Peter Hallock: Draw on sweet night
ABOUT THE MUSIC
The music of Peter R. Hallock (born 1924) provides a sonic feast bathed in mysticism and fueled by intuition. Hallock is a mystic, countertenor, composer, organist, and liturgist inextricably linked to St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle where he served as organist/choirmaster for four decades from 1951 to 1991.
His most notable contributions to church music include the launch of a chant study group that eventually became known as The Compline Choir, an ensemble that has led to a resurgence of interest in the Office of Compline; the installation of the Flentrop tracker-action organ at the cathedral, making St. Mark’s the first Episcopal cathedral to install such an instrument; the development of the Advent and Good Friday Processions for the cathedral; and, composition of The Ionian Psalter.
To discover Hallock the mystic, one need only experience his music, ideally in the “Holy Box” that is St. Mark’s (where the bulk of the disc was recorded). It is that “Holy Box” that provides both a physical space and musical landscape in which to hear, process, and intuit his music. The texts he sets to music provide vignettes of the metaphysical and mystical, from the poetry of Alcuin, to the words of the psalmist, to the poetry of John Wilbye. For Hallock, all music originates from the text: “For me, I think it all comes out of the text, to put it into whimsical terms…writing the music is easy because the music exists, you just write it down. It’s somehow inherent in the text and I think that goes for everything.” Hallock marries text and music in ways that allow listeners to experience something wholly unique, something beyond themselves, something holy. Again, Peter says it best: “Music is a conduit to the inner, spiritual person; and I think the road to God is internal.”
The sound of Hallock’s music has been called both unique and mystical. J. Melvin Butler, Hallock’s successor at the cathedral, describes Hallock’s music as “mystical, evocative, spiritual—filled with pretty, lush chords, harmonic surprises, and contrapuntal interest.” Others, like Carl Crosier, think that Hallock “has a real musical signature” that is discernable within the first few measures because of the mysticism inherent in his works. Indeed, there is an identifiable Hallock signature one picks up on almost immediately when listening to his music.
Hallock resides in Fall City, Washington, in a home on a secluded road in an area often covered with clouds and pelted with rain and occasional snow. He is an avid gardener and maintains a vibrant estate which includes a formal Japanese garden. Though officially retired, he is always refining, editing, and composing music. No piece of music is ever really finished or immune to revision, even those that have been published. Recent compositions include Advent Calendar (2012), commissioned by the Compass Rose Society to honor Archbishop Rowan Williams on the occasion of his retirement, and Victimae Paschali (2013), composed for St. Mark’s Cathedral’s Easter Day services. Hallock’s published music is available from Ionian Arts, Inc. () and GIA Publications, Inc. (); inquiries about unpublished works, including those contained on this compact disc should be made via The Compline Choir ().
JASON ANDERSON, DMA, is a conductor, organist, and liturgist with a passion for the music of Peter Hallock. He serves as Associate for Liturgical Arts and Youth Formation and Organist/Choirmaster at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Issaquah, Washington. In July 2009, he was appointed director of the Compline Choir in residence at St. Mark’s Cathedral. He hails originally from Franklin, Indiana and is a graduate of Butler University, Portland State University, and the University of Washington. Dr. Anderson has authored a dissertation, “The Life and Works of Peter R. Hallock (b. 1924)”, and articles about Hallock for the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians.
THE BYRD ENSEMBLE
Markdavin Obenza, director
1. Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem (Setting I)
2. I Saw a New Heaven and a New Earth
3. I am Wisdom
4. Wash Me Through and Through
5. Victimae Paschali (Setting I)
6. Michael, Archangel of the King of Kings
7. Processional Psalm 122
8. Processional Psalm 121
9. Compline Psalm 23
10. Compline Psalm 24
11. Compline Psalm 91
12. Compline Psalm 51
13. Compline Psalm 104
14. Draw On, Sweet Night
"Sensational (and difficult) brass and percussion playing can be heard right away on this disc. The choir sings magnificently in tune with a stunning accuracy of intent. I felt drawn into this music immediately. The disc starts with six large pieces (most of them just over eight minutes in length) and then includes seven psalm settings that Hallock composed for the Compline Choir (not the same as found in the Ionian Psalter). I love what Obenza is doing with this group. Recorded, appropriately enough, in St. Mark’s Cathedral, the disc is truly thrilling."
Dimmock, Jonathan. “Recording Reviews.” The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians. Vol. 23 No.1 January 2014.