Always open this tune with the dotted rhythm, and D-flat is strongly preferred.
Rob Lehmann did a sophisticated and lovely arrangement of this tune for his choir at St. Michael & St. George, St. Louis during the 2020-21 pandemic.
Adore te, devote receives a comprehensive Dirksen makeover: 1) it’s in 7/8 throughout, 2) the middle verses are backward, in minor, 3) verse 3 goes to E-flat minor for the Lord’s own death, 4) ends with a sweet simple AMEN.
Audio & Video. Dirksen’s notated half-note=96 is unplayable – he’s merely saying NOT TOO SLOW. But the circumstances of its composition actually dictate the tempo: the performance should be exactly 2′ 30″! Also – don’t miss the Choral Arts Society’s orchestral version here as well.
His most well-known and well-beloved carol. SATB a capella, simplicity itself.
Audio & Video. One of the editor’s TOP FIVE works. How DID those troops of angels come down??
Audio & Video. For Easter Day. The B section is one of Dirksen’s longest and most effective build-ups to a shattering climax. It’s also a dandy timpani solo. Now back in print by Jubilate Music Group!
Written in 1957, the same year as Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata, the two pieces share vivid brass writing and intense rhythmic energy alternating with lyric beauty. This exists in many forms: Organ and brass, full orchestra, winds only…there’s even an arrangement for SSAA choir.
From the 1961 York Cycle Play music. Also available as a movement in the 1965 Suite for Organ, Trumpet and Handbells (D. 513).
Audio & Video. Another one of my TOP FIVE works. The flute obbligato positively sparkles.
Audio & Video. Running out of TOP FIVE slots, but this Auden setting is profoundly moving: Why was I chosen to teach his Son to weep? The ending of the organ version makes it preferable.
Audio & Video. A solo song from The Annunciation Story.
Ineffably sweet. It ends in A major, a half-step down from where is starts. The orchestral double-reed / horn / string accompaniment is deluxe and has a gorgeous violin descant for the fourth verse.
Audio & Video. This nine-minute mini-cantata sets the complete Fortunatas text with organ, brass & timpani and would make a great addition to an Easter concert. Score+audio presentation is here, but it awaits a definitive recording.
Audio & Video. Alternates the 1940 plainsong for The eternal gifts of Christ the King with rushing horsemen on white horses. A commission from Frank Boles and St. Paul’s, Indianapolis.
A sweet a capella carol with Dirksen’s added verse bringing it up to date.
His last – and by his own estimation, best – anthem. The closing Queens Change bell effect is a charming farewell gesture.
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.
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.
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.
Score & audio. A liturgical drama with many performance options – Elizabeth’s Song is first-rate.