Corde Natus


for SATB choir a cappella (2003)





4 min.


choir a cappella

Program Notes

Corde natus (Of the Father’s Love Begotten) was commissioned by Scott MacPherson and the Vokalensemble Kölner Dom and premiered in the Cologne Cathedral.  The text was written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c.348 – c.413), a Roman judge. The principle melody, Divinum Mysterium, is from an 11th Century Sanctus trope.  Both the text and tune are familiar as Christmas hymns.

I have tried to take my setting closer to its source than the typical hymn setting.  The work opens with the tune sung as a chant in the sopranos. Slowly, the rest of the choir “picks up” individual pitches in the melody, as though there were a very selective reverb in the hall, forming a diatonic sheen around the melody.  The second verse is set mostly in strict modal counterpoint among the upper voices, but the men sing in parallel 5ths, echoing early organum. Finally, the text, tune and choir are split into 4 soloists and multiple separate parts, each presenting small portions of the preceding counterpoint in overlapping waves.

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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