Academic journal article Journal of Singing

L'abbé Agathon

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

L'abbé Agathon

Article excerpt

The "angel unawares" story of the text of this composition concerns a French religious, Abbé Agathon, who was on his way into town one day to sell some small items in the marketplace. He met a leper sitting beside the road who asked the Abbé to carry him to town also. Agathon did so. Each time he sold something, the leper asked how much money he got and asked the Abbé to buy him something until at last all the items were sold. As the Abbé was leaving, the leper asked whether he were going back and would he take him along. Agathon carried the leper back to where he found him, whereupon the leper said, "Agathon, you are filled with divine blessings, in heaven and on earth." As he looked up, Agathon saw that the leper was an angel of the Lord sent to test him.

Arvo Pärt has set this text for a single voice singing the text in a very simple, repetitive, chord-outlining melody over the music of the eight cellos (or four violas and four cellos-both versions published). The instruments set the scene with chords in a walking rhythm at the beginning, reflecting the heavy footsteps of the Abbé carrying the leper on his back. …

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