Of Things Hoped For (2001)
Commissioned by Marilyn Biery for James Biery
Premiere—2001, by James Biery, Saint Paul.
Published by MorningStar Music. Distributed by Canticle.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” writes Paul in The Letter to the Hebrews. I knew that I was writing a two-movement piece for Jim Biery long before I knew that it was about faith. On Jim’s birthday in 2000, his wife Marilyn presented him with the promise of a solo organ work, to be delivered the following birthday. I knew that I could write just about anything and that Jim would be able to play it. I also envisioned a binary piece in which either half could stand alone and be accessible as service music.
Of Things Hoped For begins with a modest arching phrase, supported by a descending pedal line which is easily overlooked: 8-7-6-5-1-2-5-4.; The ensuing meditation develops a new melismatic idea along with toccata elements, leading to a grand statement. A dance follows, based on the melisma, which stretches and flips the material. The little bass line from the opening reasserts itself as a soprano tune, first in a quiet B-major episode, then—triumphantly and in D major—in the trumpet.
Faith and I have an uneasy dialogue. But just as the act of writing a letter is the quickest way to draw a friend close, the meditation of writing music often makes the ineffable concrete. I found when all my notes were down that a reverent murmur had grown into a crowning shout of praise. Paul’s words came to mind, and thus a title.