A sweet a capella carol with Dirksen’s added verse bringing it up to date.
Audio & Video His last – and by his own estimation, best – anthem. The closing Queens Change bell effect is a charming farewell gesture.
Commissioned by Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church for their 50th Anniversary in 1974.
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.
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. Another one of my TOP FIVE works. The flute obbligato positively sparkles.
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 first ‘outside’ commission – from St. Albans Church, next door on the Close.
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!
This singular work is really a through-composed setting of the psalm in Anglican Chant style inspired by the re-scansion of the Psalm in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. “Be still then, and know that I am God,” is utterly convicting.
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.
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.
Full score & video.
Full score & video.