Sed Virtutum Gradibus

2012 – for SATB Chorus (6:00)


Sed Virtutum Gradibus


The Jameson Singers; Jameson Marvin, conductor


“Sed Virtutum Gradibus” was written for a ceremony honoring Kevin Leong’s departure from Harvard University, a very close friend, mentor, and inspiration of mine during my time in Cambridge. I know no one on earth who lives and makes music more sincerely and devotedly than Kevin. In this piece, I tried to forge a number of what I had gleaned to be Kevin’s favorite music-moments into a convincing whole: Renaissance(-style) polyphony, exposed solos dancing around one another, crystalline counterpoint, and that ineffable effect that Kevin gleefully calls “devastation.” The text comes from the Carmina Cantabridgiensis, a collection of (aptly titled!) secular medieval songs that date back close to a millennium. Kevin is surely one of those who takes the more challenging, but ultimately more rewarding and life-affirming, path.


Sed uirtutum gradibus
ille nititur, qui prouidus
per angustam
uadit illam semitam,
que in fine
locuples letitie
suis queque precibus
pandit eternal
dulcis uite gaudia,
ubi bonorum anime
claro iugiter
illustrantur lumine
perpetui solis,
ubi deitatis se
conspectum semper
cernere gaudent beati.

Vite dator, omnifactor,
deus, nature formator,
illum aufer, istum confer
tuis fidelibus callem,
ut post obitum talis
uite participes fiant.

(Carmina Cantabridgiensis, IX.”De Pythagora”)


But he struggles up the steps
of virtue who providently
goes by that
narrow path,
which in the end
abounds in happiness
and which lays open,
in answer to his prayers,
eternal joys of sweet life,
where the souls of the good
are continuously illuminated
by the bright light
of the perpetual sun,
where the blessed
rejoice that they
forever discern God’s countenance.

Giver of life, creator of all,
God, shaper of nature,
remove that broad path, grant
this narrow one to your faithful,
so that after death
they may share in such a life.

(translation by the composer and Ezra Keshet)


April 20, 2013
First Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Jameson Singers; Jameson Marvin, conductor



Copyright 2013-22 by Michael Schachter. michael.schachter [at]