Words: Amy Bornman
song cycle for high voice and piano
Transfiguration began at a United Adoration retreat—hosted at Church of the Ascension and led by my wife, Elise—in 2019. Quite frankly, I didn’t know why I was there. I admire and respect what UA does—fostering and supporting arts in the local church—and I wanted to support Elise, but as a composer of art music, it was unlikely that I would finish a new work during the duration of the two-day retreat.
Enter Lara McGill, soprano extraordinaire, who was also wasn't quite sure why she was there. We got to know each other, commiserated about being people of faith in the classical music world, and threw out the idea of collaborating together.
It was toward the end of the retreat that the multi-talented Amy Bornman read a poem she had written entitled “Transfiguration.” Set in 14 parts, Amy’s poem—originally entitled “Transfiguration Variations,” incidentally—presented various imagined memories and impressions of the biblical Transfiguration narrative. It struck me then and strikes me now as a remarkable work.
Almost immediately, I saw this as an opportunity to write a proper song cycle, closer to the work of Schubert or Schumann than anything I had yet written. I asked Amy if she would be open to me setting her poem to music, and she responded enthusiastically. And Lara said that, if I would set it to music, she’d want to sing it. So I had what any composer of art songs or song cycles would be desperate to find: a brilliant multi-part poem and an equally brilliant soloist.
It was an absolute joy to set Amy’s text to music, and do to so with Lara’s voice in mind. There is certainly more that could be said about this piece, but that can wait for another time.
Transfiguration was premiered at Church of the Ascension (Pittsburgh, PA), on Sunday, February 19, 2023.
Duration: approx. 40 minutes