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Women in Music Festival 2011
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for SATB double chorus and double reed quartet
by Hilary Tann

The subtitle for “Exultet Terra” is simply, “Among Thy Trees”.  The 30-minute work is an extended song of praise for chorus and double reeds developed from the first line of George Herbert’s poem, “Paradise”: “I bless thee, Lord, because I grow among thy trees …”  The Persian word “Paradise” means “Walled Garden” — such as the walled gardens of the Taj Mahal.  Again and again biblical texts refer to trees as images of peace and joy: “all the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the Lord”.  The text for this three-part work has been adapted by Welsh composer Hilary Tann from the Vulgate Bible and King James’ Bible, and incorporates three poems of George Herbert (Welsh poet and priest, 1593-1633).  The outer movements, “Exultet Terra” and “Iubilate”, are joyful; the inner movement is retrospective and conjures a landscape devoid of trees: “My heart is smitten and withered like grass; I am like an owl of the desert.”

Although present, the environmental and religious aspects of the words are not the primary focus of the composition.  While listening to the piece the audience is invited to consider the beauty of the pastoral world and the sense of peace and joy that such a world gives to those who are fortunate to live “among thy trees”.  The composer hopes that contemplation of this topic will lead to enhanced enjoyment of the natural world and, as a consequence, its preservation.  But most of all “Exultet Terra” is a song of praise in an age-old sacred musical tradition.  It is the composer’s response to the text, “Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth in peace, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

– Hilary Tann

Exultet Terra (libretto in PDF)