The text for Logos is taken from the Prologue to the Gospel of John. The cantata was commissioned by the Elora Festival, Elora, Ontario, and was written in Waterloo,
Ontario and Cambridge, England during the summer and fall of 1991. The cantata was premiered 10 June 1993, St. John's, Elora, followed by a performance two weeks later, on 23 June 1993, at St. James Cathedral, Toronto, as part of the 1993 Toronto International Choral Festival.
I. In the Beginning was the Word
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him,
and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
The text of the first movement deals with the concept of a profound unity: the Word and
God are one, and this undifferentiated Oneness existed before all things which were created through it. The music has a mystical, perhaps ritualistic character, resulting partly from the use of the whole tone scale, reflecting the fact that there is no tension or resolution in this concept of Oneness; the Word/God simply is. As the movement opens, the word "Logos" gradually becomes audible; it is not so much that the Word comes into existence, but rather that we are finally able to glimpse its eternal presence.
II. In Him was Life
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him,
yet the world knew him not;
he came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name,
he gave the power to become children of God;
who were born not of blood, not of human desire,
but who were born of God. (John 1: 4-5, 9-13)
While the first movement has a mystical character and is preoccupied with concepts which transcend our human experiences, the second movement is much more "human," covering a wide expressive spectrum from the opening dance of joy to the silence of grief at the centre of the movement, where John writes: "he came to his own home, and his own people received him not." The rejection of the Word is a profoundly dark moment in the relationship between creator and creation, and the wordless oboe is the only voice that remains at this point in the music. The final lines of the movement are again ones of hope, and the dance-like music returns.
III. The Word became Flesh
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us;
we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14)
The mystery of the incarnation, the transformation from the transcendent Word to the flesh of our humanity, is reflected musically at the outset of this movement in the transformation of the whole tone system to the diatonic system. As the movement continues, the music can be heard as a meditation on various aspects of the glorification of the Word: the gentle glory of his birth, the pathos of his glorification on the cross, and the ultimate meaning of the glory of the Son, leading to exuberantrejoicing as the singers urge each other on in an ecstatic celebration.
IV. And from His Fullness (double choir, solo quartet, oboe and organ)
And from his fullness we have received grace upon grace.
For the law was given by Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (John 1:16-18)
The fourth movement becomes increasingly more passive and eventually chant-like, and the music returns by its end to the more mystical character of the first movement. Now, however, the mystical quality of the music is coloured by a sense of resolution, by a human quality which was not present at the beginning of the cantata--the organ figuration from the opening of the cantata returns, but now in a diatonic, rather than whole tone, guise. John's text, which began with reference to the Word and to God, now uses human images child and parent: the Word has become flesh.