Whenever a composer discusses their own work, it can be quite treacherous. I only say that because I have had some really bad (and I really mean stupid) experiences with composers talking about themselves. Can I really be objective? Of course not. So, I’ll be honest. And this is how the story goes:
I wanted to introduce my Monastery choir to Maurice Duruflé’s works, particularly his Ubi Caritas. With that in mind, I made a rather feeble attempt to arrange it for my choir. Since that didn’t work, why not imitate Duruflé? Why not do my best impression? That turned into what was the first verse of the Ubi Caritas which is very doable by most choirs.
But then, asked by others, what about the other verses? Is there a way to create a version of the Ubi Caritas that includes all verses and is still singable? In my compositional process, I decided that it would be much more important that the text be strictly understood. That meant, if there is to be any drama in the work, it must not come necessarily from the text, but the build up of tension through modulation. I love the idea of using other aspects of music to create the anticipation of something to come, until the very end, when the Amen coda is strongly modal.
I try to give small insights into my own compositional process and this piece is interesting for me in that I went back and changed it. The choir that sang was a make-shift group that did really well with the short amount of practice. THAT FACT is a sign of how truly accessible the piece is for average choral groups when a professional group can nearly sight sing it.