Hodie was conceived as a gift to Robert King, choral director at Lipscomb Academy. I originally met Robert when I was working on my Masters at Belmont University. He was one of eight guest speakers in my Secondary Choral Methods class. These seasoned teachers gave us confident neophytes a direct portal into the reality of the classroom. I distinctly remember one of the first things he said to the class.
After slowly sipping his coffee, and in his stern, baritone voice Mr. King promulgated “If any of you have other thoughts as to another career, get out now…. (long pause with his infamous direct eye contact stare)……… The classroom does not need any more mediocre teachers.” Most of my classmates were offended by that. I wasn’t. I was intrigued.
A few years later I found myself interviewing with Robert over breakfast at a Cracker Barrel to be the accompanist for the Nashville Youth Choir which he directs. As I gobbled down my old timer’s breakfast and told him what my strengths and weaknesses were, I truly realized how little I knew about teaching. I guess saying it out loud helped me to solidify that. For the next seven years I sat at a piano once a week observing Robert teach.
As our rapport grew, he allowed me to conduct one piece every semester and began to help refine my rehearsal technique and knowledge of vocal production. It was Robert who encouraged me in my composing by having NYC perform several of my works over the next couple years. Unfortunately, I had to make the difficult decision to discontinue working with Nashville Youth Choir as family responsibilities grew.
At my final NYC concert, Robert gave me a very sincere and articulate note and several gifts. I mumbled very sheepishly that his gift wasn’t ready yet and I would get it to him soon. Well, after two years, I finally completed Hodie.
Hodie Christus natus est: Today Christ is born:
Hodie Salvator apparuit Today the savior appeared:
Hodie in terra canunt Angeli, Today on Earth the Angels sing,
laetantur Archangeli Archangels rejoice:
Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Today the righteous rejoice, saying:
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory to God in the highest.
My original thought for this traditional Christmas text was that the angels and archangels proclaiming the birth of the Savior of the world would juxtapose two proud parents trying to sooth a newborn. The angels would speak an entirely different harmonic language than Mary and Joseph. When Mary and Joseph would sing, a tune something out of a folk lullaby so catchy would become an earworm to those angels and they can’t help but learn it and then sing it themselves. Before the climax of the piece, very strong dissonance occurs before the angels and archangels finally let loose their “Glorias”. This is the Lipscomb Academy Concert Chorus (with Robert King directing) performing in class for a composer symposium. In attendance was composer Amy Tate Williams (whose work Ego was also being performed), Dr. Gary Wilson and Dr. Sally Reid, both Lipscomb University music faculty.