O God, My Heart Is Ready, Op. 17, 1899. Arthur B. Whiting, 1861-1936. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M2092.W
O God, My Heart Is Ready, published by G. Schirmer in 1899, was written at a time when Whiting was turning his attention to large choral and instrumental forms. Prior to that period he had focused primarily on smaller instrumental works and compositions for the piano. A significant portion of Whiting's study in composition took place in Germany with Josef Gabriel Rheinberger. Hence, the extended choral works of Bach and Brahms influenced his choral works.
O God, My Heart Is Ready was originally intended for use in the church but also might have been programmed by the numerous oratorio societies forming around the turn of the century. The first American choral organization of this type was the Musical Arts Society of New York City, founded by Frank Damrosh in 1893.
Whiting's unaccompanied motet stretches over thirty-five pages. It weaves several psalm texts and begins with an intonation for baritone solo, "There is sprung up a light for the righteous, and joyful gladness for such as are true hearted." The motet quickly transitions to full chorus with frequent divisi, "O God my heart is ready. Awake thou lute and harp." The vivace choral section moves in triple meter marked by frequent hemiolas. The baritone solo returns briefly at the midpoint of the piece in an unaccompanied recitative, "Lo, the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him." The chorus answers quietly, andante, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." Whiting marks the final section "vigoroso" for the text "Blessed be the Lord, my strength." The remaining twelve pages are scored for antiphonal choruses in Baroque polychoral fashion. The majestic conclusion features a high B in the soprano part, "I will give praise to thee forever."