About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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"I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?"
— Pope Benedict XVI, writing in 1997

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Ascent to Freedom
published 5 July 2013 by Richard J. Clark

LL KINDS OF MUSICIANS, (especially church musicians) complain often of a lack of freedom. Yet it seems the greatest art pours forth from adversity. I have come to believe that true freedom does not rise from the capacity to fulfill all desires. Freedom is captivity, followed by battle, followed by faith, followed by wisdom and compassion as seen through the eyes of love. Of this struggle, true liberation is born.

PDFFree DownloadAscent to Freedom, III. If You But Trust in God to Guide You | Wer nur den lieben Gott, Tune: George Neumark, 1621-1681

This difficult understanding about the nature of freedom is the inspiration for my five-movement organ work, “Ascent to Freedom.” (Click here to preview/order the score and listen.)

As described by the “Boston Music Intelligencier”:

“… Its five movements are quite accessible, sometimes displaying a French influence. The last three movements made imaginative use of, respectively, the Lutheran chorale If You But Trust in God to Guide You, the spiritual Go Down, Moses, and the hymn How Can I Keep From Singing. There was some compelling musical illustration in the spiritual movement when tortured chromaticism and crunchy reed chords gave way suddenly to diatonic harmonies on the solo clarinet accompanied by string celeste: the effect was like a release from bondage.”
— The Boston Music Intelligencer
(Videos are from my live performance at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts on the 1875 E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings, Opus 801.)
Ascent to Freedom
Video 1: I. Praeludium, II. Adagio e lamentabile
Video 2: III. Tranquillo e dolce, If You But Trust in God to Guide You
Video 3: IV. Moderato e spiccato, Go Down Moses, V. Adagio e cantabile, How Can I Keep From Singing?

Quite notably, “Ascent to Freedom” received its Russian Federation première in 2012 in the cities of Kislovodsk (Кислово́дск) and Yessentuki (Ессентуки́). It was performed by virtuoso organist Mark Husey, Director of Music and Liturgy at St. Peter’s Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

From the billboard concert poster above, “Восхождение к свободе” (“Ascent to Freedom”) is the big headline at the top above the Statue of Liberty. Organist, Mark Husey’s name in large letters is recognizable. My name reads as “Р. Кларк”! (R. Clark)

For those of us who grew up during the Cold War, a performance of an American work that celebrates freedom is something of which we could not conceive.

We must continue to work diligently for this freedom through our prayer, struggle, suffering, faith, wisdom, and through compassion. We are reminded that ultimately, this freedom comes from God alone.