The Gate of Heaven


Click here to download mp3 alone (3.9 megabytes).

The Three Gates was composed during the first two weeks of March in 2007 shortly after Ford began reading Dante's The Divine Comedy.  It is dedicated to the British composer and singer David Warin Solomons, a fellow member of the Delian Society with a remarkable vocal range who prepared the first performance by singing and recording all of the parts himself.   Ford's musical style in these three movements, the last two of which include the organ, was strongly influenced by his familiarity with the music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly the polyphony of Josquin and the operas and madrigals of Monteverdi, although elements drawn from composers as diverse as Gesualdo, Beethoven, and Liszt also come into play.

"The Gate of Heaven," based on nine lines from Paradiso, Canto 15, leaves behind the dark minor mode and enters the bright realm of C Major.  It opens with a threefold canon in which alto, tenor, and bass enter successively an octave apart.  The melody of the canon is then immediately taken up by half of the baritones while the other half sing in close harmony to the accompaniment of the organ.  The next three sections find all four voices singing together in close chordal harmony, with a brief but stately organ solo interjected for contrast.  After another short, particularly poignant choral section in homorhythmic style, the organ makes a dramatic scalar ascent to an E-major triad, to which the voices respond at the unison and octave in recitative, signifying the awe which suddenly overcame Dante "from both quarters."  The concluding section, in A major, rises triumphantly to a crescendo at the word "gloria" ("grace"), then subsides into a profoundly mysterious silence at the words "e del mio Paradiso" ("of my Paradise"). 

This mp3 performance is by the dwsChorale, Sale, United Kingdom, with David Warin Solomons directing. The sound engineer was Steve Fraser, Dallas, Texas.

Learn more about the dwsChorale and David Solomons' multivocal recordings.

Last updated May 8, 2007
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© Copyright 2007 by Joseph Dillon Ford (music) and David Warin Solomons (performance)