In the communion liturgy of the Reformed Episcopal Church, the passage Matthew 21:28 is the first of the passages of “comfortable words” spoken by the minister to the congregation after the general confession (the others are John 3:16, I Timothy I:15 and I John 2:1-2), and while not intended use in that point of the service (the music is both too long and the scripture text is paraphrased and extended), I wrote the motet very much with that situation — and condition — in mind. It was composed over a couple of days in September, 2013 and given to Daniel Shaw and his Composers Choir who recorded it at the First Baptist Church of New Haven, Connecticut.
The music follows the highly sectionalized character of the text. The opening invitation (“Oh come”) and its following specification of condition (not everyone is invited, only those who find themselves “heavy laden”) is repeated four times, addressed to the four corners of the compass. The counterpoint becomes imitative with the introduction of the promise (“and I will give you”) which changes again, for obvious reasons, at “rest” (after a lengthy, quite literal “rest”). This “rest” for the basses and tenors becomes an ostinato over which the sopranos and altos carry the text of verses 29 and 30 (again paraphrased).
Refinersfire is releasing “O Come” on December 31, 2013, just days after the taping of the Carmina Catulli, and there is an almost fated appropriateness to the timing.
Musically, it exemplifies the fact that in my music words always come first, the music growing out of the words and being an exegesis of them. In this I am a composer in the tradition of Marenzio, Bach, Schumann, and so many others. And while, at first glace, these almost contemporary classical texts (Catullus and the writer of Matthew are separated by a century) could not be more different, there is a thematic relationship between them — at least to me. In his brilliance, honesty, courage and volcanic passion for life, the one thing that Catullus searches for yet cannot find is true rest. The song cycle ends with the unresolved agony of “Odi et amo.” And in the twelfth song “Multas per gentes”, there is a written out silence of three measures, the final measure extended by a fermata. Here, Catullus, in the face of death, cries out and receives back only the horrifying silence of the abyss. “O Come” includes a parallel silence of four measures, but here the silence is answered by the ostinato “rest” and the gentle invitation to take on Christ’s easy yoke and light burden.
The motet is dedicated to my brother Phil, a Presbyterian minister and missionary
— Mike Linton