O night! (2008)

Massed choirs of Helsinki University provincial student associations, Susanne Kujala, organ, cond. Esko Kallio

SATB massed choirs, organ
(text: John Sullivan Dwight (1855) – in English)
8-10 min. (variable duration)

O Night! was composed for the annual Christmas concert of the choirs of the University of Helsinki’s student provincial associations in 2008. (I was a member and composer-in-residence of the Häme province choir, HOL, at the time.) The piece is a free-form deconstruction of the first verse and chorus of the 19th-century carol “O Holy Night”, designed to be rehearsed once and then performed by a massed choir of some 250 voices surrounding the audience, with support from the pipe organ of the Kallio church in Helsinki. The massed choirs sing the initial verse in my own harmonization, then each subgroup slowly starts repeating and looping fragments, passing them around the concert space in waves of sound. The organ, which keeps to the background at first with a quiet, sustained cluster chord above an oscillating two-note figure in the bass, slowly begins pulling out stops, adding layer upon layer of sound through its mechanism, growing toward an apotheosis of the original song’s climactic phrase at the end.