Final Psalms Project Premiere in Cincinnati

Knox Presbyterian Choir
Knox Presbyterian Choir

The world premiere of the final commission in Soli Deo Gloria’s three-year Psalms Project takes place on Sunday, February 1, 2015. Robert Beaser’s choral work Songs of the Ascent (Psalm 121) will be presented during the Sunday worship service at Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati by the Knox Choir, conducted by Director of Music Earl Rivers, with soloists from the choir and organist Christina Haan.  




Sunday, February 1, 2015
10:00 a.m. worship service

Knox Presbyterian Church
3400 Michigan Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45208

The service is open to the public and all are welcome.


Robert Beaser
Robert Beaser

American composer Robert Beaser has been described as having a “lyrical gift comparable to that of the late Samuel Barber” (New York Times). His compositions have earned him numerous awards and honors, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters lifetime achievement award. Since 1993, he has served as Professor and Chairman of the Composition Department at the Juilliard School in New York.

For Song of the Ascents, Beaser chose the text from Psalm 121, which, in the Jewish tradition, is said in birth rooms, for newborns, asking for God’s protection in life’s journey.

When I was thinking about using a Psalm, this one held a particular resonance for me. Mendelssohn used it in Elijah, 'Neither Slumbers nor Sleeps,' which I’ve known forever. The intent of the words is very human, very personal – real people encountering real dangers, looking to something beyond them to guide them, to give them comfort, to give them hope."

The piece opens with the very human entreaty, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” and moves quickly into the comforting answer: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth … he who keeps you will not slumber.”  Beaser’s use of the soloists with the chorus creates a layered texture, intermingling the personal, fragile individual with the strength of the collective.

Psalm 121 is one of fifteen Psalms that begin with the ascription Shir Hama'aloth (Hebrew: שִׁיר המַעֲלוֹת‎), meaning "Song of Ascents.” Many scholars believe these Psalms were sung by worshipers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals or by priests as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Song of the Ascents (Psalm 121) was commissioned by Soli Deo Gloria, Inc. as part of SDG’s Psalms Project. Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Psalms Project is a collection of fifteen contemporary choral works by the world’s foremost composers expressing the text of the Hebrew Psalter in the Western Art music tradition for a 21st-century audience.