Premiered April 12, 2020 by Thomas Sheehan in an Easter (virtual) organ recital at Washington National Cathedral
Fantasy on “Ubi caritas” was commissioned by Carson Cooman and is based on the familiar plainchant, best known as one of the foot-washing antiphons for Maundy Thursday. The wonderful sentiment of the text (“Where charity and love are, there God is.”) makes it suitable for use at any time, and both the chant and its text have served as the basis for many popular choral compositions. The fantasy is cast in a loose arch form and begins with music for the organ’s rich foundations. A two-voice texture in the pedals alternates with phrases of the chant harmonized for manuals and pedal. In the following section, the melody is turned into a flowing cantilena over an active accompaniment. This music dissolves into a section where the melody is freely elaborated in repeated notes and arpeggios. A further increase in energy to triplets accompanies phrases from the melody, now harmonized in triads. The remaining sections of the piece return to the ideas of the previous parts: the cantilena (now accompanied with triplets), the free melodic elaboration with repeated notes, and finally the warm foundation chorale-like texture to end.