Randall Thompson (1899-1984) was one of America’s pre-eminent choral composers during his lifetime. He was also noted educator, holding teaching posts at Wellesley College, the Curitis Institute, and Harvard University, among others. His notable students included Samuel Adler, Leo Kraft, and Leonard Bernstein.
Of all of his many choral works, Alleluia stands out as the most popular. It was originally written on a commission from Serge Koussevitsky for the opening of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood in 1940. Koussevitsky expected a fanfare for voices, something joyous and celebratory. Yet Thompson did not feel this was appropriate given the recent events in Europe, including the fall of France to Nazi Germany. So he responded instead with the plaintive, introverted Alleluia. He called his work “a very sad piece. The word ‘Alleluia’ has so many possible interpretations. The music in my particular Alleluia cannot be made to sound joyous. It is a slow, sad piece, and…here it is comparable to the Book of Job, where it is written, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.'”
The band version of Alleluia appeared in 1993. It was arranged by Lewis Buckley, director of the US Coast Guard Band.
And the original choral version: