“Symphony No. 1: King Arthur”, Part I

This is my first multi-movement symphonic work. It’s based on the legend of King Arthur and follows the story of his coronation and wedding, the adventures of the Round Table Knights, the quest for the Holy Grail, and Arthur’s death and journey to Avalon. Part I has three movements:

1: Land In Chaos
2: Prayer For Deliverance
3: Coronation And Wedding Day Of King Arthur

I composed this piece by using many methods of composition that were well known during the Medieval era and following. One notable technique I employed was that of taking preexisting material and using it for something new. Medieval people understood that everything they created came from somewhere and they made use of the visible and invisible materials they found in nature and the world around them in their crafts. That included using music written by others as material for new compositions. For Movement 2. “Prayer For Deliverance”, I took the “Kyrie” from the “Mass For Four Voices” written by the English composer William Byrd (1539/40 – 1623). He was a Catholic composer living during the tumultuous time of Queen Elizabeth I. He was favored by the Queen for his compositions, but still had to watch out for himself because of his religious faith. Much of his Catholic music was heard only in secret during his lifetime. The “Kyrie” is always found in the Catholic Mass and its words are, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy”. It is one of the oldest prayers in the Mass and it calls confidently on God to have mercy on His people and to save them from their sins. Here, I simply took Byrd’s setting of the “Kyrie” and set it for today’s orchestral instruments. It represents the part in the story of King Arthur when all the knights in the land of Britain came together and prayed for God to give them a king to lead them in taking back their land from the invading Saxons. After they had prayed, Arthur was recognized as their king because only he could draw the mystical sword from the stone.

The story of King Arthur is one of courage, of fighting for the good, and of love for the people entrusted to one’s care. For that reason, it is a legend that is timeless and true. That’s why I chose it to base my first symphony on and why I can’t wait to write Part II!

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