Vidi Aquam [satb + piano]

Commissioned work for mixed chorus and piano, with brief solo sections featuring mezzo and baritone. The work was premiered by the Da Camera Singers at Helen Hills Hills Chapel on January 20, 2012. For facsimiles of the extraordinary texts, see below. There were two additional performances of the work as part of Da Camera’s 40th Anniversary Season: Jan 18 & 19, 2014.

A recording of this piece as performed by The Crossing is available on my CD, Moonstrung Air.

From the program note for Vidi Aquam by Da Camera Singers director, Sheila Heffernon:

The text for Vidi Aquam comes from an unusual source. In the sixteenth century a group of Italian Catholic reformers (The Spirituali), wrote a book postulating the idea that salvation came simply through “faith alone.” This idea shook the foundation of the Catholic Church, and helped spur on the Reformation. The treatise, Del Beneficio di Giesu Christo Crocifisso was secretly passed from one member of the Spirituali to another, until it found a wider audience. In 1552 the original Italian was translated into French, with an introduction; from the French it was translated into English in 1575. It is from the English translation of the French introduction that Brown took his text for Vidi Aquam. The title comes from the chant that he incorporates into the setting of his text. The composer states: “The chant Vidi Aquam was a natural choice as a framing device for two reasons: firstly, the text of Vidi Aquam speaks to the notion of sola fide . . . secondly, the recurring images of water within the translator’s introduction invited connections to a chant with water as its main image.”


A little before the middle of the Sixteenth Century there appeared in Italy a small treatise, entitled The Benefit of Christ Crucified. It came forth without a name; its author was unknown; it was read with eagerness over a great part of Europe, both in the original Tuscan, and in numerous translations; it was many times reprinted in various forms, both in Italy and elsewhere; several thousand copies were for some years sold annually in Venice alone; and it was admired, not only by the partisans of the Reformation, but by several Cardinals of the Roman Church.

— from Churchill Babington’s introduction to the 1855 edition of The Benefit of Christ’s Death