Vivian Fine





A Song for St. Cecilia's Day




26 minutes


Mixed chorus, soprano and baritone soloists, string orchestra, and two trumpets


John Dryden


Trinity College, Burlington, Vermont, in honor of its 60th anniversary, with a grant from the Vermont Council for the Arts.


October 25, 1985, Burlington, Vermont; Bennington College and University of Vermont choruses, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Vivian Fine, conducting


Available on demo CD

  1. Chorus: From harmony, from Heav’nly harmony
  2. Chorus: What passion cannot music raise and quell
  3. Soprano solo: The soft complaining flute
  4. Chorus: Sharp violins proclaim
  5. Baritone solo: But Oh! what art can teach
  6. Soprano and Baritone duet: Orpheus could lead the savage race
  7. Grand Chorus: As from the pow’r of sacred lays

program notes

A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day shows Fine’s tendency in some of her late works towards a simpler, more consonant style. Though the structure of the piece resembles a Handel oratorio, the music is not related to Handel’s famous setting of the Dryden text—Fine deliberately did not familiarize herself with that piece, although she acknowledges Handel in a couple of brief quotes and in a gentle spoof (in section 2) of his text-settings. The work begins with a transcendent setting of the opening lines, “From harmony, from heavenly harmony, this universal frame began.” Moods of reverence, humor, and drama alternate throughout the piece. The closing section recasts the opening chorus for Dryden’s triumphant final stanza.


“Fine has written a piece of enduring impact. The lyrics have lasted 298 years and the music might be good for at least that period. Fine writes thoughtfully for voices yet with an appreciation of the origin of the words….The writing for instruments was supportive and the trumpet fanfare glorious.”

–John Donoghue, The Burlington Free Press, October 26, 1985

audio files

Opening chorus

From harmony, from Heavenly harmony
    This universal frame began.
    When Nature underneath a heap
        Of jarring atoms lay,
    And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
    "Arise, ye more than dead."
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
    In order to their stations leap,
        And music’s power obey.
From harmony, from Heavenly harmony
    This universal frame began:
    From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.


Orpheus could lead the savage race

    But Oh! what art can teach
    What human voice can reach
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heavenly ways
    To mend the choirs above.