Composed upon the death of T. S. Eliot in February 1965. A setting of his “Song for Simeon”.
Brecht’s play includes poetic quatrains before each scene as well as a marvelous “Ballad of the Orders” mocking society stratification. A humanist and satirical masterpiece. Audio includes music cues as well as Dirksen’s own digest of the full show.
Christopher Marlowe’s Faust is transplanted to the American frontier. Videos below, music cues also posted.
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. 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.
This complex piece finds Dirksen systematically working out change ringing bell motifs at length as well as exploring his ongoing fascination with mixed and hemiola rhythms. The attached score is regrettably partial.
Audio & Video. A solo song from The Annunciation Story.
From the 1961 York Cycle Play music. Also available as a movement in the 1965 Suite for Organ, Trumpet and Handbells (D. 513).
A haunting major / minor nocturne, suitable for unison or solo voices with optional flute obbligato.
Composed for the wedding of John Fenstermaker, then Assistant Organist at the Cathedral. Flute, handbells, harpsichord, finger cymbals…. 6/4 alternating with 3/2….what’s not to like?
Audio & Video. 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.
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.
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!
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 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 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.
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.
Dirksen’s Bernstein phase.
Score & audio. This material has many components in various styles and can be used in many different forms.
Once sung. never forgotten.
Score & audio. A mini-cantata, especially suitable for V Lent in Year A. Dirksen deploys all his dramatic skill at Lazare, veni foras.