The Music of Stillness - Elaine Hagenberg
Turn, Turn, Turn (Pete Seeger) - (with guitar) Arr. Linda Palmer
Idumea - (Sacred Harp Southern Harmony, with fiddles) - Arr. Richard Bjella
Sweet Rivers - (male voices) - Reginald Unterseher
Sweet Rivers - (full choir) - Arr. Shawn Kirchner
Brightest and Best - Arr. Shawn Kirchner
Os justi mediabitur - Anton Bruckner
Five Hebrew Love Songs -(with strings) Eric Whitacre
The Singer's Dance - (with strings) Kim Andre Arnesen
All of Us - Craig Hella Johnson
Prayer for the World - Daniel Schreiner
Why the Caged Bird Sings - Jake Runestad
In Your Light - Daniel Elder (text by Rumi)
Our 2018 program will look something like this!
If you like reading about choral works, why we think these fit into a general theme, please read on...the theme of this concert…a vibrant declaration of love, celebration and deep respect for all beings!
All of Us comes from a concert length work written by Craig Hella Johnson called “Considering Matthew Shepard.” Matthew Shepard, as you may recall was murdered in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming, where he was a student at the university where our conductor, Dr. Lamartine, now teaches. Composer, Craig Johnson, was inspired to write the work to pay tribute to the young gay man. Craig says “I have a vision of a huge tent where we all are welcomed---(and then in reference to the music) at first the solo trio is proclaiming in Gospel style, followed by the choir, then a chorale.” He urges us upward as singers by saying, “May your singing…(of this work)…be a vibrant declaration of love, celebration and deep respect for all beings.”
That’s exactly the theme of this concert…a vibrant declaration of love, celebration and deep respect for all beings!
We’ve grown to regard Jake Runestad’s choral works as some of the most engaging to be found today.
“Why the Caged Bird Sings” is a powerful metaphor for those imprisoned in slavery. It inspired Maya Angelou’s book by that name. The original poem was written by her favorite author, African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar. The last part of the poem reads “I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, When his wing is bruised and bosom sore, When he beats his bars and he would be free; It is not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer…I know why the caged bird sings!”
It’s hard to think of a better work to follow “Caged Bird” than “Prayer for the World” written specifically for Chor Anno by Daniel Schreiner. Daniel taught for two years in the Tacoma area and sang with Chor Anno in 2017. He decided to leave his job and return to Central Washington University for a master’s degree in music. Unfortunately for us, his position as a teaching assistant to Dr. Gary Weidenaar has him involved in a retreat for the CWU Chamber Choir this weekend. One might hope that the prayer of the “caged bird” might be (in part) along the lines of Daniel’s choice for text: “Lord, save us from ourselves. Save us from the vengeance in our hearts and the acid in our souls. Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt.” Daniel’s prayer goes on to say, “and so may we be merciful, patient, gracious, and trusting with those whom you love. Kyrie eleison.”
The Singer’s Dance by Kim Andre Arnesen (b. 1980) is one movement from the larger work called “The Wound in the Water,” premiered two years ago in Trondheim, Norway, where Arnesen grew up. Arnesen often uses the poetry of Euan Tait of Wales. The Singer’s Dance is a celebration of this season of the year, autumn. Again, in part, he says: “The leaves have fallen away, and dance to the wind-song in the garden, and through new naked trees, we see the two great rivers in their beauty and restless power.” But, as singers, we are particularly celebrating the lines “we are drawn to the centre of the dance, and we know we are helplessly singing, seeking whatever in us we cannot stop, the song ceaseless, leaping, our utter YES.” If any should ask why Chor Anno singers sing, this is the answer!
In Your Light is part of a cycle of Rumi (1207-1273) settings and is a joyful expression of that poetry by Daniel Elder, another contemporary (and young) composer whose work we continue to program. Elder states, “in Your Light” begins this cycle…with a powerfully energized tone that expresses the full depth and height of this inherent joy.” Rumi’s works can be erotic and full of earthy humanity. “In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”
There is no doubt, we think, that composer Elaine Hagenberg, has captured the sense of Sara Teasdale’s poem, The Music of Stillness. In several ways, it’s a contrast to the preceding work by Elder. Yes, we understand Hagenberg’s inspiration as she describes (in a video interview) a walk under a “dome of stars on a glorious, cold evening in early November.” But she fails to mention that she has also captured the underlying sadness of Teasdale herself when in this poem Teasdale says, “I will make this world of my devising, out of a dream in my lonely mind.” As much as we might wish for all persons to be showered with our concert’s theme of love, celebration, and deep respect, we are constantly reminded of darker and troubling issues in our world, and, as with Sara Teasdale, in our lives.
A song by Pete Seeger doesn’t often appear in a choral music program like ours. Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is A Season) with lyrics adapted from the Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a time for every purpose under heaven. It’s a bit of a reminder that our lives, as with our Teasdale reference in the previous song, can easily have both the dark and the bright. Arranger, Linda Palmer, has the choir underscoring the soloist as well as picking up on Seeger’s emphasis where he says, “Peace! I swear it’s not too late.”
Five Hebrew Love Songs is a set of poems written by Hila Plitmann, now the wife of composer Eric Whitacre. Whitacre said he asked Hila (who was born and raised in Jerusalem) to “write me a few ‘postcards’ in her native tongue.” He says, “These songs are profoundly personal for me, born entirely out of my new love for this soprano, poet, and now my beautiful wife, Hila Plitmann.” In English, they read:
1. A picture is engraved in my heart:
Moving between light and darkness:
A sort of silence envelopes your body,
And your hair falls upon your face just so.
2. Light bride
She is all mine,
She will kiss me!
3. “Mostly,” said the roof to the sky,
‘the distance between you and I is endlessness;
But a while ago two came up here,
and only one centimeter was left between us.”
4. What snow!
Like little dreams
Falling from the sky.
5. He was full of tenderness;
She was very hard.
And as much as she tried to stay thus,
Simply, and with no good reason,
He took her into himself,
And set her down
in the softest, softest place.
Os justi meditabitur is by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896). What better way to express a deep respect for all beings than for all of us to follow the tenets of this Biblical text:
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of God is in his heart.
Our last four pieces all have a bit of the late 19th century feel, both in lyrics and in the music. They’re a joy to perform. Please read on for more of the story!
The tune for Idumea was written by Ananias Davisson (1780-1857) of Shenandoah County, Virginia. Richard Bjella (Lawrence University) arranged the piece. It’s a haunting and popular Appalachian minor song in Southern shape-note circles. Charles Wesley’s harsh and frightening words are used. You’ll find the tone of the choir and even the approach to words “rustic,” to say the least. The phrase “hell-fire and brimstone” comes to mind and may well represent the beliefs of the religious of the era. How does this dark and terrifying painting of the hereafter fit with a theme of love, celebration and deep respect for all beings? It really doesn’t! But, look at it this way. Life can be sharp and edgy! The dark and edgy quality of Idumea most certainly provides a sharp contrast to our theme…making the theme shine, don’t you think! But mostly, our excuse for programming the work is because it certainly is fun to sing!
But all was not death and gloom for the shape-note set of the late 1800’s. Brightest and Best, arranged here by our friend, Shawn Kirchner, is a joyful (though again in a minor key) setting of what is actually a Christmas text. It is a celebration. And the fiddle part played by Matt Mandrones pretty well takes it to the next level!
We end our celebration of love and respect with two “river songs.” They’re based on the same lyrics, the original source being John Adam Granade (1803). Sweet Rivers, arranged by our own Reginald Unterseher (a bass in Chor Anno) uses a William Moore (1825) melody and arranges the piece for male voices. This is the smooth and lyrical version. Reg has all of us crossing “’o’er Jordan’s stormy banks and leaving this world behind” in a lovely fading out of the sound.
Kirchner’s version, using much the same lyrics, begins with an almost luminous piano accompaniment and a new melody. But there is no fading out into the sweet rivers for Shawn. His last line is a triumphant shouting of “Sweet rivers of redeeming love lie just before mine eyes.” We hope it will lift you right out of your comfortable pew!
Here is the playlist:
Flight Song (Kim Andre Arnesen)
“All we are, we have found in song…music’s fierce compassion flows from you…”
Requiem (Craig Hella Johnson)
With lyrics by Eliza Gilkyson, this piece by Craig Hella Johnson speaks with
powerful and emotional impact in response to the 2004 tsunami devastation in Indonesia.
We Rise Again (Stephen Smith)
An audience favorite performed by the men of Chor Anno. “…we look to our sons and daughters to explain our lives…as if a child could tell us why….” Soloist, the great Jonathan Vaughn!
Long Time Ago (Arr. Aaron Copland)
One of the world’s great folk melodies…simply sung, in unison with beautiful viola work by Dr. Stephen Meharg.
Tell My Father (Arr. Andrea Ramsey)
Another Chor Anno favorite that has gotten thousands of plays on YouTube. Sung by the men of Chor Anno with marvelous baritone ,Reg Unterseher, as soloist on this poignant and moving song as sung by a dying soldier in the civil war.
Gabriel’s Oboe (Ennio Morricone)
We felt we had to include this gorgeous melody. It’s from the 2002 movie “The Mission,” and features violist, Meharg, and oboist, Roxanne Knutson.
Shenandoah (Arr. Richard Nance)
A beautiful melody and lyrics so oft performed by choirs that Garrison Keillor once asked, “Does the world need another version of this song?” Yes, it does! Especially this exquisite setting by our friend from Pacific Lutheran University, Richard Nance. Haunting violin work by Matt Mandrones.
Come Dwell in Solomon’s Walls (Z. Randall Stroope)
A particularly powerful song of hope by a master of choral sound, Randall Stroope.
The Pasture (Z. Randall Stroope)
Oh, so moving! This poem by Robert Frost grabs you. And Stroope’s composition completely captures it. We sang it two years ago with a dedication to our friend and colleague, Neil Lieurance, a superb choral director/teacher who was a high school student of Meharg in 1960 and who died in 2013. Neil grew up on a small farm near Castle Rock, WA. One of the lines from the Frost poem says, “I’m going out to clean the pasture spring, I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away…I sha’n’t be gone long…You come, too.” Neil said he remembers his father saying a similar thing. He said his family was not given to many outward statements of affection, but that “You come, too” as said by his father, he could always take as a metaphor for “I love you!”
Who Is This? (Arr. John Ferguson)
Our conductor friend, Paul Klemme, introduced us to this piece. It rather falls into the “choral reflections” category…based on a quotation of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” It features exquisite viola work by Stephen Meharg.
Unclouded Day/I Sing Because I’m Happy (Shawn Kirchner/Rollo Dilworth)
These pieces brought ‘em to their feet in 2016’s concerts. Impossible to separate the great audience response from the music so you get applause as the choir transitions from “Unclouded” to “I Sing Because I’m Happy” with Brian Hoskins’ great piano work on this gospel piece. And yes, the “I Sing…” was
one to which we were introduced by the incomparable Rollo Dilworth at the 2016 WA ACDA Summer Institute. Talk about songs of solace and hope!
Choral Reflections on “Amazing Grace” (Arr. Roger Ames)
Could have ended with the triumphant sounds of the previous songs, but maybe there’s even more triumph to be found (whether metaphorically or as a simple matter of faith) in this transcendent setting with so many facets. Yes, you hear the comforting words and familiar melody, marvelous solo work by Alison Askeland and Nicole Lamartine. You hear the choir emulating the sound of bagpipe drone as background. Then comes a beautiful and flowing setting of a “Kyrie eleison” in the choir that eventually becomes a backdrop to “Amazing Grace” played in the rich tones of the viola. You’ll then be lifted skyward by choir and strings in “when we’ve been there ten-thousand years.” The ending is quiet and meditative…and if you listen very closely, you’ll hear bagpipes in the distance!
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Howard Meharg, Music Director and Conductor, Chor Anno