O Son of Spirit!
City of Edinburgh Methodist Church runs small groups for fellowship and study. In the spring of 2023, Rev Gareth Jones led one such group in a series of sessions about comparative world faiths. He led one session on the Baháʼí faith, and he introduced us to a collection of 153 short aphorisms called The Hidden Words by Baháʼu’lláh, who founded the Baháʼí faith in the 19th Century.
I was taken with the first of these aphorisms, addressed by God to humankind as “Son of Spirit”, and I set its text to music as a short choir introit. I did this with the blessing of the Edinburgh Baháʼí Community.
I chose this introit for Sunday 7 May 2023, on the weekend of the coronation of King Charles III. This seemed appropriate, both because of its reference to “sovereignty” and also because King Charles considers he has “the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.”
The harmonic structure of the introit is unusual. (Skip this paragraph if you have no interest in music theory.) Figure 1 shows the “circle of fifths”, in which each note is shown next to the notes most closely related to it harmonically. The piece begins and ends in the key of C major, which can be seen as the “neutral” key in the harmonic landscape: the scale of C major has neither sharps nor flats, and on a keyboard it uses only the white notes. The piece begins quietly, but quickly reaches a fortissimo climax with a jump to A major, one‐quarter of the way round the circle of fifths, before jumping back to C major and resuming quietly. It then sets off on a long but speedy journey, three‐quarters of the way round the circle of fifths in the opposite direction, to reach a second fortissimo climax, this time in B♭♭ major. Now, A and B♭♭ form an enharmonic pair: a chord of A major and a chord of B♭♭ major are represented by the same notes on a keyboard, and they occupy the same slot in the circle of fifths, but the musical characters of the chords are complete opposites to anyone who is sensitive to the contrasting key characteristics of enharmonic pairs, with A major in its context sounding bright, and B♭♭ major in its context sounding very dark indeed. After the climax in B♭♭ major, the piece retraces its steps, three‐quarters of the way back round the circle of fifths, to end in C major as it began. So you may hear the two fortissimo climaxes, in A major and B♭♭ major, as harmonically identical or as harmonically poles apart, depending on what “feel” you have for enharmonics, which is a very individual matter.
I am grateful to the choir of City of Edinburgh Methodist Church, one and all, for their skill and patience in learning and recording this difficult introit, and for their permission for me to put the video on this website.
O Son of Spirit!
My first counsel is this:
Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart,
That thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.
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