“This is a crack ensemble, the like of which may not exist in our own city”
Boston Musical Intelligencer
15 November 2009
(Harrison, La Koro Sutro)


Julian Wachner (b. 1969)

Julian Wachner

Alleluias, Intercessions, and Remembrances  (1995)

“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.”

— Howard Thurman

In his speaking, his writing, and his dedication to nonviolence and social justice, poet, theologian, minister, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman helped develop and advance the Civil Rights Movement and mentored some of its prominent leaders.

Thurman, born in Florida, was raised by his grandmother, who had been enslaved. Against significant odds — there were only three high schools for African American students in Florida — he graduated from Morehouse College, was valedictorian at Rochester Theological Seminary, and later continued his studies at Haverford College. He was a thoughtful activist, prolific writer, and dedicated mentor for, among others, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Boston University, where Thurman was dean of Marsh Chapel for 12 years (1953-1965).

“Open unto me” is one of Thurman’s better-known “prayer poems.” Its almost confessional introspection acknowledges fear in need of courage, despair in need of hope, strength for weakness, joy for sorrow, but in a way that also communicates resolve and a profound sense of purpose. Its only request is for an open heart to receive these available gifts of the spirit.

Julian Wachner composed Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances in 1995, when he was a doctoral candidate at Boston University and University organist and choirmaster at Marsh Chapel. His setting encloses Thurman’s mostly pianissimo prayer poem within sections of bold, joyful alleluias at fortissimo or better — not a contradiction of the introspective attitude, but as a way to highlight elements of spiritual depth and breadth. Exhilaration is also part of the experience.

Wachner became artistic director of the Providence Singers at the start of the 1996-97 season. He led the Singers for ten years, a time of rapid growth and change in the organization, with commissions and premieres of new music, collaborations with performing arts organizations, and new programs of choral education.

Alleluias, Intercessions, and Remembrances
Alleluias surround a prayer poem by Howard Thurman (1899–1981) in his 1953 work Meditations of the Heart


O Holy God,
    open unto me
    light for my darkness,
    courage for my fear,
    hope for my despair.
O loving God,
    open unto me
    wisdom for my confusion,
    forgiveness for my sins,
    love for [our] hate.
O God of peace,
    open unto me
    peace for my turmoil,
    joy for my sorrow,
    strength for my weakness.
O generous God,
    open my heart
    to receive all your gifts.