Wisconsin Composer Series: Benjamin Bedroske

As we lead up to our April 18th concert featuring music by Wisconsin composers, we are profiling some of the composers and their pieces that we are featuring. We hope that you come out and join us at Alverno College Chapel on April 18th at 7 p.m.!

Benjamin Bedroske

Benjamin Bedroske

Benjamin Bedroske: “Obsecro et Orationem”

Ben Bedroske isn’t just the director of Chant Claire–he’s also a composer in his own right, and we’re pleased to perform one of his original compositions this weekend.

A 2011 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Music Education program, today Ben is both a high school choir teacher and a writer of music programming for Hal Leonard. He started the Chant Claire Chamber Choir in Fall 2013 with a group of friends from his musical experiences at Eau Claire and in the Milwaukee area. Today, the choir continues to grow and thrive under his direction.

His piece we are performing is “Obsecro et Orationem,” which is mostly in Latin but also contains lyrics to a familiar church hymn. He composed the piece for the wedding of two of his best friends, Danny and Mikalah Fallon.  The title explains the two main themes of the piece: “Obsecro” is the Latin term to “entreat/beseech/implore,” and “Orationem” is Latin for “prayer.”

“The text Danny and Mikalah chose for me to set for their wedding ceremony came from Romans chapter 12, which in the Latin Vulgate translation begins with ‘Obsecro…’  meaning ‘I beseech you therefore…’ and continues with instructions on relationships and living for the love of God and the love of others above oneself,” Bedroske said. “The music begins with a men in unison, singing a plain statement of a chant theme that the piece is built upon, with the Latin text, ‘Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.’  The sopranos then sing the chant theme with the other voices providing chordal harmony underneath.”

As Ben composed the next section, he had a melody come to his mind that almost seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it. It accompanied the text (in Latin), “Love one another with affectionate friendship; in honor, showing preference to one another.”

“Some time after I finished working on the piece, it became clear that the melody for this section was almost note for note the main Shire/hobbit theme from Howard Shore’s score for the Lord of the Rings films,” Bedroske said. ” I think somewhere deep in my subconscious, the themes of loyalty, friendship, and selfless bravery in The Lord of the Rings that I grew up with manifested itself in the composition of this section.”

The next section transitions to increasingly impassioned repetitions of the text “Not lagging in diligence, but fervent in spirit”  arriving on the text “serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope.”  The opening “Obsecro” portion then closes with an intentional quote from Andy Price’s serene Maid Marion theme for BBC’s ‘Robin Hood’ Series, on the text “Patient in tribulation, continuing steadfast in prayer.”

The following portion of the piece is the “Orationem” or ‘Prayer’ portion; while the opening section gives instructions to the couple on their relationship, the ‘Prayer’ portion then responds with the audience/congregation joining together in the hymn “Be Thou My Vision,” meant as a prayer for help to live out those earlier instructions.  The first verse is accompanied by the choir singing in Latin “Steadfast in prayer.”  Then, in the 2nd and 3rd verses, the ‘chant theme’ from the beginning of the piece returns as a descant to the hymn.After the ‘Prayer’ portion closes, the chant theme returns briefly, sung by the tenors and re-harmonized with the rest of the choir, gently expressing the text “Caring for the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”

“During my final semester in Undergrad at UW Eau Claire, my student teaching placement was in Mikalah’s hometown of Hudson, about 50 miles from Eau Claire,” Bedroske said. ” During that semester, Mikalah’s parents Cheri and Jeff graciously hosted me as often as I needed, usually several nights a week, at their house, completely free of charge-and really embodied the gracious hospitality that the text expresses.  The final ‘Amen’ section expresses confidence in the hopes of the text of the whole piece, and closes with a brief final recurrence of the ‘chant theme’ from the opening.”

We hope you enjoy “Obsecro et Orationem” this weekend!

 

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