Program Notes

Carols & Candles - December 2023

Program Notes

Paul Mealor (b. 1975) is a Welsh composer with international fame. He has been Professor of Music at the University of Aberdeen since 2003 and his output spans opera, symphony, concerto, and chamber music genres. Mealor is a major force in the choral music world and much of his popular acclaim can be traced to the performance of his setting of Ubi caritas et amor at the wedding of HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. He is skilled at communicating across languages, contexts, genres, and audiences. He became the first composer to top both the classical and popular music charts at the same time. Receiving its first performance in the Carnegie Hall in New York, Mealor’s setting of Jubilate Deo was commissioned by Distinguished Concerts International New York. The words of Psalm 100 are combined with original text by Grahame Davies (b. 1964). It is the setting of Davies’ words which make for a striking addition to a popular text; provoking reflection amidst the boisterous setting of the psalmist David. Program notes by Richard Longman. 

 

‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime is a Canadian Christmas hymn written around 1642 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people. The melody is based on a traditional French folk song, “Une Jeune Pucelle” (A Young Maid). The well-known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton. Carlton Young notes that the “poem extends beyond the original French and tells the story of Jesus’ birth into Huron everyday life and its retelling in their folk symbols, such as ‘rabbit skin’ for ‘swaddling clothes’ and ‘gifts of fox and beaver pelt’ for the Magi’s present.” The translation maintains the Algonquian name for God—Gitchi Manitou. The poem was set to a traditional French tune (“Une Jeune Pucelle”) and first appeared in print on December 22, 1926 where it was romanticized as a “charming little Christmas song... [in which] the devoted missionary has adapted the story of the infant Christ to the minds of the Indian children.” The carol has been called an “interpretation...not a translation, written to provide English-speaking Canadians with an opportunity to sing the first Christmas carol ever heard in the Province of Ontario.” This arrangement is by John Helgen (b. 1957). Program notes by C. Michael Hawn. 

 

John Rutter (b. 1945) is celebrated as both a choral conductor and as a composer of choral works, from small anthems to settings of the Gloria, Magnificat, and Requiem. Rutter states that “Christmas music has always occupied a special place in my affections, ever since I sang in my first Christmas Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols as a nervous ten-year-old boy soprano. For me, and I suspect for most of the other members of the Highgate Junior School Choir, it was the high point of our singing year, diligently rehearsed and eagerly anticipated for weeks beforehand. Later, my voice changed, and I turned from singing to composition, but I never forgot those early Highgate carol services.” His Angels’ Carol, composed in the 1980s, is in three stanzas with refrain and tells the story of the arrival of the baby Jesus. 

 

Beautiful Star is the third movement from Larsen’s Ringeltänze—a choral cycle of six pieces. Libby Larsen (b. 1950) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory. “Ah la crèche!” was the cry of the peasants and townspeople in 16th-century France as they prepared to celebrate Christmas. Feasts and merriment surrounded Christmas Day then as now. The young people celebrated with dancing. At first, popular tunes were piped for the dances. Over the years, the words to the popular tunes were replaced with more sacred words which told the story of Christmas, creating new carols with old folk tunes. At the Christmas feasts, the new carols were used for ring dancing. Carols II through VI were composed for the Grand Rapids Area Community Chorus of northern Minnesota in 1983. In 1984, acting upon the suggestion of Philip Brunelle, the original accompaniment of piano was changed to string orchestra, keeping the handbells as in the original. The first carol, completing the set, was composed in 1985. The composer made translations of the French texts, with the exception of the phrase “le petit nouveau né.” According to Larson, that phrase, loosely translated as “the newborn,” seemed too musical with which to tamper. Notes from www.libbylarsen.com.   

 

In 2013, Disney teamed-up with Eric Whitacre to produce Glow, written especially for World of Color–Winter Dreams show. The performance premiered at Disney California Adventure® Park, Disneyland® Resort in Anaheim, California. Over 1450 singers, representing all 50 states, submitted recordings, most of which were chosen, to be part of the World of Color Honor Choir, inspired by the Whitacre’s Virtual Choir. These singers from the US and its territories aged 18 and older, joined by a love of music and technology, delighted park guests throughout the 2013–2014 holiday season.

 

This setting of Ecce Novum, by contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978), was commissioned by the Dunwoody (Georgia) United Methodist Church Chancel Choir in 2014. The text is from Piae Cantiones (Latin for devout songs), a collection of late medieval carols for Christmas and other seasons, published in Finland in 1582. Gjeilo credits cinematic music with having the greatest influence on his compositions, noting that most of his favorite living composers are film composers working in Hollywood today. Gjeilo defines his style as “broadly classical,” which incorporates and combines other musical genres, such as folk, pop, and jazz. Born in Norway, Gjeilo came to the United States for undergraduate and graduate studies at the Juilliard School of Music, receiving his master’s degree in composition from Juilliard in 2006. Now a resident of New York City, Gjeilo is one of the most frequently performed composers in the choral world.

 

A gentle instrumental introduction sets the stage for Dan Forrest’s arrangement of this classic carol—Silent Night. His stunning take on this timeless carol begins with the smallest and simplest of musical ideas to embody the text “Silent Night… all is calm.” This arrangement takes the listener from quiet intensity, gradually building into an overwhelming statement of the profoundest of truths: “Christ, the Savior, is born.” Dan Forrest (b. 1978) has been described as having “an undoubted gift for writing beautiful music…that is truly magical” (NY Concert Review), with works hailed as “magnificent, very cleverly constructed sound sculpture” (Classical Voice), and “superb writing…full of spine-tingling moments” (Salt Lake Tribune).

 

John Rutter’s arrangement of this popular Christmas-themed African-American spiritual is lively and joyful with a “hillbilly musical flavor,” a hint of bluegrass fiddle, and a helping of banjo strumming figures in the piano part. Go Tell It on the Mountain was compiled by John Wesley Work, Jr. and dates back to at least 1865. It has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers.

 

Do You Hear What I Hear? is a song written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker. The pair, married at the time, wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Regney had been invited by a record producer to write a Christmas song, but he was hesitant due to the commercialism of the Christmas holiday. It has sold tens of millions of copies and has been covered by hundreds of artists. Regney was inspired to write the lyrics “Said the night wind to the little lamb, ‘Do you see what I see?’” and “Pray for peace, people everywhere” after watching babies being pushed in strollers on the sidewalks of New York City. Shayne stated in an interview years later that neither could personally perform the entire song at the time they wrote it because of the emotions surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.” The song was originally recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale, a group which had also popularized The Little Drummer Boy. It went on to sell more than a quarter-million copies during the 1962 Christmas holiday season. Program notes from Wikipedia. 

 

Katherine K. Davis wrote the Little Drummer Boy in 1941. The Little Drummer Boy is the story of a poor boy who couldn’t afford a gift for the newborn Christ child, so he played his drum at the manger with Mary’s approval. The baby smiled, delighted with the boy’s skillful playing. The story resembles a 12th century legend that Anatole France retold as Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (Our Lady’s Juggler). The French legend said that a juggler performed in front of a statue of Mary and the statue either smiled at him or threw him a rose. In 1902, Jules Massenet adapted the story into an opera. In 1958, Henry Onorati introduced his friend Harry Simeone to the Carol of the Drum. Harry Simeone was a conductor and arranger from Newark who had worked on several Bing Crosby movies and worked as conductor for a television show called The Firestone Hour from 1952–1959. Harry Simeone re-arranged the song and re-titled it The Little Drummer Boy. He recorded it with the Harry Simeone Chorale on the album Sing We Now of Christmas

 

Away in a Manger is a Christmas carol first published in the late 19thcentury and used widely throughout the English-speaking world. In Britain, it is one of the most popular carols. A 1996 Gallup Poll ranked it joint second. The two most common musical settings are by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and James R. Murray (1887). Mack Wilberg’s arrangement presented here utilizes the Kirkpatrick tune. The earliest known publication, The Myrtle, in 1884 ascribed the lyrics to German Protestant reformer Martin Luther, explicitly referencing in 1883 Luther’s 400th birthday. For many years this attribution continued to be made. However, this attribution appears to be false: the hymn is found nowhere among Luther’s works. It has been suggested that the words were written specifically for Luther's 400th anniversary and then credited to the reformer as a marketing gimmick.

 

Still, Still, Still is an Austrian Christmas carol and lullaby. The melody is a folk tune from the state of Salzburg. The tune appeared for the first time in 1865 in a folksong collection of Maria Vinzenz Süß (1802–1868), founder of the Salzburg Museum. The words, which run to six verses in German, describe the peace of the infant Jesus and his mother as the baby is sung to sleep. They have changed slightly over the years through aural transmission, but the modern Standard German version remains attributed to Georg Götsch (1895–1956). There are various English translations. Norman Luboff’s (1917–1987) arrangement is considered a standard in the choral repertoire. 

 

Composed by Rick Powell and Sylvia Powell and arranged by Fred Bock, Peace, Peace has sold well over a million copies. This may be the most popular partner song to Silent Night ever—joining choir and audience. In our version presented here, we will join together in song while lighting individual candles. 




Love, My Very Own - October 2023

Program Notes

Gloria in D–RV 589 (Antonio Vivaldi)

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, and educator. Vivaldi ranks amongst the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He pioneered many developments in orchestration, violin technique, and programmatic music. Vivaldi began studying for the priesthood at the age of 15 and was ordained at 25. He was known as the “Red Priest” due to his red hair.

In September 1703, the 24-year-old Vivaldi became the violin teacher (and later music director) at an orphanage called the Ospedale della Pietà (Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice. There were four similar institutions in Venice; their purpose was to give shelter and education to children who were abandoned or orphaned, or whose families could not support them. The boys learned a trade and had to leave when they reached the age of fifteen. The girls received a musical education, and the most talented among them stayed and became members of the Ospedale's renowned orchestra and choir. Over the next thirty years he composed most of his major works while working at the Ospedale. 

Antonio Vivaldi wrote at least three Gloria compositions. Two of which have survived—RV 588 and RV 589, both composed around 1715. The Gloria in D–RV 589 is the better-known setting of the Gloria, simply known as the Vivaldi "Gloria" because of its outstanding popularity. This work was composed at the same time during Vivaldi's employment at the Pietà and would have been premiered by the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà. 

My Very Own (Susan LaBarr)

With this work, we make our “declaration of love.” With genuine intent and simple affirmation, My Very Own serves as the “title track” for our concert. A setting of several scriptural passages about love, My Very Own was written for the wedding of Brian and Allison Murray, two Texas-based choir directors. The work is highly melodic and straightforward in its construction—mirroring the heartfelt and humble (yet intensely passionate) nature of our love. 

Susan LaBarr is a composer and choral editor living and working in Springfield, Missouri. In 2015 and 2016, Susan completed commissions for Seraphic Fire, the National ACDA Women's Choir Consortium, and for the Texas Choral Director's Association's Director's Chorus. Central to Susan's musical vocabulary is the knowledge she gained from studying with Alice Parker at her home in Hawley, Massachusetts, where she attended the Composer's Workshop and Melody Studies Workshop in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Susan attended Missouri State University in Springfield, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in music and a Master of Music in music theory. Susan, her husband Cameron, and their son Elliott reside in Springfield, Missouri, where Cameron is the Director of Choral Studies at Missouri State University and Susan works as Editor of Walton Music.

 

I Remember (Sarah Quartel)

I Remember sets a text reflecting on the wonder of the natural world and the people who shape our lives. The stirring melody calls to mind the folksong tradition, and is underpinned by a gently flowing piano accompaniment. The middle section brings a contrast of tonality, with the altos accompanying the sopranos’ melodic line, before the beguiling melody of the opening returns to bring the setting to a poignant close. I Remember is a deep call to the importance of Philia (friendly love) and to those in our lives who have come alongside us in friendship.  

Canadian composer and educator Sarah Quartel is known for her fresh and exciting approach to choral music. Deeply inspired by the life-changing relationships that can occur while making choral music, Sarah writes in a way that connects singer to singer, ensemble to conductor, and performer to audience. Her works are performed by choirs across the world, and she has been commissioned by groups including the American Choral Directors Association, the National Children's Chorus of the United States of America, and New Dublin Voices. Since 2018 she has been exclusively published by Oxford University Press, and she continues to work as a clinician and conductor at music education and choral events at home and abroad.

 

My Baby Sings Soprano (Jacob Averitt)

The Greek form of love Ludus refers to playful, noncommittal love. Meaning “play” or game” in Latin, Ludus love is certainly expressed in My Baby Sings Soprano. In this work, there is a significant amount of flirting. However, throughout the piece we see that the love blossoms well beyond the casual—“I surely married my true love.” It also appears that in this love story, the couple have retained their playful nature throughout the years. 

In addition to composing and arranging choral music, Jake Averitt is a middle school choir director in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. He graduated magna cum laude from Sam Houston State University, where he studied composition with Dr. Dave Englert and Dr. Brian Herrington while completing a Bachelor of Music Education with an emphasis in voice. Jake has a piano background starting at a young age, and accompanies choirs throughout the greater Houston area. He is a very active church musician currently serving as the organist/accompanist at his church in Magnolia, TX, along with other musical capacities. In addition to performing as a keyboardist, Jake is a member of Houston Men’s Choir and continues to perform in a variety of choral ensembles.

 

The Gift of Love–Hal H. Hopson

This work is based on O WALY WALY, a traditional English melody associated with the song “O Waly, Waly, gin love be bony.” The tune is also well known in the Appalachian region of the United States, commonly sung to The Water is Wide. Hal H. Hopson adapted and arranged O WALY WALY for this anthem in 1972 for his setting of 1 Corinthians 13. His hymn tune version became known as GIFT OF LOVE. This version of the tune can be sung in canon after one measure, especially on the refrain stanzas (2 and 4), ideally by the choir or by a small part of the congregation or audience somewhat in the manner of a descant. These overlapping voices are so crucial to the piece that the tune has a difficult time when not sung in canon. 

In this work, self-love (Philautia) is the focus. While a love of the self is considered a negative virtue, self-regard is indeed important. In The Gift of Love, themes of self-care ring true. If we do not take care for ourselves, we are unable to care for and love others. It is said that you cannot pour from an empty cup. This sentiment is expressed in the text, if I “have not love, my words are vain.” 

 

Sing Gently (Eric Whitacre)

Grammy Award-winning composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre, is among today’s most popular musicians. His works are programmed worldwide, and his virtual choirs have united singers from more than 145 countries over the last decade. Born in 1970, Eric is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and served two terms as Artist in Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. His compositions have been widely recorded and performed the world over. As an expression of universal Agape love, Whitacre’s own words best describe this work. 

“In March 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis begin to unfold around the world, it became clear that this moment in history was going to be remembered as one of great suffering for many people as well as a time of growing division and dissent. It seemed that as the global community began to isolate physically from one another, the same kind of isolation was happening on a social level, that the very fabric of society was tearing at the seams. In that spirit, I wrote the music and words to Sing Gently with the hope that it might give some small measure of comfort for those who need it, and that it might suggest a way of living with one another that is compassionate, gentle, and kind. Sing Gently received its premiere online on July 19, 2020, performed by the 17,572 singers a Virtual Choir 6.”

 

O Love (Elaine Hagenberg)

Elaine Hagenberg’s music “soars with eloquence and ingenuity” (ACDA Choral Journal). Her award-winning compositions are performed worldwide and frequently featured at American Choral Directors' Association conferences, All-State festivals, Carnegie Hall, and other distinguished international concert halls from Australia to South America and throughout Europe. In addition to composing full-time, Elaine actively engages in bringing her music to life as the guest artist and featured clinician for professional conferences and festivals both in the U.S. and abroad as a composer, conductor, and accompanist of her work.

O Love was inspired by the words of Scottish minister, George Matheson in 1882. When he was blinded at the age of nineteen, his fiancée called off their engagement and his sister cared for him as he endured new challenges. Years later, on the eve of his sister’s wedding, he faced the painful reminder of his own heartache and loss as he penned the words to this hymn. Given a fresh melody, this setting for SATB choir (and optional cello) uses hopeful ascending lines representing renewed faith. Though lingering dissonances remind us of past heartache, the beautiful promise remains: “morn shall tearless be.” 

 

Barun Barune (Iranian Folk/Arr. Amy Stephen and Amir Haghighi)

Barun Barune is just one of a vast repertoire of Iranian folk songs. Iran is a large country with a diverse ethnic population where Farsi, also known as Persian, is the official language. The song is sung by a youth—a poor farm worker in love with a young woman, who also works in the rice fields. The young man is anxious that his beloved might be given away to someone else in marriage, and he tells God that he would rather die than see her taken away. In this work, we may be brought back to our own first experience of love (and perhaps our first experience with heartbreak as well). 

Amy Stephen is a choral composer, arranger, and director from Vancouver, BC. A multi-instrumentalist, Amy is also a busy performer and studio musician. Amir Haghighi, a professional vocalist and composer in the Persian traditional style, was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He came to live in Canada in 1983. Amir and Amy are married and live in Burnaby, BC, Canada, with their son. The whole family often collaborates in musical performances.

Total Praise (Richard Smallwood)

Gospel singer Richard Smallwood has eight Grammy nominations and within the gospel music industry has won four Dove Awards and 10 Stellars. Three of his 14 albums hit No. 1 in Billboard magazine’s gospel category. He has sung for presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton. His songs have been recorded by non-gospel artists such as Destiny’s Child, and his music helped Whitney Houston deliver one of the biggest-selling gospel albums in history for the 1996 film “The Preacher’s Wife.”

Smallwood credits his personal pain for helping him to write some of the very songs that inspire people around the globe. “Songs of pain last…. They make a difference. My prayer has always been, ‘Give me songs that last.’ I want my songs to last after I’m gone.” Total Praise is one of his most popular works. Released in 1996, he composed this piece when his mother had begun struggling with dementia and a family friend was dying of cancer. In both instances, Smallwood served as caregiver. In such difficult times, enduring love (Pragma) sustained him. 

Smallwood says that “the song came in a dream. I felt left by God. I was trying to write a pity-party song, but God pulled me to do a praise song. God said, ‘I want your praise no matter what the situation you are in, good or bad.’ It’s about trusting Him.” 



Who We Are - May 2023

Program Notes


Praise His Holy Name by Keith Hampton

Praise His Holy Name is one of Keith Hampton’s most popular gospel arrangements. Originally scored for mixed voice ensemble for the 30th anniversary of the Voices of Melody, the beginning section of the piece is a homophonic declamation in three parts. The middle section recalls the lyrics of Amazing Grace in highly rhythmic figures. The final section is intensified by the addition of layering the vocal textures and repeating the text multiple times. This work features complex rhythmic figures, stacked harmonies, and a powerful piano part. 

 

The Gift of Love by Hal H. Hopson

This work is based on O WALY WALY, a traditional English melody associated with the song “O Waly, Waly, gin love be bony.” The tune is also well known in the Appalachian region of the United States, commonly sung to “The Water is Wide.”

Hal H. Hopson adapted and arranged O WALY WALY for this anthem in 1972 for his setting of 1 Corinthians 13. His hymn tune version became known as GIFT OF LOVE. This version of the tune can be sung in canon after one measure, especially on the refrain stanzas (2 and 4), ideally by the choir or by a small part of the congregation or audience somewhat in the manner of a descant. These overlapping voices are so crucial to the piece that the tune has a difficult time when not sung in canon. 

 

Keep Your Lamps Arr. Andre Thomas

First emerging in 1928 by the African American blues singer and guitarist Blind Willie Johnson, this short spiritual has become a beloved staple of the gospel repertoire. The text alludes to the biblical parable of the ten wise and foolish virgins who await the arrival of Jesus in the guise of a bridegroom. The faithful are admonished to “keep your lamps trimmed and burning” in preparation for the day of judgment because “the time is drawing nigh.” The vocal writing is mostly homophonic. In contrast, the middle verse (“Children, don’t get weary”) is characterized by overlapping phrases and a smoother, less syncopated style.

The arranger notes that “in Matthew 25:1–13, Jesus tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins, who had been told that the bridegroom would be coming soon. They trimmed and lit their lamps and went to the appointed place, but the bridegroom did not arrive at the appointed time. The foolish virgins had brought enough oil for only one night, and as they returned to get more oil, the bridegroom came while they were away. This song was sung by slaves working the fields, imparting its lesson from Jesus, and perhaps also as a coded message. If an opportunity for escape was approaching, slaves might have sung Keep Your Lamps with particular urgency, communicating with each other under the watchful eyes of the overseers. Be ready!”


For This Joy
by Susan LaBarr

Written in memory of choral singers and clarinetist George Olin, this work is a modern arrangement of the LOBE DEN HERREN hymn tune. This tune is most commonly associated with the text “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” This tune was first seen in 1665 printed in the Stralsund Gesangbuch. The composer is unknown. With a meter of 14.14.11.8, this tune is generally considered to have an irregular meter, hence its close association with only a small number of hymn texts. This new ecumenical text was written for this arrangement by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The text focuses on the richness of life and creation and the joy that is found in all aspects of life. The musical arrangement is simple yet effective. The consistent eighth note alternating pattern between the treble and bass clef in the piano provide a consistent yet unassuming rhythmic drive. The texture and dynamic range of the choral writing slowly develops, moving from a soft humble unison melody to a thicker fuller homophonic declaration of the final verse. 

 

A Child’s Hymn by Joshua Chism

        This piece was originally composed in 2010 during my first year of teaching in the Missouri public school system. I was asked to write a short and accessible piece for SAB voices for a conference honor choir—and thrilled to do so! As a young teacher in their first year, I was in a significant transition point in my life. I was learning how to serve my students, meet their educational and musical needs, and balance adulthood for the first time. During this time, I often felt overwhelmed, unequipped, and even “in over my head.” (Ask any teacher what their first year was like—they will tell you!) In many ways during that time in my life, I felt like a child—inexperienced, fresh, and learning. In response to this, I chose to set A Child’s Hymn, a poem by Charles Dickens. In this text there is a palpable sense of innocence and honesty, a gentle pleading for guidance and redemption. As a young adult during a challenging time of life, this was my plea, and composing this piece was an avenue to find healing and comfort. 

        
Currently (Spring 2023), I am in a similar life position—one filled with transition and many new challenges. I am in my first year as a collegiate professor, freshly moved to a new part of the country, and have a young family. During this time, I have found myself drawing parallels to my first year of teaching in this new environment. The lines of this text continue to resonate in my heart— “Hear my prayer, O heavenly Father…. Guide and guard me with Thy blessing….” 

 

All That Have Life and Breath Praise Ye the Lord! By Rene Clausen

With a text based on excerpts from Psalms 96 and 22, this piece was originally written for the A Cappella Choir at Wichita State University. René Clausen is a well-known American conductor and composer who is known to incorporate tone clusters in his compositions to create a distinctly twentieth-century color to the sound—a prominent feature of this work. Also evident are elements of aleatoric music with overlapping and free melodic fragments in the soprano voice. Note the use of the hymn tune LOBE DEN HERREN (more commonly known as the tune to “Praise to the Lord”). Modal mixture (alternation between major and minor) is also evident before the powerful final cadence. 

 

Amen Siakudumisa By S.C. Molefe/Arr. C. LaBarr

Stephen Molefe was born of Sotho descent in the Transkei area of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. A choirmaster at the local catholic church, he was not only a skilled musician but also fluent in a variety of South African languages including Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana, Afrikaans, and English. In 1977 Fr. Dargie met Molefe at a composition workshop and transcribed several of his works into staff notation. They include a wide variety of musical styles. Since most African languages are tonal, the melodic shape of the works emerge directly from speaking the text—aiding in Dargie’s efforts to capture Molefe’s works into notation. The 1977 workshop netted 53 new songs—14 of which were composed by Molefe. The original version of our current piece was “Sive-sithi Amen, siyakudumisa” (“Hear us we say, Amen, we praise you”). Designed to be sung as the “Amen” at the conclusion of the Great Thanksgiving, it was an “instant hit,” with the whole parish singing it at Holy Week services. Amen Siakudumisa is often included in Western hymnal collections alongside famous South African freedom songs like Siyahamba

 

All Things New by Elaine Hagenberg

Known for her exquisite lyricism and soaring melodies, Elaine Hagenberg delivers an exceptional original setting of Frances Havergal’s text that provides a much-needed message of hope. Havergal (1836–1879) was an English religious poet and hymnwriter. She is most well known for her Take My Life and Let it Be text. She also wrote hymn tunes, religious tracts, and works for children. Her hymns praised the love of God. In this work, Hagenberg balances a shimmering accompaniment and accessible vocal lines for maximum text clarity and emotional impact.  

 

Of the Father’s Love Begotten Arr. Paul Wohlgemuth

        This well-known hymn tune, DIVINUM MYSTERIUM, is a plainsong or chant associated with texts dating as far back as the 12th–15th centuries. This tune is sometimes given a more dance-like triple meter (as in Theodoricis Petri’s Piae Cantiones on 1552) while other hymnals keep the original unmetered form of the chant (as presented in this arrangement).

        Paul W. Wohlgemuth was born in Oklahoma and graduated from Tabor College in Hillsboro, KS. He received the MS from Kansas State Teachers College (Emporia State University) after which he returned to teach at Tabor College for three years. Wohlgemuth taught for seven years at Biola College and earned his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1956. He returned to Tabor College as head of the music department in 1960. During his 16 years at Tabor, the College Choir, under Wohlgemuth’s direction, performed for several state conventions, at the World’s Fair, the U.S. Capitol, and in Romania. This arrangement was written during his time at Tabor College. In 1976, Wohlgemuth became coordinator of church music at Oral Roberts University. 

 

Total Praise By Smallwood/Arr. Rao

Gospel singer Richard Smallwood has eight Grammy nominations and within the gospel music industry has won four Dove Awards and 10 Stellars. Three of his 14 albums hit No. 1 in Billboard magazine’s gospel category. He has sung for presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton. His songs have been recorded by non-gospel artists such as Destiny’s Child, and his music helped Whitney Houston deliver one of the biggest-selling gospel albums in history for the 1996 film “The Preacher’s Wife.”

Smallwood credits his personal pain for helping him to write some of the very songs that inspire people around the globe. “Songs of pain last…. They make a difference. My prayer has always been, ‘Give me songs that last.’ I want my songs to last after I’m gone.” Total Praise is one of his most popular works. Released in 1996, he composed this piece when his mother had begun struggling with dementia and a family friend was dying of cancer. In both instances, Smallwood served as caregiver. “The song came in a dream,” Smallwood says. “I felt left by God. I was trying to write a pity-party song, but God pulled me to do a praise song. God said, ‘I want your praise no matter what the situation you are in, good or bad.’ It’s about trusting Him.”

 

“Pie Jesu” from Requiem by John Rutter

John Rutter is a composer of primarily choral works, including Christmas carols, anthems, and extended works such as the Gloria, the Requiem, and the Magnificat. Rutter’s style is influenced by 20th century English and French choral compositions as well as American songwriting. His compositions are most popular in the United States and the UK, with the London Evening Standard writing, “For the infectiousness of his melodic invention and consummate craftsmanship, Rutter has few peers.”

The Requiem was first performed in its entirety on October 13, 1985 at the United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, conducted by the composer. It was written “in memoriam L. F. R.” and dedicated to Rutter’s late father. In his own words:

“The Requiem was written in 1985 and dedicated to the memory of my father, who had died the previous year. In writing it, I was influenced and inspired by the example of Faure. I doubt whether any specific musical resemblances can be traced, but I am sure that Faure’s Requiem crystallized my thoughts about the kind of Requiem I wanted to write: intimate rather than grandiose, contemplative and lyric rather than dramatic, and ultimately moving towards light rather than darkness….”

As with the Requiems of both Fauré and Duruflé, the Pie Jesu features a soprano soloist, though in this case with the addition of a subdued choral commentary. With this compositional choice, Rutter pays homage to the masterworks so influential to the choral art. 

 

Every Valley by John Ness Beck

John Ness Beck was born on November 11, 1930 in Warren, Ohio. After graduating from Warren High School in 1948, he enrolled at The Ohio State University. In 1952 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. After working for a year in student union activities at the State College of Washington, he spent two years in the U.S. Army. During this time, he became increasingly involved in arranging for various musical groups. After his discharge from military service, he returned to Ohio State and completed a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts degrees in music composition.

Beck was a faculty member of The Ohio State University School of Music for seven years—teaching harmony and theory. He left the university to become owner and manager of the University Music House, a retail sheet music store in Columbus. In this capacity, he was able to observe the business side of the music industry, gaining insight into the complexities of music publishing and merchandising. As his compositions found their way into print and popularity, he joined forces in 1972 with John Tatgenhorst in the creation of Beckenhorst Press. His reputation as a composer and his experience as a choral director soon led to an increasing demand for appearances as guest conductor and lecturer at various musical clinics and festivals throughout the country. Beck has left a wonderful legacy of music to be enjoyed by all.


He Never Failed Me Yet
by Robert Ray

This well-known work, in the choral gospel style, was composed by Robert Ray, the founder of the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus. Passing in late 2022, Dr. Ray will be remembered as a skilled pianist, teacher, director, and composer. He mentored many young composers and leaves a legacy as a “serious, but kind-hearted musician.” His students remembered him as “thorough and respectful, maintaining high standards for musicality.” This piece is frequently performed and “packs a serious punch” of emotion. Note the use of homophonic choral writing for maximum textual clarity accented by vocal solo. In this musical style it is encouraged, and even expected, that featured vocal leaders/soloists incorporate elements of improvisation into their performance. 



CRITICAL MASS - April 2023

Welcome from the Artistic Director

 

“Critical Mass.” Our concert program centers around this term—one normally associated with the study of physics. As I began to conceptualize our season, and my first concert cycle as Artistic Director, it was vital to craft a concert program that embodied BOTH a value of high-quality, high-impact choral artistry (the music itself) and also the context in which we are able to create this music (our chorale and our community). “Critical Mass” proved to be the perfect vehicle for this philosophical endeavor—embodied in two parallel strands. 

First—the music itself. For centuries, composers have set religious texts to music in innumerable ways for use in worship. Over time, certain choral genres have emerged; the mass is one such genre. In this concert, we feature four highly contrasting settings of the traditional mass text, each one “critical,” powerful, and transformative in its own right. The first mass setting, from the classical era, was written by noted composer Joseph Haydn. His settings of the mass, and his musical output in general, have been critically influential to the evolution and development of western and European musical traditions. The second mass featured on this program, the Mariachi Mass, is dramatically contrasting in style and instrumentation. Featuring a small mariachi ensemble, this work is a critical demonstration of how the message of love, hope, and mercy embedded deeply in the text transcends musical styles, voicings, and genre. The third mass featured is Fauré’s Messe Basse. Written earlier than his famous Requiem, this Messe Basse is a foreshadowing of the composer’s philosophy developed more fully in the Requiem. The Messe Basse is critical as it clearly demonstrates the harmonic and aesthetic language so important to his compositional output. Lastly, it is critical that every individual be able to internalize the ideologies, principles, morals, and philosophies of the world around them. Process them. Scrutinize them. It is then our responsibility to morally and ethically embody these ideals in our daily lives. As such, we developed our own personal “composite mass”—constructed with choral octavos. We used the mass movement structure as a scaffolding for personalization. This structure also allowed us to “plug and play” various smaller-scale choral works of a greater variety of genres, styles, and composers. Most importantly, this mass structure was critical in allowing us, as the Chorale, to create a unique experience with the mass and the message embedded within it.

Second—the choir and community. It was important for me to clearly identify just how important our various stakeholders are to the organization’s success—director, staff, choristers, organizational board, volunteers, community partners, sponsors, and audience members. Simply put, any stakeholder, by themselves, cannot make this organization operate. Each and every facet of the Chorale is critical to the success of the overall group, and every single stakeholder is equally important. This synergy, this “better together” approach, truly is critical mass. Together (and only together) can we—director and choir, board and community, volunteer and audience, donor and sponsor—truly reach the critical mass necessary to live out our mandate to change the lives of those in both our chorale and in our community through the powerful medium of the choral art.

 

Program Notes

 

When In Our Music God Is Glorified by Stanford/Arr. Ziegenhals (1925-2016)

This hymn is unique in the way it deals with the act of making music itself as a means to express religious doctrine—paraphrasing scripture, exhorting listeners to belief or commitment, and addressing a social concern. Bert Bolman stated that this hymn is the “the only hymn text in Christendom that explains the reasons for church music while simultaneously offering ‘alleluias’ to God.” Raymond Glover explained the void: “History suggests that it is very difficult to write a real hymn on the subject of congregational music-making. Usually there is insufficient weight and development to support the effusiveness that this theme seems to generate. Here, however, we have an honest hymn of substance and scope that is never self-congratulatory or platitudinous and is always grateful and worthy.”

The hymn was built around the meter 10.10.10.4—a meter for which few texts existed at the time. This meter easily lends itself to a three-part text stanza. In a textual analysis, Vernon Wicker noted, “Commitment to the rhyme scheme, AAA, could easily force a poet toward awkward technical solutions, but in this case the hymn writer utilizes the metrical restriction to create a stronger sense of unity and strength of expression.”

Charles V. Stanford composed ENGELBERG—the tune used for our text. The tune was published in the 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern with no less than six different settings. It is a fine congregational hymn but also a stunning choral anthem. ENGELBERG is an attractive, energetic melody with many ascending motives, designed for unison singing with no pauses between stanzas. 

 

No. 7 in B-flat major: ‘Missa brevis Sancti Johannis de Deo’ (H. 22/7) by Haydn (1732–1809)

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) was an Austrian composer of the Classical period. Instrumental to the development of the string quartet and the piano trio, his contributions to musical form led him to be dubbed the “Father of the Symphony,” having composed 107. He spent most of his career as a court musician and composer for the Esterházy family. He was known also for his humor, weaving musical jokes into his music. He was a friend and mentor to Mozart, a tutor to Beethoven, and the elder brother to composer Michael Haydn. 

Haydn composed eight settings of the mass. His Mass No. 7 in B-flat major: ‘Missa brevis Sancti Johannis de Deo’ (H. 22/7) was composed during the winter of 1777–78 during his stay in Eisenstadt. It is commonly referred to as the “Keline Orgelmesse” or “Little Organ Mass” due to the extended organ solo in the Benedictus movement. This missa brevis was composed for the order of the Barmherzige Brüder (Brothers of Mercy), whose chapel in Eisenstadt had a fine small organ, featured in the mass.  He dedicated the work to the patron saint of their order, St. John of God (Sancti Joannis de Deo). The music calls for the limited forces that would have been available to him at the chapel: small chorus, strings without violas, and organ. The Benedictus features one soprano soloist accompanied by obbligato organ, probably first played by Haydn himself. A surviving set of parts suggests that the mass was later adapted to add several wind parts, but it is normally played in its original more intimate scoring.

The work is classified as a missa brevis (short mass) in which the lengthier texts, particularly in the Gloria and Credo, are telescoped (four choral voices sing different words of the text simultaneously). This compositional technique was common. Despite obscuring the intelligibility of the text, this technique does make the movements more concise. This small, intimate mass has always been popular, particularly in central Europe. It conjures imagery of the small country church of the Brothers of Mercy and the quiet, devotional character of their worship. As the work concludes, it turns inward, gradually fading to the words dona nobis pacem (grant us peace). 

 

Mariachi Mass by A. Avalos (1919–1999)

Mariachi Mass, a work in five movements, was published in 1970. The work’s composer (listed as A. Avalos) is actually a pseudonym for Theron Kirk (1919–1999) who composed more than 1,000 published works. Kirk served on the music faculty at San Antonio College from 1955–1986 and as president of the American Choral Director’s Association. A modest and accessible work for flexible voicing with mass text in English, this work features an accompaniment scored for traditional mariachi ensemble (paired trumpets, guitar, guitarrón, and ad. lib. percussion). The work is intended to be performed in the spirit of mariachi style—informally and with much “gusto.” This engaging and accessible piece is rarely performed today. Chorale CdA’s performance of this work is, to the best of our research efforts, only the third time this work has been performed in the US in approximately the last 25 years. 

 

Messe Basse by Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)

Fauré’s Messe Basse is a prime example of the missa brevis (shortened mass). Fauré rejected the bombastic 19th-century settings of the Mass, particularly that of Berlioz, whose grandiose spectacle emphasized the wrath and judgments of God. Conversely, Fauré felt that the mass should be all about mercy and forgiveness. The Messe Basse reflects this attitude in its gentle voicing and scoring, anticipating the same effect more fully Gabriel Fauré achieved in his more famous Requiem.

According to liner notes by Jeremy Cull for a Lammas recording (2001), “The Messe Basse dates from about 1880, although not published until 1907, and is scored for treble voices and organ. Fauré omits the Gloria and Credo–sections of the Mass that give most scope for dramatic writing–concentrating instead on the Kyrie, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei, imbuing them with a quiet lyricism that is also to be found in his songs and some of his quieter piano works. In this respect, the writing in the Messe Basse anticipates his approach to the Requiem. In the Kyrie and Benedictus, Fauré sets a solo voice against the rest of the choir, whilst in the other two movements, the treble voices are divided equally in two.”

 

Old Hundredth Hymn Tune arr. by R. Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

More of the “public” music of Vaughan Williams, this work was arranged for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. This is of course one of the greatest chorale tunes in the world as well as one of the best known. During the coronation, Vaughan Williams wanted the congregation of peers to join in to the musical experience, revealing his spirit of idealism. During the singing of this work, it was recorded that “the noble lords predictably made harsh of their unison part, but who cares?” 

Old Hundredth is a hymn tune in long meter from the second edition of the Genevan Psalter, and is one of the best-known melodies in many Christian musical traditions. The tune is usually attributed to the French composer Louis Bourgeois (c.1510–c. 1560). Although the tune was first associated with Psalm 134 in the Genevan Psalter, the melody takes its name from the Psalm 100, in a translation titled “All People that on Earth do Dwell.” It is this text Vaughan Williams employs for the current setting. 

 

For This Joy by Susan LaBarr (b. 1981)

Written in memory of choral singers and clarinetist George Olin, this work is a modern arrangement of the LOBE DEN HERREN hymn tune. This tune is most commonly associated with the text “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” This tune was first seen in 1665 printed in the Stralsund Gesangbuch. The composer is unknown. With a meter of 14.14.11.8, this tune is generally considered to have an irregular meter, hence its close association with only a small number of hymn texts. This new ecumenical text was written for this arrangement by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The text focuses on the richness of life and creation and the joy that is found in all aspects of life. The musical arrangement is simple yet effective. The consistent eighth note alternating pattern between the treble and bass clef in the piano provide a consistent yet unassuming rhythmic drive. The texture and dynamic range of the choral writing slowly develops, moving from a soft humble unison melody to a thicker fuller homophonic declaration of the final verse. 

 

Praise His Holy Name by Keith Hampton (b 1957)

Praise His Holy Name is one of Keith Hampton’s most popular gospel arrangements. Originally scored for mixed voice ensemble for the 30th anniversary of the Voices of Melody, the beginning section of the piece is a homophonic declamation in three parts. The middle section recalls the lyrics of Amazing Grace in highly rhythmic figures. The final section is intensified by the addition of layering the vocal textures and repeating the text multiple times. This work features complex rhythmic figures, stacked harmonies, and a powerful piano part. 

 

I Believe by Mark Miller (b. 1967)

The background of this text, at this point, is a part of folklore. As such, the background story of this text has evolved and grown over time, leaving us (and this particular choral work) with a slightly different text than what might be most historically accurate. However, the powerful message of love, hope, and perseverance remains. On June 26, 1945, the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Nachrichten published published a “special correspondence” from an unnamed reporter writing from Cologne. The article is about Catholic resistance to the Nazis in Cologne. The author speaks of the underground bomb shelters used by the Catholic community and of abandoned underground passages in old buildings that the Catholic resistance used as refuges from the Gestapo. Here is a translation of this passage, provided by Nicholas Kontje:

 

“Catholic scouts had discovered underground passageways which had been unused for many years under old buildings, and these could now serve as refuges from the Gestapo. At one point, nine Jewish fugitives hid here for four months without ever being caught. When I visited the shelter, I had the opportunity to see the emergency housing, fully equipped with a kitchen, bedroom, living room, radio, a small library, and oil lamps—evidence of a stunning experience. Meals could only be prepared at night so as not to attract the Gestapo’s attention, who would have noticed the smoke during the day. Food had to be supplied by friends who willingly gave up a portion of their rations to help those unfortunate people living for weeks in utter darkness. The following inscription is written on the wall of one of these underground rooms, which in some ways resemble the Roman catacombs: ‘I believe in the sun, though it be dark; I believe in God, though He be silent; I believe in neighborly love, though it be unable to reveal itself.’”

 

These words have come to symbolize hope in the face of the despairing circumstances of the Holocaust. Mark says: “I composed this as a testament to the power of love over institutionalized hate, whether it comes from government or religion. Several years ago, I came upon this poem (I had sung the text years before to an anthem by Jane Marshall) at a difficult time in my life when I was searching for words to embody the pain I was feeling and the hope I was needing. There are rare moments when composing is more like an uncovering of something that was already there- this piece emerged within a few minutes and became a solace and an antidote for my world weariness. My hope is for this sacred gift of lyrics and song to be ‘medicine for the soul’ for all who hear it.”

 

Festival Sanctus by John Leavitt (b. 1956)

John Leavitt was born in 1956 in Leavenworth, Kansas. He is a composer, conductor, teacher, and church musician. He received the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from The Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His music has been performed in 30 countries across the globe and his recordings have been featured nationally on many public radio stations. 

Commonly performed by large festival choirs, this well-known choral work is full of energy and vitality. Leavitt employs a combination of brisk spritely tempo, active piano accompaniment, syncopated rhythms, and consistent meter change to keep both the listener and chorister engaged. The musical themes of the work are relatively accessible, but Leavitt’s clever and engaging treatment of the main melodic components provides a continual sense of variety within a familiar form. 

 

“Pie Jesu” from Requiem by John Rutter (b. 1945)

John Rutter is a composer of primarily choral works, including Christmas carols, anthems, and extended works such as the Gloria, the Requiem, and the Magnificat. Rutter’s style is influenced by 20th century English and French choral compositions as well as American songwriting. His compositions are most popular in the United States and the UK, with the London Evening Standard writing, “For the infectiousness of his melodic invention and consummate craftsmanship, Rutter has few peers.”

The Requiem was first performed in its entirety on October 13, 1985 at the United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, conducted by the composer. It was written “in memoriam L. F. R.” and dedicated to Rutter’s late father. In his own words:

 

“The Requiem was written in 1985 and dedicated to the memory of my father, who had died the previous year. In writing it, I was influenced and inspired by the example of Faure. I doubt whether any specific musical resemblances can be traced, but I am sure that Faure’s Requiem crystallized my thoughts about the kind of Requiem I wanted to write: intimate rather than grandiose, contemplative and lyric rather than dramatic, and ultimately moving towards light rather than darkness….”

 

As with the Requiems of both Fauré and Duruflé, the Pie Jesu features a soprano soloist, though in this case with the addition of a subdued choral commentary. With this compositional choice, Rutter pays homage to the masterworks so influential to the choral art. 

 

The Ground by Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) 

Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the US in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Julliard School in NYC. His concert works are performed all over the world. The Ground is based on a chorale from the last movement of his Sunrise Mass (2008) for choir and string orchestra. The work is called “The Ground” because he wanted to convey a sense of having ‘arrived’ at the end of the Mass—to have reached a kind of peace and grounded strength after the long journey of the Mass having gone through a lot of different emotional landscapes. On creating a standalone version of this work, the composer states that he, “wanted to make a version that could be performed independent of the Mass and one that was also more accessible in terms of instrumentation, with a piano & optional string quartet accompaniment.”

 

He Never Failed Me Yet by Robert Ray (1946–2022)

This well-known work, in the choral gospel style, was composed by Robert Ray, the founder of the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus. Passing in late 2022, Dr. Ray will be remembered as a skilled pianist, teacher, director, and composer. He mentored many young composers and leaves a legacy as a “serious, but kind-hearted musician.” His students remembered him as “thorough and respectful, maintaining high standards for musicality.” This piece is frequently performed and “packs a serious punch” of emotion. Note the use of homophonic choral writing for maximum textual clarity accented by vocal solo. In this musical style it is encouraged, and even expected, that featured vocal leaders/soloists incorporate elements of improvisation into their performance. 

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