Missa Universalis Vi - The Names Of God Iii. Peace (Om Shanti)
Missa Universalis Vi - The Names Of God Iv. Epilogue
Ayejael Ne Yesu
Roger Davidson :
Universal Sacred Music
For some artists, music is a means to spiritual enlightenment; for others spirituality is a key element of their musical purpose. But for the eminent composer/pianist Roger Davidson, music and spirituality are inextricably intertwined in his lifelong pursuit of humanism, peace and the illumination of a path for his brothers and sisters to realize the fullest potential instilled in their spirits as children of God. A humanitarian in the purest sense of the word, Roger is also an ordained minister. He founded the Society for Universal Sacred Music in 2000, for the purpose of promoting this message, particularly by emphasizing the unconditional love of God for us all.
Although his music – and the 20+ recordings he has made – covers a full spectrum that includes Jazz, Brazilian music, Argentine Tango, Klezmer, children's music, romantic songs and Western Classical choral, chamber and symphonic forms, it is the emphasis upon the deeply spiritual that epitomizes Roger's focus. His latest endeavor Universal Sacred Music for Chorus (on Soundbrush Records)is a stunning and profoundly powerful affirmation of the transcendence that is the substance of his vision. This album is something of a yin/yang reflection of Temple of the Soul, his masterpiece solo piano recording of rhapsodies and meditations that was released in 2014. Where the solo album's purity and direct illumination provided a vivid sense of intimacy and the emotional radiance of one man's voice, Universal Sacred Music for Chorus is a sweeping and sumptuous journey into the majestic.
Roger has a long and rich history with Classical Choral composition and this album could be seen as a "sequel" to his earlier recording Missa Universalis, originally released in 1988 and including the first three of his Universal Masses. Universal Sacred Music for Chorus contains Missa Universalis IV through VI, along with four additional pieces – three Prayers and a most appropriate Amen. The three Missas are performed by a remarkable 16-voice choir -- the New York Virtuoso Singers, conducted by Harold Rosenbaum, presenting the gorgeous soundscapes impeccably. The music is further enhanced by the brilliant addition of one or two wind instruments essentially participating as the celebrant/priest providing the guidance through the rapturous events. The English horn of Matthew Dine guides Missa Universalis IV (composed in 1992); Jo-Anne Sternberg's clarinet is featured on Missa Universalis V (2002) and Dine returns on oboe alongside bassoonist Seth Baer for Missa Universalis VI "The Names of God" (2003).
This last Mass, his most recent, perhaps best expresses the fundamental unity shared by all faiths that is the core of Roger's message. "(It) was written to represent God as human beings have referred to God in five different faith traditions" – specifically Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. "It also contains a Sanskrit mantra for peace, ‘Om Shanti' – as the greatest peace ultimately comes from God, and from the light in our innermost selves, which I believe are born of God."
That sense of universal unity is also manifested in the three Prayers – Ayajael ne Yesu (Prayer of Jesus), Ayejael Cherokii (Cherokee Prayer) andAyejael Sufii (Sufi Prayer) – which were all composed in 1982, and are written in Yawasiil – Language of Light – a language Roger began writing the year before. These are all written for chorus a cappella, beautifully hypnotic and utterly uplifting. Amen, written in 1988, has a text of stirring simplicity – just the word Amen.
In his beautifully inspirational liner notes, Roger expresses the intent of Missa Universalis VI "The Names of God" but in truth, his words consummately express the intent of this album, and of Roger's spiritual mission:
"This piece is also a prayer for the creation of lasting peace – the peace that can only come about when there is a peace among the followers of all the world's religions. Such a peace, I believe, will be established on Earth once human beings have learned that we are all Brothers and Sisters, children of one eternally loving God."