Canticles & Liturgies
Audio & Video Dirksen’s first published work (1960) bears several life-long trademarks: A “scattered” introduction which sets mood & tempo but not theme; far-flung harmonies suavely coming and going (E-flat minor in a D minor piece), and the first of many lovely Amens (compare the end of his late F#-minor Mag and Nunc). Also of note: the sotto voce Gloria mimics the traditional liturgical bow at that point in the canticle.
NOT the 1979 BCP text. The interpolated “Christ has died / Christ is risen” make it inappropriate in its current Vigil spot but it could be used to good effect AFTER the Easter proclamation.
Full score & video. The earlier of his two settings starts with brilliant Dirksen fanfares and the traditional plainsong but also contains a sweeping Great Procession for the Apostles, Prophets & Martyrs. It ends very dark with a Requiem quote and solemn gong. His 1996 Te Deum “Lexington” is smoothly through-composed and much sunnier.
The first of the Three Songs of Isaiah, BCP Canticles 9-11. The gentle modal theme lent itself to canonic treatment, but the work unfolds into dramatic eight-part choral fanfares. Dirksen re-worked the tune into two hymns: Surely it is God who saves me (ISAIAH’S SONG) with the Carl Daw text, and Glory be to God, the Highest (GIBBS HALL), his own paraphrase of the Gloria in Excelsis.
The second of the Three Songs of Isaiah is a choral scherzo. Dirksen omitted the Gloria Patris from these canticles but couldn’t resist adding a characteristic AMEN to this one.
The first two Songs of Isaiah are a capella. This one adds the organ with heraldic flourishes for the Great Organ’s Trompette en Chamade. The phrase lengths in this canticle are Brahmsian in their sweep & length. He brings back themes from the first two Songs to excellent effect, and the B-major ending is one of his most thrilling.
Three-verse paraphrase of the Gloria. Give Allein Gott a break!
Full score & video.
Full score & video.
Score & video. The Gloria is in my TOP THREE Dirksen pieces. Less than three minutes long, it opens with a liturgical joke and ends with an explosive Amen. Note his tempo!
Full scores & videos. By 1960 Dirksen had participated in Easter services at the Cathedral for 15 years and knew the forces intimately. This grand Mass features exceptionally brilliant writing for the brass and timpani, ground-breaking mixed meters (13/8 notoriously raised the choir’s eyebrows), and in the Agnus Dei some of his spookiest writing for the organ. It’s also noteworthy that two movements of a Mass in E major end on F# (Kyrie, Benedictus). That uncanny whole-tone lift comes a shock each time but prefigures the Gloria’s triumphant final modal cadence from D to E. He also orchestrated it for double wind quartet after the Stravinsky Mass.
This speculative work features obbligato handbell parts for 10 bells replicating / mimicking several change ringing methods in each movement as well as a carillon part for the Gloria.
Score & Audio. Liturgical setting, with bells – reworked from the 1966 / Rite I Communion Service in G.
For the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 10/14/79. Three brilliant trumpet parts in the Gloria.
Score & audio. A two-part setting.
Score & audio. A seven-minute liturgical drama.
Dirksen’s Bernstein phase.
Score & audio. A liturgical drama with many performance options – Elizabeth’s Song is first-rate.
Score & audio. This material has many components in various styles and can be used in many different forms.
Once sung. never forgotten.
Three versicles and responses to open the Palm Sunday liturgy.
Score & audio. A mini-cantata, especially suitable for V Lent in Year A. Dirksen deploys all his dramatic skill at Lazare, veni foras.