Meditations for solo organ was written at the request of Richard Coffey to honor the tenth anniversary of the Cooper Memorial Organ at the South Congregational-First Baptist Church of New Britain, Connecticut, where Coffey was organist and music director. Completed in 1984, Meditations is in two movements, both religious in nature. The first movement, con solennita, maestosomente, begins with a quotations from the Dies Irae plainchant, freely transcribed for the pedal. The second section, moderatamente, is based upon the Protestant hymn, Sine Nomine, of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Putsche, an alumnus and faculty member at the Hartt School of Music (where at the time I was Dean), who met an untimely death the year preceding the date of composition while on sabbatical leave in London. This section is followed by a third, grave, con molta espressione: Kol Nidre, and is dedicated to the memory of Norman Dinerstein (1937-82), also a former member of the Hartt faculty and alumnus of the School.
The remainder of the first movement and the second movement in its entirety alternate variations of both the Sine Nomine and Kol Nidre, at times bringing the one to the fore, at times the other, but always in the spirit of meditation or reflection on the theme of death, in this case untimely death and the particular kind of grief and mourning that is the result. Although the use of the Dies Irae plainchant never returns explicitly, its wrathful presence is ever acknowledged as the work proceeds through moments of violence and tension with are meant to contrast with other moments, more resigned, tender and contemplative.