Like Mary, some parents’ lives consist of overwhelming joy and immense sorrow. No joy compares to creating life, and no pain compares to seeing that life taken too soon. In Magnificat (2010), we met the Virgin Mary in joy and wonder as she received the news that she would become the mother of the Son of God. In Stabat Mater (2020), we meet her in deepest sorrow, witnessing the crucifixion of her Son.
A notable addition to the 13th-century Latin hymn text is the movement “What are Children to the Lord?” featuring a poignant poem written by a child hospitalized with cancer and her nurse, Jessica McFarland. It took me several years to track down Jessica, who was humbled and amazed by the request to include the poem in this work.
This movement, along with Euan Tait's "A Mother’s Prayer", enriches the traditional Latin hymn with modern thematic depth, weaving together reflection, sorrow, and hope. I dedicate the work to parents who have lost their own child.
The vocal score, which includes accompaniment for organ, can be used for performing the original version of Stabat Mater with chamber orchestra, available on hire from Boosey & Hawkes.
Music: Kim André Arnesen
Words: Latin 13th-century, Euan Tait, Jessica McFarland, and anon.
Commissioner: Thomas Berg-Juul, Haderslev Cathedral Girls' Choir, Denmark
Voices: SATB or SSAA chorus, solo mezzo-soprano
Instrumentation: Chamber orchestra (or organ)
Duration: 48 minutes
Solo mezzo-soprano SATB or SSAA choir
2 Flutes 2 Oboes 2 Horns in F 2 Trumpets Timpani Percussion (1 player) Organ Strings: 5-4-3-3-1 (recommended minimum)
Or with organ accompaniment only as included in the vocal score.
1. Stabat Mater dolorosa Stabat mater dolorosa juxta Crucem lacrimosa, dum pendebat Filius.
Cuius animam gementem, contristatam et dolentem pertransivit gladius.
O quam tristis et afflicta fuit illa benedicta, Mater Unigeniti!
Quae maerebat et dolebat, et tremebat cum videbat nati poenas incliti.
2. Quis est homo Quis est homo qui non fleret, matrem Christi si videret in tanto supplicio?
Quis non posset contristari Christi Matrem contemplari dolentem cum Filio?
Pro peccatis suae gentis vidit Iesum in tormentis, et flagellis subditum.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum moriendo desolatum, dum emisit spiritum.
3. A Mother's Prayer My child, if I could comfort you as I hover useless above your pain and confusion: I read and know the storm in your spirit, yet you will not let me meet you there. Oh child, I am useless, my soul a broken glass, spilled yet full with the love I have for you.
Oh my child, answer me. Let me comfort you. And no answer. My child, I carried you, yet still your ’no’ sounds loud at the gates of these terrible days, and you will not let me in. I feel that you guard yourself, you watch, so angrily. My child, I pray to you. Your hurt prays back, until you answer me.
4. Eja Mater Eja Mater, fons amoris me sentire vim doloris fac, ut tecum lugeam.
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum in amando Christum Deum ut sibi complaceam.
5. Sancta Mater Sancta Mater, istud agas, crucifixi fige plagas cordi meo valide.
Tui Nati vulnerati, tam dignati pro me pati, poenas mecum divide.
Fac me vere tecum flere, crucifixo condolere, donec ego vixero.
Juxta Crucem tecum stare, te libenter sociare in planctu desidero.
6. Virgo virginum Virgo virginum praeclara, mihi iam non sis amara, fac me tecum plangere.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem, passionis fac consortem, et plagas recolere.
Fac me plagis vulnerari, Cruce hac inebriari, ob amorem Filii.
7. Inflamattus et accensus Inflammatus et accensus, per te, Virgo, sim defensus in die iudicii.
Fac me cruce custodiri, morte Christi praemoniri, confoveri gratia.
8. What are Children to the Lord? What are children to the lord? They are angels sent from heaven and earth. They are like precious stones.
But when one of those children dies. You wonder and wonder why, for children are so innocent they don’t deserve to die.
But then we are reminded that children are angels sent from above and they are down here for a little while to teach us how to love. And act like little children and be pleasant in God’s eyes.
And when they are gone the memories live in us. And for us, we try to do the same until the day we die.
9. Quando corpus morietur Quando corpus morietur, fac, ut animae donetur paradisi gloria. Amen.