks after I completed the piece, my uncle Mark Cerdenia died suddenly in Manila. I have a vivid memory of him from many years ago reading Psalm 23 to my grandmother at her deathbed. My score is therefore dedicated in part to his memory.
Chorus: SATB (div.) a cappella
Duration: 6 minutes