(We Have Seen His Star)
Music: Kevin Siegfried
Text: Traditional Latin
SATB divisi, brass quintet or organ
E. C. Schirmer Music Company #8634
Kevin Siegfried’s brand-new Christmas cantata Vidimus Stellam (We Have Seen His Star) fulfills, more than adequately, a need for a concisely written Christmas piece with moderate performing forces. Commissioned through the efforts of four choirs, including the National Lutheran Choir, for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, ME, Vidimus Stellam is written in honor of, and perhaps inspired by, Daniel Pinkham’s 1957 Christmas Cantata. Siegfried’s fifteen-minute work is in five brief movements.
The lightly accompanied piece employs a brass quintet (expertly written) with the option for organ performance. The solo French Horn and Trumpet, in particular, seem to sing along with the choir, almost like a fifth voice part, creating a haunting atmospheric counterpart to the often homophonic choral texture. The choral parts are limited in range for all but one highlighted moment in the cantata, yet do linger on sparkling unresolved dissonances, like brush-strokes on canvas.
Using chant-like patterns, Siegfried alternates in the first three movements between an almost medieval choral palette over extended pedal harmony and scalar patterns and more playful, dancing fugal passages. The fourth movement, “Surge, illuminare” explores mixed and compound meters that mimic the syllabic stress of the text, while the final movement, “Vidimus stellam” features a warm 8-part choral divisi utilizing antiphonal, asymmetric chants to bring the piece to a robust conclusion.
CHORAL JOURNAL March 2019, Volume 59 Number 8