Opus 550

Spectrum (2003-04)

for Concerto-Cantata for Oboe, Chorus, and Chamber Orchestra

Solo Oboe, SATB Chorus, Solo Mezzo-Soprano, and Chamber Orchestra (

Text by Richard Leach

  • In the Beginning
  • Rainbow
  • Darkness is Not Dark
  • The Man Born Blind
  • The Sun Grew Dark
  • Easter
  • The City With No Night

Toni Marie Marchioni, oboe; Andrea Coleman, mezzo-soprano; JK Paine Players; Marisa Green, conductor

Duration: 17 min.

Dedication: for friends and colleagues, 2000-04

Commission: Commissioned with the support of Thomas Masterman

Publisher: Lauren Keiser Music Publishing

Performance materials available from the publisher.

Spectrum: Concerto-Cantata for Oboe, Chorus, and Chamber Orchestra (2003-04) was commissioned with the support of Thomas Masterman. The work is scored for solo oboe, chorus, and chamber orchestra. Elements of both concerto (for oboe) and cantata (for voice and chorus) are present in the material and structure.

The text of the work, written by Richard Leach, served as the starting point for the work’s structure. The work is a “spiritual journey” of sorts, looking at seven instances of light imagery in the Bible.

Spectrumis structured in seven movements with a prologue at the start and instrumental interludes between each movement. A rolled vibraphone chord serves as the “signal” gesture for the start of each interlude. One of the key attributes of the work is a contrast between the highly contrapuntal nature of the interludes and the more chordal and homophonic textures of the movements.

The musical material of the interludes and the movements is also likewise different, yet inextricably connected. The sound of the waterphone and its large harmonic series served as the generating force for the pitch and gesture materials of the interludes. The sound of the waterphone is primordial and eternal—a constant reminder of the divine presence. In the choral movements of the work, the gestures and material from the interludes are explored in less abstract musical contexts. The interludes also form one continuous musical narrative, if they were connected together without the intervening movements.

The Prologue begins with the solo oboe, representing specks of light. It draws pitches out from the pitch spectrum of the waterphone and brings the ensemble alive.

The first movement, In the Beginning, uses all forces together. The oboe draws energetic gestures out of the chords of the chorus and orchestra.

The second movement, Rainbow, features driving rhythms throughout. The light has been broken open to reveal the full spectrum.

The third movement, Darkness is Not Dark, uses the chorus without soloist. It is the most contrapuntal of the choral movements.

The fourth movement, The Man Born Blind, is a solo for mezzo-soprano. The vibraphone creates a shimmering tapestry of sound over which the solo is sung. A wildly energetic oboe cadenza comes in the middle.

The fifth movement, The Sun Grew Dark, is a stark movement for largely unison chorus—sung over a single held pitch in the strings.

The sixth movement, Easter, takes the unusual “anti-light” nature of the text to bring both joyful musical gestures together with those representing the absence of light. The movement ends abruptly. The following interlude represents a “restart.” The music of the prologue returns, but its context is transformed. Like the Easter event itself, everything is “restarted” by the act of Christ’s Resurrection.

This final interlude leads directly into the seventh and last movement, The City With No Night. The first slow section allows the energy to gather—while referring back to the harmonies and gestures of the first movement. Finally, the energy erupts in a vibrant dance—pushing towards the celebratory end: the colorful vision from the book of Revelation is portrayed in its full glory.