He Walks the Road
anthem for mixed chorus, organ, brass, and timpani
Live Premiere Performance - April 16, 2017
Commissioned by and dedicated to West End United Methodist Church and their choir director, Dr. Matthew Phelps
I have long been fascinated with the story of Emmaus, where a group of disciples walks with the resurrected Jesus, unaware of their leader’s identity. They learn of his presence only in the breaking of the bread, a seemingly simple daily task with profoundly symbolic meaning. I wanted to paint the magic of such a moment in my music, with their shocked awareness given tactile representation in sound.
With the words of Pastor Michael E. Williams, the Emmaus story becomes less about detail and more about the inner thoughts of individuals, more personal, as the best poetic arias in Bach’s Passions. These words sing so easily. It was almost as if I was taking musical dictation from them as I wrote this work, the poem suggesting to me the music that would best pair with it.
And so He Walks the Road is an Easter anthem for brass, organ, timpani, and chorus, but without the usual resurrection fanfares, circumstance, or pomp. No, this is music of frightening revelation, where the sublime mysteries of faith are painted in sounds hushed and haunting, great and grand.
The work was commissioned by West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, the church where our poet serves. It is humbly dedicated to that same community and to their choir director, Dr. Matthew Phelps, to whom I owe gratitude for making this project—and this music—a living one.
-- Dominick DiOrio
He Walks the Road a Stranger
By Michael E. Williams
They walk the road but not alone
Approaching home as night comes near.
The sorrows of the day repeated,
He walks the road a stranger
The only one who knows.
And hears his life/death story told,
A tale of loss they think is all their own.
They speak of death and dreams defeated.
“Are you the only one who did not hear?
“We thought he was the one foretold,
The one to keep us from all danger
And the power of the Romans overthrow.”
“Come in and eat,” they say at journey’s end,
He sits at table with them, breaks the bread.
They watch him in their brokenness and dread
And recognize the stranger as their friend.
(Re-printed with permission of the author.)