Seven movement oratorio with libretto from the Book of Jonah and Father Mapple’s sermon in Melville’s Moby Dick.
"My long enthusiasm for “Moby Dick” was matched by that of my late friend Day Thorpe, a principal founder of the Opera Society of Washington, and at that time music editor of the Washington Evening Star newspaper. It was his perceptive eye and ear for dramatic material that spurred him to think of the book’s ninth chapter in terms of an oratorio libretto.
"Although each has its distinctive patina, the styles of the Book of Jonah in the King James Version, and of Father Mapple’s sermon to the whalers in the ninth chapter of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick are beautifully matched. As separate as they are in time and detail, they dovetail and unite in a nobility and grandeur that makes virtue rather than incongruity of their differences. The librettist has combined the Melville text with the King James in such a manner that the Melville fills out the sketchy account of the Bible and provides the interpolations of Father Mapple at various stages of the events.
"The score is laid out in a way unusual to baroque oratorio. The Bible narration and Father Mapple’s commentary are given to the whole or part of the chorus, and once to an alto speaking voice. The chorus also serves as the Word of God, and for the suspicious and grumbling mariners on shipboard. Jonah is sung by a baritone (Robert Ellinwood in the first performance), and the Captain’s two lines by a bass.
"The orchestration is for a chamber ensemble of 2 flutes (second doubles piccolo), oboe, trumpet in B flat, horn in F, bassoon, 1 percussionist (snare, bass, and tenor drums, cymbals, tambourine, castanets, triangle, glockenspiel, xylophone), 1 timpanist (3 drums), and strings (5,4,3,2,1 for 50 or fewer voices, but at least 8,6,5,4,2 will be needed for larger groups). The timpani player must assist with percussion at times.
"On January 19, 1961, the Sunday night before Kennedy’s inauguration and in the midst of a raging blizzard, the second performance of Jonah was given by the musicians of the Church of the Incarnation in New York City, under the direction of Thomas Dunn. The original version ended with a very quiet and somber orchestral coda. It was agreed by all that it was too quiet and did not satisfy because of the exuberant power developed in the moral which ends the story: Leave ye eternity to the Lord; for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God? Day Thorpe found the solution by adding the hymn included by Melville at the beginning of the sermon chapter, which ends with I give the glory to my God, His all the mercy and the power.
"In the ensuing thirty-three years Jonah has been performed only four more times, due in part to the fact that a piano reduction of the full score was never made, and only vocal scores with occasional instrumental cues were available for the singers. Hence, preparation of the work could be undertaken only by those able and bold enough to teach and accompany from a full score in manuscript. Now, in my retirement, with the time to correct, edit, re-orchestrate, improve, and reassemble the score for computer engraving, I have “finished” this work, and commend it to you. Its performance time is about 50 minutes—they pass swiftly."
Full score and parts available upon request.
There are five recordings of Jonah. The audio here records LIVE performances, and all were in rough technical shape. My thanks to all who helped gather it and clean it up, especially Sam Ward.
NB 1 – The two complete performances (3 and 4) have a few gaps of 1-4 measures, because cassettes.
NB 2 – Wayne re-worked the final hymn several times. Only #5, the 1997 performance by Johannes Somary, represents his final and best version.
1. 1958 – First performance, RWD + Glee Clubs at NCS Proctor Gym
2. 1964 – RWD + Glee Clubs in the Cathedral (at the West end)
3. 1968 – Richard Roecklein and choirs of All Saints, Chevy Chase, MD.
4. 1982 – RWD + Cathedral Choir
5. 1997 – Johannes Somary + choirs of Horace Mann School, NY
The following is a compilation from the other three performances, no one of which was completely satisfactory.
Categorized as: Extended Works
Tagged as: orchestra full, SATB, solo vocal