I have been playing and singing the Bach 371 Four-Part Chorales for more than 25 years. Although they have a Christian/Lutheran context, they are primarily, and for me most importantly, just music, glorious and powerful in themselves.
After all these years I have come to feel that singing the Chorales is an act of prayer, and to date I have sung through the entire book ,all four voices, of each Chorale some 23 times. These ancient melodies are the voice of peace, and over the years, they have formed a peaceful center in me.
Angel of Mercy is a prayer for peace in our troubled time. Three Chorale melodies are the foundation for this music: “O Fear, Disquiet, and Apprehension,” “Oh, How Blest Are Ye,” and “I Leave All Things to God’s Direction.” This piece was commissioned by Timothy Mahr and the St. Olaf Band in honor of the band’s 125th anniversary. It is dedicated to them with profound gratitude and respect.
Program note by David Maslanka (December 2015)