O, Wonder! Song cycle based on nine antiphons of Hildegard of Bingen

Orchestral tone poem for mezzo soprano with sacred melodies and texts of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Original Latin – Hildegard of Bingen, translated into English by Barbara Newman

Mezzo soprano, 2 flutes (doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, percussion (antique cymbals, glockenspiel, tenor drum, triangle, tambourine, suspended cymbal), string orchestra

As a woman composer, Becky was keen to find the taproot for women in music. In 1989, she was greatly inspired to find the life and works of Hildegard of Bingen, aided by English translations of the antiphons by Barbara Newman in Symphonia, the Harmony of Celestial Revelations. 

Hildegard of Bingen is a hugely impressive historical figure in many fields, but especially in composition. Becky selected and transposed nine of Hildegard’s works into a tone poem for chamber orchestra and mezzo-soprano as a spiritual meditation on music, time, and life. At times, the soloist sings Hildegard’s melodies. At others, they are embedded in the orchestra.

Far from plain chant, the melodies are full of inventive decoration which give extra meaning to the words she so fervently believed.

She wove Hildegard’s melodies through this modern sacred music and used Hildegard’s medieval aesthetic and meaning as symbols in the music: God, for instance, is always highly pitched. Various modes and rhythms represent Biblical characters. Mary (Ave) is the salvation for Eve. Becky found it fascinating to study her innovative use of music, text and theology and to bring it to modern times.

The song cycle has yet to receive an Australian premiere, but its world premiere was in Tucson, Arizona with American mezzo soprano Nancy Davis Booth and the Catalina Chamber Orchestra. Written in 1990, this 17-minute piece is suitable for advanced or professional orchestras and mezzo soprano soloist.

Listen to a sample of Antiphon for the Angels with Nancy Davis-Booth and the Catalina Chamber Orchestra

Podcast about O, Wonder! with Becky and Dorothea Nobile

Click to enlarge

Where to buy

The nine antiphons of O, Wonder! are available from the iTunes Music Store – Apple Music.

O, Wonder! is also on the Move CD, Milerum’s Basket CD can be purchased online through Buywell Music  which offers secure online ordering.

The score and parts for O, Wonder! are normally available at the Australian Music Centre but it is closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. You can read more about O, Wonder! at:

Australian Music Centre

You can purchase the score and parts of O, Wonder! directly from Becky by emailing her:

music@beckyllewellyn.com.

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