#149– May 30, 2022


O Magnum Mysterium, by American composer and educator James Syler is our Composition of the Week.
O Magnum Mysterium is a transcription for wind ensemble and solo soprano of the composer’s choral work. This version was completed in 1996 and has a duration of 12 minutes.
It is scored for standard Wind Ensemble setting, including String Bass, Harp, Piano and one Timpani part.

“O Magnum Mysterium is an ancient Christmas Day text that describes the great mystery of God becoming man – even the animals behold him. In this setting I attempt to transcend time and space by juxtaposing the nativity scene with the crucifixion scene – Christ’s entrance and exit in this world. Now the “great mystery” is intensified as we see Christ, not as the sentimentalized baby in a manger, but as the God-man who will grow up and become the atoning sacrifice on the cross. As we approach the meaning and mystery of Christ in this way, our intellect and spirit are forced to wrestle with the undeniable questions of “Who is Jesus?” and “What does he mean to me?” In creating this work, it’s been my desire to catch a glimpse of the weight of this mystery.” (Program Notes by James Syler)

James Syler received a B.M. degree from Northern Illinois University and in 1988 a M.M. degree from the University of Miami. In 1991 he continued his studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has studied composition privately with composers Michael Colgrass, Alfred Reed, and Karl Korte.
Awards include the 2016 CBDNA Young Band Composition Contest for his two-percussion concertino Wu Xing, the 1993 National Band Association Composition Award and the 1993 Arnald Gabriel Composition Award for The Hound of Heaven, two grants from the American Music Center in New York.
Since 2001, Mr. Syler has been a lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio where he teaches composition.

Other works for winds by James Syler include:

  • The Hound of Heaven (1988)
  • Minton’s Playhouse (1994)
  • Symphony Nr.1 “Blue” (1999)
  • Wu Xing (2016)
  • Symphony Nr.2 (2019)

More on James Syler