A Sign Opposed


A Nativity motet in five parts (SSATB) on the prophecy of Simeon, who tells Mary and Joseph that their newborn child is destined to be “a sign opposed, so that the secret thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”


A licensed copy is required for each member performing.



I have had a piece on this text in mind for a number of years, wanting to explore the notion of the soul-revealing nature of trying times — times when one must, in the end, choose a side.  Have you ever reflected on the Holocaust and put yourself into the shoes of an average German, and asked yourself “what would I have done?”

The motet opens with two contrasting phrases, both sung on the phrase “this child shall be.”  The first is light and optimistic, the second is dark and foreboding.  But, as if it is too much to tell new parents the truth of what is in store for their child, the word “opposed” is put off till later; they are only told that “this child shall be…a sign.”

A verse follows on the text “destined is he for the fall and for the rise of many” in which the soprano line “paints” the text, falling and then rising rhapsodically over shifting supporting harmonies.

A return to the refrain brings a repetition of the contrasting phrases “this child shall be.”  But this time, the phrase is completed, with a great increase in intensity, as the sentence is completed: “This child shall be…a sign…opposed.”

Then comes the crux of the piece, as the choir, in solemn and hushed tones, sings “so that the secret thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” The pure harmonies change every measure, as if layer after layer of half-truths are pulled away, until the actual truth is quietly and clearly beheld.

Additional information


SATB a cappella

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