The Five Apparitions are settings of the four Marian Antiphons as well as the Ave Maria for two voices, viola, and piano. Their construction is specific: either the tenor or the bass sings a version of one of the plainchant settings of this text, while the other sings a five-pitch melody in which each pitch corresponds to the Latin vowel being sung at the time. The baritone and tenor each take on the role of plainchant singer variously throughout the work and I chose both neumatic as well as melismatic settings for variation. The five-pitch melodies, which vary widely from song to song, were carefully chosen to accentuate and expand the modal implications of the plainchants, sometimes even creating polytonal/polymodal dimensions.
The rhythms were determined by considering the counterpoint at a given moment, purposefully selecting points of consonance, dissonance and unison for musical effect. The viola largely provides commentary on the melodic structures presented by the voices, and the piano contributes most of the fuller harmonic underpinnings. I added some level of complexity into the sonorities of the piano and viola in order to give more depth to the simple modality of the original plainchants.
Each of these duet-songs represents a specific apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and they are intended as a symbolic interpretation of the nature of her apparitions, whether of sorrow, comfort, or of joy.
Evan C. Paul, March 2016