Posts By: willcwhite

Thy King Cometh

Thy King Cometh is my largest work to date, an oratorio for soloists, choir, and various orchestral forces. It was written in two sections: Music for Holy Week (2006) and Music for Advent (2007).

I began work on it in January 2006 when I was in the employ of the Presbyterian Church of Barrington, IL, and completed the Holy Week portions by early April for liturgical use in the Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services.

Which all sounds right and proper, but let’s break it down: I was the interim music director of a modest, mainline-denominational church in the exurbs of Chicago. I had signed something like a 7-month contract, but I took this as an invitation to take over the most prominent week of the liturgical calendar with a wildly ambitious, multi-movement musical extravaganza which I began writing 4 months before it would be performed.

To say that the clergy were unbelievably supportive (and perhaps naïve) in letting an untested 22-year-old with barely any ecclesiastical experience do such a thing would be an understatement, and I still owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

My stint as interim music director came to an end two weeks after Easter 2006, but the congregation banded together to commission more music from me, this time for Advent.

The result when the two sections are added together is a life-of-Christ oratorio that treads the same basic path as Handel’s Messiah. My version is much shorter though, clocking in at just over an hour.

I’ve played the whole piece in concert twice (with some new orchestrations), and individual movements have been done liturgically all over the place. The musical forces vary from piece to piece because I had a different set of musicians on each of the days of Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday).

The whole piece, in order, is in the YouTube link above. You can visit pages devoted to the individual movements (and purchase sheet music) below:


Part I: The Nativity

Chorus: “Prepare Ye The Way”

Soprano Solo: Magnificat

Chorus: “Glory to God”

Part II: The Passion

Fanfare I

Introit: “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion”

Chorus: The Triumphal Entry (“Hosanna in the Highest”)

Recitative & Chorus: “The Transgressions of the Wicked”

Fanfare II

Maundy Thursday

Solo Quartet: “I am the True Vine”

Good Friday


Chorus: Jesus on Trial (“Crucify Him!”)

Chorus: “And the Lord Shall Deliver Me”

Psalm 22

Solo: “My Soul Thirsteth”


Part III: The Resurrection

Easter Sunday

Fanfare III

Introit: “This is the Day that the Lord Hath Made”

Recitative & Chorus: “Thanks Be to God!”

Duet: “For I Know that my Redeemer Liveth”


Overture to Thy King Cometh

A moody piece for string orchestra, this movement opens my oratorio and is supposed to represent the 3 Wise Men wandering through the desert. There’s a bunch of little harmonics in the violin texture representing the twinkling of the star.

The opening violin solo is played by one of my best friends, and longtime collaborators, the incomparable Carlos Villarreal.

Here’s a clip from the recording session:


for Solo Soprano and Orchestra (2 Flutes and Strings)

My setting of the Magnificat is for solo soprano and orchestra (strings and flutes) and is in two movements.  I’ll admit my ignorance – I don’t know of any other settings of this text set for a solo soprano.  I must have sung a bazillion Anglican church anthems on this text, but they’re all for choir.  Anyhoo, it just made sense to me somehow.

I thought I was making a major mistake while writing this piece, because I kind of had a hybrid of several different lady sopranos’ voices in my head.  The incomparably versatile Laura Lynch came in and nailed it, thus proving me wrong (or right, as the case may be).

Addendum (2012): Years later, I finally made a piano reduction of this piece.  Here it is sung by the lovely Rebecca Johnson Lovering (who sang in the chorus of the original TKC recording):

Nunc Dimittis

for A Cappella Chorus (à 6)

I wrote this piece specifically to be included on Cedille Record‘s American Choral Premieres CD (released May 2009).  I wrote it with the virtuosity of the William Ferris Chorale in mind.  The liner notes to the disc are the first time that anybody has ever written about my music (besides me).  I really started at the top here — Andrea Lamoreaux wrote such insightful commentary about this piece that I feel it’s only right to quote her:

White’s setting is radically different from most in that he recounts the entire story of which the sentences beginning “Nunc dimittis” (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace) form the central core.  The result is a miniature narrative cantata in which there are three characters; the infant Jesus, Mary his mother, and the prophet Simeon.  It’s a vivid scene involving both human drama and divine promise.

Buy it on Amazon here, on iTunes here.

Reviews of the album:

Chicago Tribune – John von Rhein


Glory to God!

Anthem for choir and orchestra -or- choir, organ, brass, and timpani
(with a little solo soprano bit)

The traditional text for Christmas Eve, this piece was premiered at about 11:30 PM on December 24, 2006.  Here’s the original scoring: