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Sol Invictus

SSAATTBB (with brief soprano and alto solos)  •  duration 4:00 to 4:30.

Text by Varro and Minucius (ancient Rome).

Written 2013. Premiered 7 Dec 2013 by San Francisco Choral Artists (Magen Solomon, conductor) in Palo Alto, CA, USA.

Sol Invictus is the first of three pieces I wrote during my 2013-14 season as a composer in residence with the wonderful San Francisco Choral Artists.

The themes of this concert were Italy and Christmas. Neither of these are native interests of mine, but after a long search, I assembled (from two sources, with sincere thanks to Latin scholar Roger Pearse) a fantastic text relating to the ancient Roman solstice, or "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti" ("Birthday of the Invincible Sun"). This text can be thought of as a seasonal 'ancient Solstice' text or simply as a sun-worship text, and it's been performed in both secular and sacred contexts.

One of SFCA's core qualities is an incredible blend, and in this piece I explored that otherworldly sustain, in rich dissonances and lyrical solo work.

Text and translation:

Sol Invictus!

Sol, quorum tempora observantur,
cum quaedam seruntur et conduntur.

In solem adeo rursus intende:
nusquam eius claritudo violatur.

Caelo adfixus, sed terris omnibus sparsus est;
pariter praesens ubique interest et miscetur omnibus.

Invincible Sun!

Sun, from which time is observed,
when any seed is planted or harvested.

Always look back to the sun:
its light is inviolate.

It is fixed in the sky, yet it shines equally over all lands;
present everywhere, it is connected with all things.