Ascendit – Muehleisen

SATB (divisi) a cappella

Recording credit: Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, conducted by Loren Pontén

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TEXT

Primum quidem sermonem feci de omnibus, o Theophile,
quae coepit Jesus facere et docere,
usque in diem, qua praecipiens apostolis
per Spiritum Sanctum, quos elegit, adsumptus est.
Et cum haec dixisset, videntibus illis,
elevatus est, et nubes suscepit eum ab oculis eorum.
— Acts 1:1–2, 9

[Ascendit Deus, coelos ascendit Hodie,]
Ascendit Deus in jubilatione
et Dominus in voce tubae. Alleluia.
—Ascendit Deus: Offertory verse for Ascension

Dominus in Sina in sancto:
ascendens in altum,
captivam duxit captivitatem. Alleluia.
— Dominus in Sina: Alleluia verse for Ascension

Psallite Domino,
qui ascendit super caelos caelorum ad orientum.
Alleluia.
— Psallite Domino: Communion hymn for Ascension

Coelos ascendit Hodie,
Jesus Christus Rex gloriae,
Sedet ad Patris dexteram,
Gubernat coelum et terram.
— Coelos ascendit: Medieval Ascension Hymn

Ascendit Deus in jubilo,
Dominus in voce tubae
Psallite Deo nostro psallite
psallite regi nostro psallite
Omnes gentes plaudite manibus
jubilate Deo in voce exultationis
— Psalm 47: 5, 6, 1

Translation

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus,
of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach,
Until the day on which, giving commandments
by the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up.
And when He had said these things, while they looked on,
He was raised up: and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

[God ascends, to heaven ascends today,]
God ascends with jubilation
and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Alleluia.

The Lord is in Sinai, in the holy place:
ascending on high,
He has led captivity captive. Alleluia.

Sing praises to the Lord,
Who ascends above the sky of the heavens to the east.
Alleluia.

Ascends to heaven today
Jesus Christ, the King of Glory
Seated at the right hand of the Father
Governing heaven and earth.

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the voice of a trumpet,
Sing praises to our God, Sing praises;
Sing praises to our King, Sing praises.
All people clap your hands,
shout to God with voices of joy.
— English translations by John Muehleisen

PROGRAM NOTES

In early 2005, long-time Opus 7 singers Dan and Joann Wilson commissioned me to compose a work for Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble in honor of the centennial of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, WA. Opus 7 premiered the work in May 2005 with guest conductor Dale Warland at St. James Cathedral. During the previous concert season (2003—2004) I had served as the final composer-in-residence for the Dale Warland singers, so Ascendit provided the opportunity for a reunion of sorts with Dale.

Ascendit weaves together several major scriptural and liturgical texts referring to the Ascension into a single work. Starting with a musical prelude featuring the men singing a chant-like recitative based on a description of the Ascension from the book of Acts, the prelude culminates in a dramatic musical representation of Christ ascending into the clouds, out of the sight of the apostles. Immediately following, the work launches into a series of liturgical texts for the Feast of Ascension, alternating between dance-like and lyrical passages, all punctuated by celebratory cries of “Alleluia!” Upon reaching the well-known text “All people clap your hands,” the music gathers more and more musical energy until the final cries of “Ascendit Deus!”

(NOTE: I have revised Ascendit several times, first in 2008, then again in 2011, primarily to tighten up and to clarify the rhythmic structure, to re-voice several chords, and to adjust some less-than-gracious voice-leading. I further revised the work in 2014, primarily to improve the metrical stress in the setting of the Latin text. I consider this 2014 revision to be the definitive version of the work, and it is this version that Opus 7 has recorded for their upcoming CD of my choral works.)