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WorksChoral MusicMixed Chorus with accomp.Spell of the Elements

Spell of the Elements

Voicing: SATB double chorus and piano
Text: Original text by Abbie Betinis, and
        "Spell of the Elements" by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001)
Duration: 5 min.
Commissioned by: Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota
Premiere: March 16, 2008; St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Cloud, MN
Published by: Abbie Betinis Music Co., AB-053-00

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"Spell of the Elements" performed by the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota in St. Cloud, MN. Garrett Lathe, conductor.


This piece is inspired by the four Classical elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water). In it, the voices invoke each element and request of it certain characteristics. The process is similar to, and often associated with, the ancient practice of "calling the directions." In fact, as the lyrics suggest, each element is associated with a direction, as well as with a color, action and part of the body. As in traditional practice, toward the end of the piece, the elements are thanked and dismissed one by one.


Staging is an important component of this piece. In the score, Choir II turns to face the directions as Choir I calls them out. Indications to turn look like this:

= Face Front (stomp right foot, then left foot)

= Face Right

= Face Back

= Face Left

The stage should be set up so that Choir II can stand in a single file line, arranged by voice part (i.e. not in mixed formation). This will make the visual effect of the turning quite stunning. For instance, if Choir I is on risers, Choir II could stand single file on the floor, in front of them and extending on either side. Or perhaps Choir II could extend only on either side of the risers, dividing into two voice parts on each side of Choir I.

Spell of the Elements Poem by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001)
Fire and water, air and earth
Contend, unite. A magic birth
Is taking place [. . .]

This text is under copyright.
Spell of the Elements (supplementary text) by the composer
I call the power of the North,
the power to make,
rich Earth create!
Make me steady, strong, serene,
Make my body evergreen!

I call the power of the East,
the Air I take,
breathe, circulate,
Lift me high'r,
Fly, inspire!

I call the power of the South,
the power to grow,
Love, spark my soul,
Burn, crimson Fire,
Fill me with desire!

I call the power of the West,
the power to flow,
Dream Water, deeply know,
Help me move compassionately,
Blend in me!

Text © Abbie Betinis

Performed by:

Camerata Nova - Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA
Global Harmony Chorus (Jennifer Anderson) - Roseville, Minnesota
Harmonium Choral Society (Anne Matlack) - Madison, New Jersey
Mounds Park Academy Concert Choir (John Habermann) - Mounds Park, Minnesota
Kamarikuoro Aava - FINLAND
One Voice Mixed Chorus (Jane Ramseyer Miller) - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Unity Choir, Unity Church-Unitarian (Ruth Palmer) - St. Paul, MN
Valborgkoor (Árpád Schermann) - Zeist, The Netherlands
White Heron Chorale - Appleton Wisconsin
Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota (Garrett Lathe) - Minnesota

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