“Canticles for the Holy Innocents: Three Prayers for Mixed Choir”
(SATB a cappella)
Music by Eric M. Pazdziora
I. Vox in Rama Percrebuit: St. Bede the Venerable, “Hymnum Canentes Martyrum,” c. 7th century
II. Salvete, Flores Martyrum: Prudentius, “Hymnus Epiphaniae” from Liber Cathemerinon, 4th century
III. In Paradisum: Hymn from “Missa pro defunctis,” traditional
In Memoriam Lydia Charity Schatz (2002-2010)
World Premiere March 19, 2016 by Chorosynthesis Singers.
Lydia (Koko) Schatz was born in Liberia and adopted by a family in Paradise, California. Her adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, followed the doctrines of a preacher named Michael Pearl. Pearl teaches that children’s so-called rebellious wills must be broken by repeated corporal punishment with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line. When Lydia mispronounced a word, this was seen as a sign of rebellion. Following Pearl’s doctrine, the Schatzes whipped her for seven hours, taking breaks for prayer. This resulted in her death from kidney failure a day later, on February 6, 2010. She was seven years old. After Lydia’s murder, Michael Pearl wrote that in response to his critics, he laughed.
Canticles for the Holy Innocents is dedicated to the memory of Lydia Schatz, though it is also for the thousands of children who die each year as a result of violence and abuse. Like the Holy Innocents killed by Herod, these children hold a place of special honor and special sorrow in the Christian faith. The texts are taken from early Latin hymns and prayers, used in liturgy to commemorate their martyrdom. My musical setting blends adaptations of late medieval polyphony with modern harmonic techniques to evoke a timeless sense of consolation.
Texts and Translations:
Vox in Rama percrebuit,
Lamenta luctus maximi,
Rachel suos cum Lacrymis
Perfusa flevit filios.
Gaudent triumpho perpeti,
Tormenta quique vicerant,
Quorum gemens ob verbera
Vox in Rama percrebuit.
Salvete, flores Martyrum,
In lucis ipso lumine
Quos sevus ensis messuit,
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.
Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.
In paradisum deducant te Angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.
A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, terrible pain:
Rachel, calling for her children
With her tears.
They rejoice with everlasting triumph
Because they conquered their torments.
For their shrieks under the rod
A voice is heard in Ramah.
Be happy, Flowers of Martyrdom,
In the light of light itself;
Whom a savage blade mowed down
As a whirlwind tears apart a blossoming rose.
You are the first victims for Christ,
Little flock of sacrificial lambs,
Crawling beneath the altar
With palm branches and crowns,
Beautifully at play.
May flights of angels sing you into Paradise;
May the Martyrs welcome you as you approach,
And may they guide you to the Holy City,
May a choir of angels bear you in their hands,
And with Lazarus, who was a beggar,
May you find eternal rest.
(Translations by John Patrick Pazdziora.)
* * *
A few meditations from the premiere that were too long for the program notes:
Tonight’s concert is called “Empowering Silenced Voices.” My piece being premiered, “Canticles for the Holy Innocents,” lends our voices to Lydia Schatz, and to all the child victims of abuse whose voices are silenced.
The text of the first movement is both despairing and defiant: “A voice is heard in Ramah”—a voice of grief, of bereavement, of suffering under the rod—but a voice is heard. It may be ignored or suppressed by the Michael Pearls and Herods of the world, but it is not silent.
The second is a prayer, or blessing, to the child victims of martyrdom: “Be happy, little flowers of martyrdom.” Blessed are those who receive the martyr’s crown and palm branches— and who see them as toys to play with.
The third is the traditional prayer “In Paradisum” from the requiem mass—in a bitter irony, Lydia was killed in the town of Paradise, California. The true Paradise is full of the welcoming voices of angels, of martyrs, of others like the beggar Lazarus who were ignored by the rich man in this life, now receiving their welcome and their reward.
Salvete, little Lydia. May flights of angels sing you into Paradise.
* * *
For more information on Lydia Schatz and the abusive teachings of Michael Pearl, see the blog Why Not Train A Child?
See also my published articles on Spiritual Abuse.
Guest post on Global Christian Worship blog about the “Empowering Silenced Voices” concert premiere.