One Fold, One Shepherd
Hastening the Lord’s Musical Vision through the Book of Mormon
Rosalind Hall (School of Music, Choral Conducting and Ensembles Division)
My project proposal was to compose and perform a sacred work for choir, soloists, piano, and select instruments in the Classical music style using text concerning the coming of Christ to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon and written in English, Spanish, and German. I am happy to report that in the course of the last year, I have performed premiere performances of the work (One Fold, One Shepherd) in English and German.
Approximately 300 hours were spent in the composition of One Fold, One Shepherd, with an additional 75 hours for rehearsing with the musicians. During the writing process, there were three general guidelines on which I felt I should base my work.
1. The work needed to be written in a Classical style. In examining the major religious musical works of history as well as recent large-scale works by LDS composers, it became apparent that a well-crafted yet accessible work needed to be written with traditional tonality and exquisite melody. Forays into atonality or the pop style would be inappropriate given the nature of the text and the story. I ultimately decided on a style that my mentor Rosalind Hall termed “high musical theatre” and which closely resembles that of Rob Gardner’s choral work The Lamb of God.
2. The work needed to have a story. I felt that the work could not sever the doctrinal messages of the text from the storyline of the Book of Mormon itself. Otherwise, the work might be considered “preachy” and intended just for Latter-day Saints. I wanted listeners to see the gospel messages as real lessons learned by real people in real situations. In selecting the libretto for the work, I chose scenes of 3 Nephi that for me were genuine and inspiring.
3. The work needed to be written by inspiration and not simply skill. Unlike previous compositions, I made the writing of One Fold, One Shepherd a matter of prayer, fasting, and study. As I did so, I felt guided in the writing of the work. An incredible aid was temple attendance. On three separate occasions, I was worshipping in the temple when a distinct musical idea popped into my mind to use in the work.
The original premiere of the work was in its German version, Eine Herde und ein Hirte. I had already been planning to travel to Vienna, Austria, as part of a Brigham Young University Music Study Abroad. I contacted the head of the Study Abroad program and received permission for the 19 Study Abroad students to perform the work. I later received permission from church leaders in Europe to perform the work as a fireside for the Vienna Austria Stake.
After completing the 12-song work in German in April 2016, I flew to Vienna and began regular rehearsals with the Study Abroad group. A slight hurdle I had to overcome was ensuring that the German translation of the text was accurate and grammatically correct as I had no prior German background. Thanks to the help of Brother Peter Cunia of the Vienna 2nd Ward, I was able to amend many errors in the German lyrics. The work premiered on Sunday, May 29, 2016, with around 150 members and friends attending. The photo in this document is of the performers in Vienna on the night of the performance.
Upon returning home from Vienna, I commenced a translation of the work into English. I had proposed to call the English work Messiah in America, but after learning that a work under that name had been composed in 2011, I changed the name to One Fold, One Shepherd. I had much assistance from my mentor, Professor Rosalind Hall, who challenged me to cut the German work down from 90 minutes to 45 minutes. This massive abridgment resulted in a 10-song work that was more impactful. I created a 40-member choir to perform the work, mostly members of BYU choirs, and procured the help of several instrument majors. The premiere performance was in the Madsen Recital Hall in BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center, on Saturday, October 8, 2016. The turnout to see the premiere was extraordinary. Approximately 455 people came to witness the performance, so many that the recital hall could not hold everyone and the performance had to be streamed into an overflow theatre.
I have begun a translation of One Fold, One Shepherd into Spanish in the hopes of a future performance in the local area. As of this month, I am still in the translating process.
Feedback for One Fold, One Shepherd has been overwhelmingly positive. The performers involved with the German and English premieres said that the work was well-written musically, but they also commented on the work’s spiritual power. One member of the choir wrote, “On days when I was sure my trials were securely hidden from all, your oratorio would touch my soul and remind me that I am never hidden and always at a point of help.” Another choir member who is a vocal major at BYU told me that the performance had been the most incredible musical project she has been a part of. My mentor, Rosalind Hall, expressed her approval of the work and has remarked that such an undertaking for an undergraduate is incredible. Similar comments were expressed by Dr. Ryan Murphy, assistant director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who attended the English premiere.
Reactions from listeners were also supportive. Following one rehearsal in Vienna, an observer expressed through tears the power that he had felt during one of the songs. After the English premiere, a young BYU student and an elderly lady, both avid concertgoers, expressed their feelings that the work was the most moving artistic work they had ever experienced. The most common question asked after the performance was, “When are you performing this work again?” From listener comments, I have concluded that not only was the work enjoyed by listeners but that many of them had hungered for a work like this and were eager for more.
The process of writing, rehearsing, and performing One Fold, One Shepherd has exceeded my highest expectations. The project has fulfilled all the aims of a BYU education, strengthening me spiritually, enlarging my intellect, building my character, and leading to lifelong service. It has been a joy to see the power and light of the Book of Mormon impact the lives of hundreds. One of my cherished memories is greeting one attendee of the English premiere, a Chinese woman not of the Latter-day Saint faith. With a smile, she said in broken English, “I feel so happy! I am so glad I came!” I hope that many thousands more will be able to feel the power flowing from music written about the Book of Mormon.