Hymn To Christ the Savior


Words by Clement of Alexandria
SATB voices, organ, bells
Published by Fresh Ayre Music

Clement of Alexandria (c.150–c.215 CE) was a Christian theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. In order to evoke the aroma of that culture, this piece uses some of what is known about the music of ancient Greece, without presuming to recreate that music:

Modal Structure – The Greek modal structure was based on the tetrachord;
that is, on a four-note scale. Two tetrachords separated by a tone comprised
an octave (e.g. E F# G A and B C# D E). In this setting, each melodic phrase
uses only the four notes of a tetrachord in different combinations. The tenors and
sopranos sing (for the most part) within a tetrachord a fourth higher than the altos and basses.

Monophony – Greek music, as far as we can tell, was predominantly mono-
phonic; that is, in single unaccompanied melodies. Although this piece is not
written that way, for the most part, each of its harmonies is constructed from
the notes of the melodies that they support. So it is like a monophonic song
sung in a room with a very selective echo.

Instruments – Ancient Greek instruments included the organ (purportedly
invented in Alexandria during the 3rd century BCE) and bells of definite
pitches, as well as flutes, lyres, and drums. I have used organ and handbells,
and added a triangle because I wanted to.

Texture – I have played with two other musical practices of the time:
antiphonal singing, wherein alternate phrases of a text are sung in turn
by two choruses; and heterophony, in which multiple voices simultaneously
sing different variations of a single melody.

Perusal Score (click to view)

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You, who bridle colts untamed, Wing of unerring bird in flight,
who steer ships along their course and shepherd the royal lambs,
gather together all your artless children to praise with guileless voices
Christ, your children’s guide.

Jesus, Savior of this mortal race; you, the Shepherd and the Cultivator;
you, the Helmsman and the Rider; you the Wing that lifts to Heaven all
the company of the Saints; Fisher of Humanity, those you came to deliver
from the Waters of Sin; for fish untainted you cast the bait of sweet, fresh life;
Shepherd, guide your spiritual flock, Holy King, guide your faithful children:
the footprints of Christ show the way to heaven.

Let us together sing simple praises, true hymns to Christ our King,
a holy offering for his life-giving teachings.

With heart undivided let us sing to the mighty Son.

We, the votaries of peace, we, the Christ-born; praise together the God of Peace.