“Prothalamia” (pro•tha•la•mia) is a Latin term for songs or odes composed for a wedding.
The Empire City Men’s Chorus, under the direction of Artistic Director Christopher Clowdus, has embarked on an ambitious project this spring, actively engaging two prominent American composers, Charles Norman Mason and Dr. Dorothy Hindman, in the creation of a new classical work, PROTHALAMIA, that will be a significant addition to the choral repertory for men’s voices.
The piece is especially timely and culturally relevant as it explores marriage and civil partnership, issues that are being passionately discussed and debated throughout our country every day.
Using the universal language of music, and words drawn largely from secular poetry and prose, we hope to lead our audiences on a meaningful personal journey where the concept of marriage can be examined and reflected upon, as it relates both to individuals and society-at-large.
PROTHALAMIA is at the forefront of what is certain to become an avalanche of artistic responses to these critically important human rights issues. The Empire City Men’s Chorus is excited and proud to present the world premiere of this work at Riverside Church in Manhattan on May 23rd (3 pm) and at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights on May 25th (8 pm).
STRUCTURE OF PROTHALAMIA
PROTHALAMIA adheres to a multi-movement form that mirrors the five movements of the Latin Mass, yet is based on secular poetry and prose concerning marriage, relationships, partnership, etc. Since religious tradition shapes our understanding in both positive and negative ways, the composition acknowledges this influence in its structure. The individual movements are strongly connected to traditions of the past; each movement is based on ancient Gregorian chant, with the newly composed music emerging organically from the chants.
PROTHALMIA: THE TEXTS
Paraphrase from the Grottaferrata Office for Same-Sex Union (Pre-modern Europe)
That these thy servants, Philip and Bartholomew be sanctified with the spiritual benediction,
we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That their love abide without offense or scandal all the days of their lives
we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That the Lord God grant unto them unashamed, faithfulness, and sincere love,
we beseech Thee, O Lord
Gertrude Stein, 1910
She came to be happier than anybody else who was living then. It is easy to believe this thing. She was telling some one, who was loving every story that was charming. Some one who was living was almost always listening . Some one who was loving was almost always listening. That one who was loving was almost always listening. That one who was loving was telling about being one then listening. That one being loving was then telling stories having beginning and an ending . That one was then one always completely listening, Ada was then one and all her living then one completely telling stories that were charming, completely listening to stories having a beginning and a middle and an ending. Trembling was all living, living was all loving, some one was then the other one. Certainly this one was loving this Ada then. And certainly Ada all her living then was happier in living than any one else who ever could, who was, who is, who ever will be living.
Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself, 1856
I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips, and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom bone, and plunged your tongue to my
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all
the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own
Anne Bradstreet, 1628
If ever two were one, then surely we.
Of ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women , if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray,
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
Martial, Epigrammata 12.42 ca. C.E. 101
The bearded Callistratus married the rugged Afer
Under the same law by which a woman takes a husband.
Torches were carried before him, a bridal veil covered his face,
Nor was the hymn to you, O god of marriage, omitted.
A dowry was even agreed on.
Does this not, Rome, seem