Brian Mark’s Sacred Soundscapes: Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum & Prayer of St. Teresa

Teresa Cochran | Artist to Artist | July 31, 2023

Brian Mark, a New York City-based composer, pianist, and video artist, has become renowned for his diverse and captivating musical compositions that encompass various genres and musical styles. His exploration of spirituality and emotive expression is evident in two of his remarkable choral works, "Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum" and "Prayer of St. Teresa." Both pieces offer unique perspectives on faith, human emotions, and the timeless nature of sacred music.

Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum—A Mystical Journey

"Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum" is a choral composition based on the Latin translation of Psalm 134 from the Old Testament. It was commissioned by the Royal Academy Chamber Choir and premiered at Nereshiem Abbey, Germany, on 2nd September 2012, under the baton of Patrick Russill. The challenge of writing in Latin for this esteemed group led Brian on a journey of exploration and introspection.

After researching numerous Latin texts, Brian settled on Psalm 134, drawn to its universal message of prayer and blessings.

Text in Latin: Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum, omnes servi Domini: Qui statis in domo Domini, in atriis domus Dei nostri, In noctibus extollite manus vestras in sancta, et benedicite Dominum. Benedicat te Dominus ex Sion, qui fecit cælum, et terram.

Behold, bless the Lord now, all you servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. In the nights, lift up your hands in sanctity, and bless the Lord. May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.

Psalm 134

Despite the text's straightforward nature, the composition exhibits a sense of mystical spirituality combined with a belief in uncertainty. Brian’s ability to infuse the sacred words with a powerful emotional impact was evident in the inaugural performance, as observed by the Swabian Press: “The choir presented with flawless intonation an acoustic pattern with seldom heard transparency, with organlike chords both in very light piano and also in powerful forte, and not least with a very clear articulation. It was remarkable in the long echo of the abbey church.”

Using Latin for this piece is an illuminating and symbolic choice. Latin is, of course, an ancient language and the root of modern Romance languages, like Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. We still use Latin in the law, medicine, and science. It also persists as an ecclesiastical and liturgical language, with many religious institutions using Latin in their rituals.

“Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum” is centered around faith predating the dawn of Christ, when Latin was the primary language of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. It was used for everyday communication by the common people, soldiers, merchants, and citizens throughout the territories controlled by the Roman state. This thread of language creates a powerful connection to our human and spiritual past. The stories and legends of ancient worship that have withstood the test of time echo through this poignant piece, transporting listeners to a realm of spiritual reflection and reverence.

Prayer of St. Teresa—A Journey of Inner Peace

In contrast to "Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum," "Prayer of St. Teresa" presents a different spiritual journey. This work, awarded first prize from the San Francisco Conservatory 5th Bi-Annual Choral Composition Competition Contest in 2006 and second prize from the New London Singers Queen's Diamond Jubilee Choral Composition Contest in 2012, draws inspiration from the serene and profound words of St. Teresa of Avila.

Let nothing disturb thee,

Nothing affright thee;

All things are passing;

God never changeth.

Patient endurance attaineth to all things;

Who God possesseth in nothing is wanting;

Alone God sufficeth.

Prayer of St. Teresa:

Saint Teresa of Ávila was a prominent Spanish mystic, writer, and Carmelite nun. She lived from 1515 to 1582 and became a Carmelite nun at age 20. She struggled with health issues throughout her life, experiencing various illnesses and physical hardships. Her spiritual life was marked by mystical experiences and visions, which she meticulously recorded. She described encounters with divine beings, experiences of spiritual ecstasy, and a deep sense of union with God. These mystical experiences profoundly influenced her understanding of prayer and the spiritual life. In her 40s, Teresa created a reformed offshoot of the Carmelite Order, aiming to restore the strict observance of the Rule of St. Albert, emphasizing prayer, simplicity, and poverty.

Teresa's approach to prayer emphasized the importance of inner silence and the pursuit of a deep personal relationship with God. She popularized the idea of the "prayer of quiet" and the "prayer of union," describing different stages of spiritual growth and the transformative power of God's love.

"Prayer of St. Teresa" delivers a profound message of inner peace and unwavering faith. The tranquil and meditative atmosphere created by the choir's delicate harmonies and graceful dynamics invites listeners to immerse themselves in the ethereal world of St. Teresa's prayer. Brian’s skillful composition captures the essence of the saint's message: to find solace and strength in God's unchanging presence amidst the transient nature of the world.

Reflections on Brian Mark's Sacred Soundscapes

Though most of Brian Mark's music is not sacred in nature, his musical prowess and emotional depth shine brightly in both "Ecce Nunc Benedicite Dominum" and "Prayer of St. Teresa." Through these sacred soundscapes, he invites us on spiritual voyages that transcend time and language. His compositions reveal the enduring power of sacred music and demonstrate how it can connect us with our past, present, and future. In a world filled with uncertainty and constant change, his works serve as anchors, reminding us of the eternal nature of faith and the solace it offers.

The power of his compositions combined with his skillful integration of visual elements showcases Brian Mark's ability to forge a connection between art and the human spirit.

As we navigate through the challenges and uncertainties of life, Brian Mark's music provides a sanctuary of solace and strength. His ability to evoke profound emotions through each note and word resonates deeply within us, reminding us that even in the darkest times, the light of faith shines brightly.

A Visionary Artist

Brian Mark's talent as a composer, pianist, and video artist captivates audiences worldwide. Based in New York City, Brian’s artistry has reached international acclaim, earning him numerous awards and commissions.

Brian Mark's choral compositions, "Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum" and "Prayer of St. Teresa," serve as powerful testaments to his artistic vision and skill as a composer. In these pieces, Brian weaves musical tapestries that transcend time and language, creating spiritually enriching experiences for performers and audiences alike. The power of his compositions combined with his skillful integration of visual elements showcases Brian Mark's ability to forge a connection between art and the human spirit. Through his music, we find solace, resilience, and a timeless reminder of the enduring power of faith.

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