for string orchestra or 13 solo strings
Mantle of Stars is the second of two pieces for strings, written about two years apart and collectively titled Icons, which may be played individually or combined into a larger piece.
Ossuary Cross, the first piece, was written at the request of conductor José Serebrier for a performance and recording with the St. Michel Strings of Mikkeli, Finland in 2011. If is recorded on their CD, Adagio, on the Alba label (Finland, released in the USA by Albany Records).
After the premiere and recording of Ossuary Cross, I thought it could perhaps use a companion piece with a related inspiration. Mantle of Stars is inspired by the painting that is supposed to have been miraculously imposed on the cloak of an early Aztec convert to Christianity, Juan Diego, by the Virgin of Guadalupe near Mexico City in 1531. She is shown wearing a mantle, which has a number of stars in its decoration. The cloak is undoubtedly the most famous icon in Latin America, and the image of the Virgin is an instantly recognizable symbol of Latin American, especially Mexican, Catholicism. I have seen the cloak on display at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe near Mexico City several times, and, whatever its origin, it is very beautiful indeed. Mantle of Stars was written for the University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra and its conductor and my colleague Kimcherie Lloyd.
This movement seeks to interpret some of that beauty, especially that of the sparkling stars in the background of the Virgin’s cloak. It uses natural and artificial harmonics extensively, as well as other idiosyncratic string techniques, to bring out that beauty and luster.