E IO ETTERNO DURO, "And Eternal I Endure"
Dramatic Madrigal for Male Vocal Sextet AATBBB

Music by Christopher Fulkerson
Text by Dante Alighieri
The front and back of the Ariel/Chanticleer program on which Chanticleer gave their final performance of E io etterno duro

Ariel Chanticleer Program Page Two

DOWNLOAD the performance
MODERNISM FOREVER includes a recording of this work
See below for the score

This piece is part of a projected cycle of "portal" pieces that I am writing for the Festival. What would be perfect would be for there to be a vocal piece that personified each of the doors into each of the major domains of the universe; so far I have only been able to get the Gate to Hell to speak up. However there are other ways to create gates and I have some of them in mind, for example, I have twice made plans for a "stargate" chamber concerto that I would like to write.

By setting to music this text, which appears as an inscription on a plaque, I have personified the gate into Hell upon which it is, in Dante's Inferno, inscribed. When they are sung by living voices, the words "my high maker" suggest not an inanimate object, but one of God's living creations. Even though this gate is the portal to the place of the damned, the inscription makes it clear that "Justice moved my high maker: The divine power made me." My setting of Dante's poem, from the beginning of the third canto of his epic, is meant to be both serene and ominous, both super- and sub-terrestrial.

E IO ETTERNO DURO was written in 1986 to a commission from Louis Botto, the late founder of Chanticleer, who later also commissioned CELESTIAL SIXTIES I for his group. It is dedicated to Louis's memory and to James L. Jelinek, at the time rector of St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in San Francisco, which the conductor Elizabeth Appling once called "the wildest and wooliest church in the diocese;" I was Music Director there at the time. It was first performed by Chanticleer at the Sacramento New Music Festival, and then several other times, on a program which included the Monteverdi Lagrime cycle. The pieces go well together, and since several of my pieces are consciously written as companion pieces to existing works I admire, I thought Louis's idea to put my piece together with the Monteverdi, a lament he wrote as an old man on the death of a teenage lover (Monteverdi was evidently a pretty zesty guy), was quite thoughtful. No negative implication should be drawn from the textual pairing, since if you follow the Dante story you know that, like the person who lands on, but is not "sent to" Jail in the game of Monopoly, you are "Just Visiting" Hell. The piece received some of the best press I've ever gotten.

There is a humorous Fulkerson family story that attaches to the premiere of this perhaps ominous piece. After the performance was over, the quite large audience fell silent - clearly they simply did not know whether the piece was over or not. The concert was in a church, and between the holy environs and the silence there was perhaps some awe in the air. My mother, who lives in Sacramento, had arrived on time, but I had just frantically driven in from San Francisco, arriving at the moment the concert began, and couldn't find her to sit with her. When the crowd fell hushed my mother heard someone near her say "He's too young to be such a genius!" She loved the implication that by extension, she, too, was young.

The important thing to realize about Dante's explanation of Hell is that God created it in an act of wisdom and compassion. The plaque on the Gate to Hell states this explicitly.

Here is the text:

Pe me si va ne la citta dolente
Per me si va ne l'etterno dolore
Per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore;
Fecemi la divina podestate,
La somma sapienza e'l primo amore.

Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
Se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

Through me you enter the woeful city,
Through me you enter eternal grief,
Through me you enter among the lost.

Justice moved my high maker:
The divine power made me,
The supreme wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me nothing was created
If not eternal, and eternal I endure.
Abandon hope, you who enter.

The translation by Charles S. Singelton is used by permission of Princeton University Press.

The Chanticleer singers on the recording are: Randall Wong, Joseph Jennings, Rob Bell, Mark Daniel, Neal Rogers, Louis Botto, Bruce Sellers, Kevin Baum, Tom Hart, Raymond Martinez, Mark Keller, Kevin Freeman, Doug Wyatt, Tim Gibler. Of these, Mark Daniel and Kevin Freeman were a core Ariel members, and Raymond Martinez also appeared occasionally with Ariel, for example in the performance of the Peter Maxwell Davies choral cycle WESTERLINGS, also released on the double CD set MODERNISM FOREVER. The recording was made at an Ariel concert given on Friday, May 20, 1988 at the San Francisco Community Music Center, to which Ariel had had to flee on the dissolution of the Waterfront Theater. Since my friend the violist and artist Patrick Kroboth was playing on the program, the opportunity was taken to display some of the artwork he had created for our collaboration on my translation and extension of Wagner, which I call THE RING OF THE DARKLING.

The score is 38 pages long in the composer's fair hand. Hard copy of the Study Score is $15.



Posted November 26, 2009