Date of Award
Great Awakening, scored for baritone soloist, cello, two pianos, and SATB choir, recounts the biblical story of the raising of Lazarus in a postmodern oratorio setting. Musically, the work references Sacred Harp singing, an American folk-hymn tradition often associated with its use in the camp meetings of the Second Great Awakening. Two songs written explicitly in the Sacred Harp style bookend the narrative body of the work, within which short interludes in Sacred Harp style draw together the most important plot points. The biblical narrative recounts Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and includes a discussion between Jesus and Martha (Lazarus’ sister) about resurrection. In Great Awakening this interaction between Jesus and Martha unfolds at the same time as the Lazarus narrative with the soloist and cello together representing Jesus and the choir representing Martha. Martha’s text emerges, fragmented at first, but gradually appearing in semantically meaningful order to match Jesus’ text, which appears in full from the beginning of the work. In this way, as the narrative depicts Lazarus being raised from the dead, it also traces Martha’s affective journey. Jesus’ comments propel both of these parallel narrative arcs and tie them together.
Phelps, Sam, "Great Awakening (an oratorio)" (2019). Dickinson College Honors Theses. Paper 330.