Click to enlargeAs the Hart (clarinet quintet)

My good friend, Tim Werkema, a woodwind maven accomplished on clarinet, flute, oboe, and sax, has passed away, and I felt his passing needed to be marked by a work for clarinet, his original instrument. I had already sketched the melody of a rag for a clarinet ensemble, but felt that was not fitting for his memorial piece. The hymn "As the Hart About to Falter" using this tune was sung at his memorial service. I reworked a cello duet I had written on this tune several years ago for clarinet quintet, and we have a fitting memorial piece for Tim.

Despite technological change, at least two or three of Louis Bourgeois' hymn tunes have been passed down to church hymnals that will continue in use well into the 21st century. I guess if your music can stay in use for almost six hundred years, you've done pretty well as a composer.

The most popular of Bourgeois' tunes is OLD HUNDREDTH, which is used commonly as the tune for the Doxology (Praise God from Whom all blessings flow...). Perhaps his tune for the 42nd Psalm is less well known, but it is still used in many church traditions. The tune is known in various hymnals as GENEVAN 42 or BOURGEOIS, and has been used with a variety of texts. The title of this piece is drawn from the opening words of the 42nd Psalm, as sung at Tim's memorial service. An alternate title (fine with me if you want to call it this) would be "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People."

A careful listener may notice that the piece alternates between major and minor keys with the same tonic, the hymn tune always appearing in major (or a related key) with the "framing phrases" appearing in minor. This was just a stylistic choice and nothing special should be read into it. I have been listening to a lot of J. S. Bach's music lately, so I will admit to a strong influence in the feel of this setting, and to possibly unintentionally borrowing a musical idea or two from him. On this account I believe I am in some pretty good company.

The difficult part in this piece is the fourth clarinet, which keeps a rolling sixteenth-note theme going through most of the piece. I like to hear a clarinet play low, so much of this piece uses the low register.

MP3 sound sample: entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



AS THE HART, the hymn tune GENEVAN 42 arranged by Tom Kirkland for clarinet quintet consisting of four (soprano) clarinets in Bb and bass clarinet in Bb, comes in a pdf file of 803K, with a four-page score, five two-page parts, and a license page, seventeen pages in all. Performance time should be about 3:15.


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Last update: 21 March 2017