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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Samuel Chapter (1978)
Text Writer
English; Bible:
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
12 Minutes
soprano [=tenor]
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Programme Note
John Harbison Samuel Chapter (1978)
Composer note:

The mysterious moment when a young man chooses adult responsibilities over the security of childhood is what attracted me to the third chapter of the book of Samuel. The plain title describes finding all the notes, rhythms, and colors in the beautiful words of the King James Bible version of the story. The diction of this translation, remote from today’s speech, supplied the ritualism necessary to travel to that remote place and time.

The listener will be helped in following this setting of the entire chapter by knowing some background on the story:

Eli is the high-priest of the temple where the boy Samuel is apprenticed. Eli’s sons (described as “sons of the devil”) have defiled the rituals of the temple and slept with the women of the congregation. At the beginning of Chapter 3, and of this piece, God is summoning Samuel (his anointed priest of the future) to deliver his judgment. Samuel repeatedly mistakes Gods voice for that of his master. But Eli perceives the truth, and encourages the boy to listen. And Samuel comes to understand that he is being asked to deliver God’s condemnation to the most powerful person in his life.

He delays, he is afraid, but eventually he follows through, and comes of age.

— John Harbison

Sample Pages

  • Ensemble
    Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
    Susan Larson (Soprano)
    André Previn
    First Edition:
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