I Will Lift Mine Eyes
We were so pleased to interview the composer, Jake Runestad, to ask him about this piece and it’s inception, as well as chat about composing and music making in our current times. Check back as our next post will be this interview with Jake!
As a preview, in this post we will analyze some of the musical elements to help you communicate the meaning of the text.
The words in this piece are a biblical text from Psalm 121. Because it is a sacred text, I would suggest clear diction and tall vowels. Never use American r, just like you wouldn’t in other classical choral pieces. Instead of pronouncing the suffix ‘-er’, as we would in speech, we will heighten the diction by approaching the words more properly. I suggest dropping the ‘r’ and singing a schwa (‘uh’) instead. A few examples are below:
*The transliterated ‘uh’ should not be completely dropped in the tongue but be slightly higher so the schwa does not fall into the throat. You could think of this as halfway between “uh” and “ih”.
There are several places that the composer marks a tied eighth note. I suggest observing this marking literally and cutting off on the eighth rest immediately following and placing a shadow vowel consonant (i.e. lord-ih for ‘Lord’). Not only does this make the diction crisp, but judges can easily determine that your cutoff is 100% accurate, rhythmically.
Dynamics and Musical Markings
Similar to the releases, dynamic markings and musical markings should be observed carefully. In more recent compositions, (such as those by living composers), they are more detailed in their marks than Mozart, for example, in order to give you a clearer picture of the piece they envisioned. Observing the composer’s markings and following them precisely will help you bring out the meaning of the text through dynamics. Crescendos and decrescendos should demonstrate a wide dynamic range as marked in the score. Be musical all of the time. The rising and falling of the musical lines also allow you to shape each phrase with a crescendo or decrescendo even when not marked by the composer.
The composer indicates a couple emotions in the score in addition to traditional markings of dynamics and ritardandi. The two emotions are With Great Joy in the first measure and Renewed in measure 33. Use these words provided by the composer to connect with the text. In doing so, you will have more fun and the dynamics will mean more than just loud or soft. If you wish to take your connection to the text even further, speak the text out of rhythm and assign an emotion (adjective/adverb) for each section.
I Will Lift Mine Eyes is a comforting work that can be very satisfying for the singers in the way harmonies change and resolve. This piece is sure to be a favorite for region and state concerts!
Look out for our next post where we will share our interview with Jake Runestad.