The beautiful poem calls the sun to wake the skylark and the moon to wake the nightingale. I listened to the calls of these two birds and tried to imitate them and make them a part of this work.The skylark always appears in the bright Lydian mode; the nightingale, in the darker Phrygian mode. The first and third stanzas are set in a somewhat similar fashion while the middle stanza has a slightly different character. The nightingale is the true thrust of the poem.
The text for this choral work is from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. The prophet ponders the most tragic circumstances that could overtake an agrarian society—the fig tree shall not flourish, or grapes not grow on the vine, there is no food in the fields, or no sheep in the folds or no cows in the stalls. These words are set in a dark mode and in a fugal style. A long pause follows this grim tale. Using the pivotal word, “yet,” and starting with the low basses, a gradual crescendo reaches the highest sopranos in dramatic fashion. The choir bursts forth with the prophet’s affirmation, “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation.” These words set in a bright mode carry the anthem to its joyous conclusion, “I will rejoice in the Lord.”
This anthem, inspired by Matthew 27:2, is appropriate for Lent or any time the cross of Christ is emphasized. Although it is SATB, there is much unison and two-part which makes it readily accessible for any size choir.