David & Jonathan, a chancel opera

Children's and Liturgical Opera Company, LLC
LITURGICAL OPERA: Scenes from the Life of David and Jonathan
SCENES from the LIFE of
a chancel opera based on I Samuel 17:55-20:42
by Susan Hulsman Bingham
Caravaggio: David with the Head of Goliath (detail, circa 1606)
  King Saul (baritone), David (low tenor), Jonathan (tenor), Boy Armor Bearer (optional; non- singing)



piano with optional tambourine









minimal household materials, platform for a bed. Details in score.



I Samuel 17:55-20:42, Psalms and excerpts from Jeremiah and II Samuel






tonal, some Semitic modalities, romantic and melodic






25 minutes



Christ Church Parish
New Haven, Connecticut, 1993.

To access a YouTube film of this piece taken by videographer Robert Menefee, click HERE.

Scene I
Scene 1: In the court of King Saul around the year 1000 B.C. King Saul wants to meet David, the young warrior who has slain Goliath, the Philistine giant. David arrives and recounts the killing. Saul's son Jonathan, deeply moved, finds that his soul is "knit to David's soul". He makes a gift to David of his armor. King Saul, also impressed, announces that David will remain with him.
Scene 2
Scene 2: One month later in the court of King Saul. Saul is having an anxiety attack. Jonathan, upset at seeing his father in distress, calls David, who comes and plays hs lyre and sings. Jonathan grows jealous when he sees the tenderness David shows to Saul.
Scene 3

Scene 3: One year later. Having put David in charge of his army, King Saul finds that David's reputation as a warrior has surpassed is own. David sings a psalm he has written. Saul is entertained, but soon "an evil spirit from God" rushes into him and he sits on his throne, deranged with jealousy and suspicion, holding his spear in his lap. He throws the spear at David, who ducks and rushes out. While Saul is still raving, Jonathan enters and learns that Saul wants David killed. Jonathan runs to David to warn him, then returns to his father to plead for mercy on David's behalf. Saul appears to be moved and promises not to put David to death.

Scene 4

Scene 4: Four months later. Saul continues to be jealous of David and to plot his death, despite promises to the contrary. David is singing a psalm he has written especially for the king. Again, Saul is entertained, but soon he resumes his suspicious grumbling. He recounts how, in the dark of night, he tried to kill David in his bed, but Michal, David's wife, got wind of the plan and placed an idol in David's bed instead, fooling Saul's henchmen. When questioned by Saul, Michal insisted that David had tricked her, too. David, now in hiding, asks Jonathan why his father hates him. Jonathan tells David that he will find out what his father's intentions are and asks that, for the sake of their love for one-another, his name not be cut off from the house of David.

Scene 5

Scene 5: Two nights later. Saul and Jonathan are eating the ritual second meal of the new month. Saul inquires after David, whose presence was expected. Jonathan makes a lame excuse for him and Saul, seeing through the trickery, curses Jonathan for his "shameful" relationship with David and shouts that he wants David killed. Jonathan leaps from the table, screams that he is grieved for David, and rushes out. Jonathan takes an armor bearer with him and goes to a place near where David is hiding. Jonathan and David have prearranged to have Jonathan fire arrows in one of two directions. Arrows shot beside David's hideout indicate that Saul is friendly; arrows shot beyond David mean that David must flee for his life. Jonathan shoots arrows beyond David. The armor bearer retrieves them, returns them to Jonathan, and is sent back into town. David emerges from his hiding place, falls on his face before Jonathan, and bows to him three times. They embrace, kiss, and weep as they exchange farewells. David's grief is so intense that Jonathan sings him consoling words (Jeremiah 31:8-9; anachronism artistic license!). As David recovers himself, Jonathan tells him to go in peace and be assured that "The Lord shall be between me and you and between my seed and your seed forever". Jonathan departs, and David sings (II Samuel 1:20): "Very pleasant have you been to me. Your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of woman."


Composer's comment: this is a very dramatic piece commissioned by the Christ Church Parish's Gay Christians' Readings Group (New Haven, CT). The opera portrays the passionately loving and conflicted friendship of David and Jonathan.


Complete reworked musical score of ≈: $58. Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S. Includes copying and performance rights.


"David and Jonathan" chancel opera in downloadable PDF format: $30.

DVD of the premier performance of SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF DAVID AND JONATHAN: $28. Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S.

Score has been reworked since the premier performance, but the DVD gives a clear picture of the opera.

CD of two chancel operas: premier (shorter) performance of SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF DAVID AND JONATHAN and the full performance of WOMAN AT THE WELL: $20.
Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S.


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