VII (2016) is a work for Brass Quartet (2 Baritone Horns, Euphonium & Tuba) and Percussion commissioned by the Għaqda Mużikali Santa Marija, Ħal Għaxaq as part of a series of events tied to Lent. This work presents a series of musical reflections on Christ’s final moments, specifically on his last phrases on the cross. The work is divided into seven movements, and before each movement there were seven literary reflections commissioned from seven of Malta’s most outstanding authors: Trevor Zahra, Maria Grech Ganado, Immanuel Mifsud, Clare Azzopardi, Adrian Grima, Simone Inguanez, u Wayne Flask.
I. Missier, aħfrilhom, għax ma jafux x’inhuma jagħmlu / Father forgive them for they know not what they do
VII starts with the sound of a funeral marċ, a genre synonymous with Holy Week in Malta. This march presents a four-note motif representing the Cross; a motif that reappears in the work at various points.
II. Tassew ngħidlek, illum tkun fil-Ġenna miegħi / Truly I say unto you, today you shall be with me in Paradise
This movement is imbued with a sense of peace. It takes the shape of a short reflective hymn build on another motif, hidden in the bass, representing Death. This motif is heard twice, the second time round in an inverted form: Death defeated…Paradise gained.
III. Mara, hawn hu ibnek; hawn hi ommok / Woman, behold your son; behold your mother
In spite of the pain, confusion, and sorrow that Mary and John the Evangelist must have felt at that time, these words bring a sense of hope. The music contains a flowing melodic character, yet it is scored in an irregular metre of seven evoking the many conflicting thoughts and emotions of Mary and John at that moment. Hidden in the general texture, there lies hidden the Cross motif.
IV. Eli, Eli, lama sabaqtani? / My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Crucifixion is a slow and painful death. This cry for help stands as one of the most powerful phrases in the New Testament. The Baritone Horn has seven musical phrases, one shorter than the next, until the music reaches one solitary note. In between each phrase there are six strikes on the Bass Drum, one for each hour Jesus spent on the cross.
V. Għandi l-għatx / I am thirsty
At that crucial moment, Jesus asks for what is perhaps one of the most basic of human needs: to drink. Seven chords alternate with seven phrases on the bass, this time each phrase longer than the previous one as the thirst increases. On the last phrase the drum enters and the music stops on a discordant chord: the much awaited drink consists of sour wine.
VI. Kollox mitmum / It is finished
This phrase gives a sense of resignation; Christ has now reached the end. The music opens with the Cross motif on Tuba, and slowly all the other instruments enter weaving independent melodies, until the music is resolved on the final chord. The Bass Drum strikes four notes: the end has come.
VII. Missier, f’idejk jien nerħi ruħi / Father, into your hands I commend my spirit
The work ends on brass only. The percussion, symbol of the human aspect of the story, is silent, for now all rests on the Divine plan. The final reflection is a short fugue, built on a theme that brings together the Cross and Death motifs. Once more, the Death motif is inverted for now Death has been conquered. Slowly the music weaves its way towards the end: one note…the last candle…Hope.
VII was premiered on 17th March 2016 at Sala Santa Maria, Għaqda Mużikali Santa Marija, Ħal Għaxaq, Malta. The performers were Justin Formosa and Duncan Borg on Baritone Horn, Tancred Grech on Euphonium, Wayne Bartolo on Tuba, and Clayton Gomez on percussion. Monica Attard read the literary texts.
The photography for this page is by Sebio Aquilina