THE MUSIC OF PAUL MEALOR
Performed August 7, 2017, The Cathedral Bascilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
Recording released on Spiritum | GIA ChoralWorks, 2020
“The images of the gods move the soul to contemplation
and preserve the tradition of the undivided light.”
On April 29, 2011, I, like the rest of the world, tuned in to watch the Royal wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William. Of course, I was interested in the music chosen for the day. When it came to one of the anthems, a new piece by Paul Mealor was premiered. I was immediately attracted to the piece…l well, actually, was obsessed with the piece. Until that day, few people knew of Paul Mealor. After that day, thousands of musicians came to know him. For all intents and purposes, Paul and I met that day via sound. It was three years later in 2014 that through a serendipitous meeting in Princeton that I met Paul and he met Williamson Voices who sang for him, oddly enough, Ubi Caritas.
That began a friendship both musically and personally. In hindsight, for me, Paul’s music resonated with me for some very simple reasons. Perhaps some of the same reasons that the music of Arvo Part resonates with me and so many others. Paul’s music is simple. Usually constructed of only several harmonic chords which are added to or subtracted from that are intimately bonded to Paul’s melodic gift. Melodies that touch one deeply and immediately. Paul’s music is not sentimental stuff. As I got to know Paul, there are two distinct people. One person who loves the company of others, and the other we only see (hear) through the music he writes. Deeply honest spiritual journeys that must be navigated with honesty, simplicity and utter directness. For anyone tackling Paul’s music, the thick textures can become unruly if they are overloaded with things that are outside the realm of simple, honest communication. One learns to live and hover within the slow ebb and flow of his harmonic rhythm world. One also learns that dissonance in his music should be only “smudged”…a pastel of colors hidden within larger structures.
And there is that Russian thing in his music. This love of thick textures reminiscent of the Russian part of his background, but always through the harmonic sieve that is uniquely Paul Mealor usually spanning divisi 4 ½ octave scorings! I and the choir have tried to “gift” Paul’s voice to each of you in this recording. All those involved in this recording have sung a vast amount of his music and have come to our understanding of what the music is and what it is not. His music, to quote Erza Pound, is truly “undivided light;” rooted in deep spiritual places that are there hidden within if you wish to explore those places with a direct and “sincere” heart.