program notes by composition > A > Angels in the Architecture

Angels in the Architecture

Frank Ticheli

Angels in the Architecture According to the composer:

“[This piece] unfolds as a dramatic conflict between the two extremes of human existence–one divine, the other evil. [Its] title is inspired by the Sydney Opera House, with its halo-shaped acoustical ornaments hanging directly above the performance stage.

The piece begins with a single voice singing a 19thcentury Shaker song:

I am an angel of Light
I have soared from above
I am cloth’d with Mother’s love.
I have come, I have come,
To protect my chosen band
And lead them to the promised land.

This “angel”– represented by the singer – frames the work, surrounding it with a protective wall of light and establishing the divine. Other representations of light – played by instruments rather than sung – include a traditional Hebrew song of peace, “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem,” and the well-known 16th-century Genevan Psalter, “Old Hundredth.”

These three borrowed songs, despite their varied religious origins, are meant to transcend any one religion, representing the more universal human ideals of peace, hope, and love.

In opposition, turbulent, fast-paced music appears as a symbol of darkness, death, and spiritual doubt. Twice during the musical drama, these shadows sneak in almost unnoticeably, slowly obscuring, and eventually obliterating the light altogether. The darkness prevails for long stretches of time, but the light always returns, inextinguishable, more powerful than before. The alternation of these opposing forces creates, in effect, a kind of five-part rondo form (light – darkness – light – darkness – light).

[This piece] poses the unanswered question of existence. It ends as it began: the angel reappears singing the same comforting words. But deep below, a final shadow reappears – distantly, ominously.”

Frank Ticheli (b 1958) is a contemporary American composer. Born in Louisiana, he earned degrees from the University of Michigan and Southern Methodist University. He taught at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, was composer-in-residence with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in Orange County, California and since 1991 has taught at the University of Southern California.

Last updated on November 17, 2022 by Palatine Concert Band