O Greening Branch

Daniel Kellogg
O Greening Branch

Mixed chorus (SATB) & concert band
DURATION: 14 minutes
TEXT: inspired by the poetry of Hildegard von Bingen; translation by Junius Johnson
Celebratory work commissioned for the 150th anniversary of Wheaton College.

 

 

 

World Premiere
November 2010
Wheaton College Concert Choir
Wheaton College Women's Chorale
Wheaton College Men's Glee Club
Wheaton College Symphonic Band
John Nelson, conductor
Wheaton College
Wheaton, IL

 

 
Daniel Kellogg listening to a rehearsal of O Greening Branch  

Commissioned for the 150th anniversary of Wheaton College by the College and Soli Deo Gloria, O Greening Branch is a fittingly rousing work, filled with fanfare and joyous celebration. The text is based on the poetry of Hildegard von Bingen, along with a few verses from the Psalms. Hildegard of Bingen was a medieval Christian mystic who lived a monastic life. Her profound faith led to an outpouring of creativity in poetry, letters, liturgical songs, and the earliest surviving morality play. Her songs and poems are a timeless expression of her faith and continue to speak with fresh beauty centuries later. The text for O Greening Branch draws from several of Hildegard's poems calling people to worship Christ as the "light of the first dawn."

 

 
  Hildegard of Bingen, sculpture at Abbey Church of St. Hildegard, Rudesheim am Rhein, Germany

"It is particularly exciting to me to bring an ancient text into a modern context. For me, the poetry of Hildegard of Bingen is profoundly beautiful. It’s filled with praise; it’s glorifying God. I love that this ancient voice can speak into our sense of praise right now.  I love the idea of being able to take a text and shape the music to offer a grand statement that I could never make as a single person but only through combining all these forces and inviting all these people to come together to make a piece of music. For me, it has a sense of worship and reverence and celebration.”—Daniel Kellogg

 

From the opening chorus, "Come, enter into the palace of the King," the work builds in drama and intensity, as the text moves from "Praise the Lord in the heavens ... praise him, you shining stars," to:

"O greening branch,
standing in your nobility
you go forth like the dawn:
now rejoice and be glad
and deign to free us,
from our evil ways.
And stretch forth your hand
To raise us up.

O Word of the Father,
crafting all in divine power,
are light of the first dawn
in the orbit of the spheres.

O presience of God,
you foresaw all your works
as you deemed them to be;

O power of eternity
who ordered all things in your heart,
through you, O Word, all things are created.

You, O Word, clothed yourself in flesh
drawn from Adam's race
and cleansed the fleshly garments
from all their stains.

O glittering light of the stars,
O most splendid one,
O unique beauty of royal wedding,
O shining gem:
You are adorned, O high personage
Without spot or blemish.
Come, enter into the palace of the King

O greening branch!"

This new translation of Hildegard's poetry was created by Yale Divinity School Lecturer Junius Johnson. Hildegard loved the color green and used the term viriditas, meaning "fecundity" or "greening," extensively in her writing to express her understanding of Divine power on Earth. She saw "greening power" in all of life, in God's actions moving over the earth, causing all things to flourish.

 

The world premiere of O Greening Branch was paired with a performance of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem, with John Nelson conducting the combined musical forces of the Wheaton College Concert Choir, Women's Chorale, Men's Glee Club, and Symphony Orchestra, along with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and the Northern Illinois University Concert Choir. Here's a sampling of what people had to say about the gala performance:

 

 

 
  John Nelson rehearsing with the Wheaton College musicians

"A fantastic evening . . . I have never heard the Requiem sung with such understanding, beauty and depth!"

 

 

"Saturday’s presentation was fabulous!"

 

 

"The concert was outstanding. The Brahms Requiem was spectacular, and the SDG commission for O Greening Branch was likewise excellent."