Todd Tarantino: Since You Are Children of God
Todd Tarantino, voice and organ
Saint Cecilia RC Church, Englewood, New Jersey
Gradualia is a collection of works for a variety of forces – solo voice with accompaniment, chorus to large ensemble – setting the English proper antiphon texts of the Catholic Mass.
It was said that in the medieval period, the only live music that most people heard was in church. In early 2020, during the height of the pandemic, with performing venues shuttered, this became the case again. At the time, I encouraged liturgical musicians to present new work and performers to partner with churches to present live music as part of the liturgy. With all of this in mind, and because I have performed a lot of subpar music during the nearly twenty years I have worked as a liturgical musician, I set out to create some settings of antiphon texts that would be musically interesting, demonstrably ‘my’ music and liturgically appropriate. To date, I’ve written about a dozen of these settings, each of which exists as a solo with organ and in various more elaborate arrangements. Sometimes using a purposely simplified harmonic language and restricting myself to variants of the alternating Antiphon – Psalm verse form. I thought they would be a welcome relief from the anodyne quasi-Broadway “hymns” that make up a good portion of Catholic liturgical music in the United States. I’ve been cleaning them up in my spare time and compiling them in two volumes of Gradualia, named after Byrd’s collection.
This setting, of the communion antiphon for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, does a good job, I think, of bridging the world of contemporary music and liturgy. Musically, I wanted to have symmetry around the central notes F/G using the twofold nature of B (flat and natural) on either side; to add even more to the symbolism, I tried to accompany the melody with no more than three notes at a time – which for me, who loves 12+-note harmonies, was challenging. It’s also tuneful and easy for an audience of non-specialists to apprehend, perhaps even sing. The score is now cleaned up and released. I’ve planned two future arrangements of this piece: for voice and three clarinets (a la Webern), and for three voices and guitar. Also available in versions for solo voice with three clarinets, and vocal trio with guitar.