Composers often show love for their homelands in their music by using texts that describe the natural features of the land or by incorporating folk melodies, rhythms, or other musical effects. This concert features works that demonstrate such musical love for country. The Russian chamber choir LYRA will be our special guests!
Composers often show love for their homelands in their music by using texts that describe the natural features of the land or by incorporating folk melodies, rhythms, or other musical effects. Some works on tonight’s concert directly demonstrate that kind of musical love for country. The program also reflects on the subject of “homeland” by including the music of composers from countries around the world—even though some of those composers (especially the younger ones) have now taken up residence in the U.S. In every case, however, the music is “homeland-loving” in the broadest and perhaps best sense: not mere chauvinism but instead expressing the universal spirit of gratitude for the blessings closest at hand.
We are grateful tonight that the Russian chamber singers LYRA will be able to share such musical love for country from their unique perspective, further demonstrating the deeper musical patriotism that both ensembles have in common. We also thank the Atlanta-based Kazanetti String Quartet for their welcome collaboration.
The Ground Ola Gjeilo, b. 1978
Composer Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to New York in 2001 to study composition at the Juilliard School. He is the composer of over thirty published works, which are performed around the world. A film buff, he often draws inspiration from cinematic music. He is currently composer-in-residence of the the Manhattan Chorale, a professional chamber choir in New York City.
Of this work Gjeilo writes in the introduction to the choral score, “The Ground is based on a chorale from the last movement of my Sunrise Mass (2008) for choir and string orchestra. The chorale, beginning at Pleni sunt caeli in that movement is the culmination of the Mass, and it’s called Identity & The Ground because I 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 so many different emotional landscapes. However, I really wanted to make a version that could be performed independent of the Mass, and one that was also more accessible in terms of instrumentation. So here is a version with piano and optional string quartet accompaniment, including a new intro and epilogue that mainly features the piano, with accompaniment from the choir and strings. In those sections, the choir functions almost like a string orchestra, as a bed of warm and evocative sound.” This independent choral version of The Ground was commissioned by the Desert Vista High School Choir [Phoenix, AZ], Andrew DeValk, conductor.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra Gloria tua. Osanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
The heavens are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give us peace.
String Quartet in D Minor (“Voces Intimae”). Op. 56 Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Movement 1: Andante – Allegro molto moderato
Few composers represent Romantic Nationalism more recognizably than does Jean Sibelius, whose most famous work is Finlandia, the unofficial national anthem of Finland. And no composer on tonight’s program (other than Ronaldo Miranda) so fully exhibits the love of the music, customs, and the natural wonders of his native land as does Sibelius. Best known for his works for larger orchestral ensembles, Sibelius also wrote chamber music. A prominent Finnish cultural website sponsored by the Finnish Club of Helsinki says of his chamber music in general and of this particular string quartet,
Although Sibelius wrote dozens of chamber music works in his youth, after the year 1891 he almost completely neglected the composition of trios, quartets and quintets. However, he made an exception in 1909, when he wrote the string quartet in D minor (Voces intimae [Intimate Voices]). It is the only major work for string quartet of Sibelius’s mature period.
Sibelius began to write the quartet in earnest in December 1908. . . . At the beginning of 1909 he continued to compose it while he was in London. On the 15th April he presented his quartet Voces intimae to the publisher, Lienau. “It turned out as something wonderful. The kind of thing that brings a smile to your lips at the hour of death. I will say no more.”
Voces intimae was performed for the first time at a concert of the Helsinki Music Institute on 25th April 1910, almost a year after it was completed. “The composition attracted a great deal of attention, and it is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant products in its field. It is not a composition for the public at large, it is so eccentric and out of the ordinary,” was the verdict in Helsingin Sanomat.
The quartet begins in D minor with a dialogue between violin and cello. Soon the D minor is given Dorian tones and the texture gains orchestral weight. It is as if Sibelius would really like to compose for a string orchestra and not just for a quartet. (http://www.sibelius.fi/english/musiikki/kamari_triot.htm)
Dark Night of the Soul Ola Gjeilo
In the introduction to the choral edition Gjeilo says of this piece “Dark Night of the Soul was written in 2010, and premiered that same year by the Phoenix [Arizona] Chorale with [Chorale Artistic Director] Charles Bruffy, [with] myself at the piano and four local string players. The piece was commissioned by and dedicated to my dear, sweet friend and publisher, Gunilla Luboff, in memory of her husband, choral legend Norman Luboff. The text, three stanzas from St. John of the Cross’ (1542-1592) magical poem Dark Night of the Soul was suggested to me by Joel Rinsema, Executive Director of the Phoenix Chorale, and I fell in love with it its colorful and passionate spirituality instantly.”
One dark night, fired with love’s urgent longings
— ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.
In darkness, and secure, by the secret ladder, disguised,
— ah, the sheer grace! –
In darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled.
On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me,
Nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide than the one that burned in my heart.
From the Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez Copyright © 1964, 1979, 1991 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications 2131 Lincoln Road, N.E. Washington, DC 20002-1199 U.S.A. www.icspublications.org. Used by permission.
Scored for eight-part (often nine-part) voices (plus solo soprano), piano, and string quartet, the texture is unusually rich and lush, with harmonic language reminiscent of Rachmaninov as well as of more recent composers like Karl Jenkins and Eric Whitacre.
Continuing in his introduction to the piece, Gjeilo says, “One of the main things I wanted to do . . . was to make the choir and piano more equal: usually the piano is relegated to a very generic accompanying role in choral music, as opposed to strings or orchestra. . . . So there is a lot of give and take between the choir and piano here; often the piano is accompanying the choir, but sometimes the choir is accompanying the piano (or violin a couple of times), with the choir. . . taking the role of a string orchestra. I just love the sound of voices singing chords on ‘Ooh’ or ‘Mmm’; it creates a sound that can be so amazingly evocative and warm, especially when doubled by a string quartet. To me, that sound combination has a similar effect to a [music synthesizer], only it feels more organic and alive. But mainly, what this piece was really about was just the sheer desire to write something that could hopefully convey a lot of the grace and passion that is so strong and pulsating in the poem.”
LYRA: Sacred Music of the Russian Orthodox Church
LYRA is an a cappella group of four professional singers from St. Petersburg, Russia. This is a small touring group representing a community of about two dozen professional musicians, most of whose members are students or postgraduates of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Though the members of the community represent different musical professions (choir conductors, opera singers, instrumentalists, music teachers, musical theater singers) they are all united by their love for choral ensemble singing. In 2001 they were awarded Montreux (Switzerland) international choral festival diploma, and in 2005 were a winner of the Coleraine International Choral Festival (Northern Ireland).
The two main goals of the ensemble are reflected in tonight’s program: to represent both the sacred and the folk music traditions of Russian music. Tonight they first present examples of Russian sacred music, starting from ancient songs of the Orthodox Church to works of little-known, but remarkable composers of the 18th-20th centuries, as well as famous masters such as Bortniansky, Tchaikovsky, Tchesnokov, Gretchaninov, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, and others.
Suíte Nordestina Ronaldo Miranda, b. 1948
Daniel R. Afonso, Jr., editor of the choral score, describes the composer and the piece in these terms:
Ronaldo Miranda was born in 1948 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in Piano and Composition from the Universidad Federal do Rio de Janeiro and the Universidade de São Paulo. In 1974, Miranda started his professional career as music critic for the Jornal do Brasil, a well-known newspaper [in] Rio. It wasn’t until 1977 that he decided to dedicate himself more intensely to composing. He has since produced a significant group of works for various instruments and voices, in many different genres and forms . . . . His works been published in Brazil and abroad and have been performed [throughout Europe and in the Americas].
Miranda finished hisSuíte Nordestina in 1982. . . . Suíte Nordestina (Northeastern Suite) is a four-movement choral suite freely based on folk melodies from Northeastern Brazil. Because of its folk content, the arrangements have a certain nationalist flavor with simple harmonies and syncopated rhythmic patterns. It is also interesting to notice the presence of the embolada style in the second and fourth movements. Embolada is a poetic-musical process from the coastal areas of Northeastern Brazil characterized by a somewhat declamatory melody, very fast and repetitive rhythmic passages, and a comical text.
I. Morena bonita (Beautiful Brunette)
Morena bonita, o que vem vê? O sol nasceu, virou, pendreu . . .
Beautiful brunette, what have you come to see? The sun rose, turned, but is already set . . .
II. Dendê trapiá (The Coconut)
[Refrain]: Coco Dendê trapiá ta no jeitinho de embolá!
Segunda-feira fui à grade da cadeia, lá vi eu a coisa feia a bala dentro trovejá.
Cabra danado, se não tem corage eu tneho de pegá cabra na faca e amarrá sinhô no engenho.
(Refrain): The Coconut [it] is about to fall!
Monday I went to the jailhouse. There I saw the “ugly thing” fire a gun shot.
Bad guy, if you don’t have the courage, I do, to take him by force and tie him to the mill.
III. Bumba chora (Cry, Bumba [drum])
Chora, chora, O Bumba chora e eu vou-me embora. Vou-me mebora, vou tocar minha viola.
[Refrain] Ȇ, Bumba chora! Ah! Ah! Chora ,meu Bumba.
Vou-me embora, vou-me embora segunda-feira que vem.
Quem não me conhece chora, qui dirá quem mi qué bem.
Amanhã vou pra escolar aprendê a lê e a tocá viola.
Cry, cry, the Bumba cries, and I leave. I will leave, I’m going to play my guitar.
(Refrain): Ah! Ah! Cry, my Bumba!
I will leave, I will leave next Monday.
[If] those who don’t know me cry, imagine those who like me.
Tomorrow I will go to school to learn to read and play the guitar.
IV. Eu vou, eu vou (I’ll go, I’ll go)
[Refrain]: Eu vou, eu vou, você não vai apanhar macaúba no balaio.
A muié do paiaҫo é um colosso caiu da cama, quebrou o pescoҫo.
Oi, pisei na manga, escorreguei a minha roupa eu rasguei.
Vou apanhar macaúba, macaúba no balaio.
(Refrain): I’ll go, I’ll go, [but] you won’t go to pick up macaúba leaves with a basket.
The clown’s wife is “weird”; she fell off the bed [and] broke her neck.
Oops, I stepped on a mango and slipped and I tore my clothes.
[I’ll] go to pick up macaúba leaves with a basket.
Texts and translations used by permission, earthsongs, copyright © 1982.
LYRA: Russian Folk Songs
LYRA’s second set fulfills the second of their two main missions: to represent the rich traditions of Russian folk and secular music, including those forms which have their basis in dance and other secular customs. LYRA members also make their own arrangements of folk songs and Russian secular songs such as those by Taneev, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and others, representing another side of their creative activity. The secular repertoire also includes arias and other songs from operas by Russian and other composers.
Baba Yetu Christopher Tin, b. 1976
Composer Christopher Tin wrote this song as the theme music for the video game Civilization IV. The game takes the player through a variety of emerging and competing civilizations (Egyptian, Inca, Aztec, Greek, Roman, European, Indian, Asian, the New World, etc.). The text is the Lord’s Prayer (adapted from Swahili by Chris Kiagiri)—a fascinating choice to represent the whole of human civilization. “Thy kingdom come?” Music written for a cyber “country”? The style, instrumentation and language are decidedly African—in itself appropriate in that, anthropologically speaking, the “homeland” for all of us homo sapiens is southern Africa. But of this particular use of the Lord’s Prayer one commentator upon a YouTube version of the piece observed, “If the Earth became one whole Nation, this would be the Anthem.”
The composer’s website says this of this remarkable young 21st-century Renaissance Man:
Christopher Tin is a two-time Grammy-winning composer. His work covers diverse terrain: from thrilling fusions of orchestral and world music, to brooding reinventions of 90s electronica, to award-winning scores for film, video games, and commercials.
His debut album Calling All Dawns won two Grammys at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards: Best Classical Crossover Album, and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for the song ‘Baba Yetu’. Both wins were historic: Calling All Dawns was the last album ever to win the Best Classical Crossover Album category, and ‘Baba Yetu’ made history as the first piece of music written for a video game ever to be nominated for, or win, a Grammy.
He received his undergraduate education at Stanford University, studying Music Composition, Conducting, and English Literature. After a brief stint as an exchange student at Oxford University, he won a Fulbright Scholarship to continue his studies at the elite Royal College of Music in London–the alma mater of many of the giants of British composition: Benjamin Britten, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Gustav Holst and others. There, he earned an MMus with Distinction, graduating with the highest marks in his class, and winning the Horovitz Composition Prize. He is also a Sundance Institute fellow.
His music has been performed live by many distinguished orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Philharmonia, Metropole Orchestra, and hundreds of amateur ensembles around the world.
In addition to his album work, he is also an active composer of music for films, video games, advertising, and other media. He has won awards for his video game music, for titles such as Civilization IV and Pirates Of The Caribbean Online. He has written music for such Hollywood blockbusters as X2: X-Men United and Lilo And Stitch 2, and a host of independent features, documentaries and TV specials.
His career is also marked by many unusual distinctions; he has both co-created the startup sound for Microsoft’s Surface operating system, and a demo song for Apple’s Garage Band software, now found on every new Mac computer. His hit song ‘Baba Yetu’ is both the theme song to the video game Civilization IV, and is also used as a featured segment for the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest choreographed fountain, situated at the base of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper. In recognition for his educational work, the city of Mt. Vernon, IN declared May 4th to be Christopher Tin Day. Christopher Tin currently lives in Santa Monica, CA. (http://www.christophertin.com)
Homeland Arr. Z. Randall Stroope, b. 1953
This anthem is a combination of two musical themes. Following the introduction the theme first heard is the noble “Jupiter’s Theme” from British composer Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets (1914-1916). Holst adapted the “I Vow to Thee, My County” text into a hymn (tune name Thaxted) in 1921, and the hymn has also been adapted to other texts such as “O God Beyond All Praising.” Following the statement of the Holst tune, a somewhat darker middle section, composed by Z. Randall Stroope, is heard, eventually followed by the return of the Holst tune to conclude the piece.
Futher information about the texts and the authors and composer is provided by the choral edition:
Sir Cecil Spring-Rice (1859-1918), whose life was spent in the British diplomatic service, began and ended his career in Washington, D.C. President Wilson was just taking office when Spring-Rice became British Ambassador in 1912. [He] served through World War I, and truly knew what it meant to love and serve his homeland with unceasing sacrifice.
The arranger of Homeland (Z. Randall Stroope) wrote the second and third stanzas in dedication to his father, who, as a prisoner of war, walked the Bataan Death March in World War II. . . . [Stroope] is Director of Choral/Vocal Activities at the University of Nebraska at Omaha [as well as] the Artistic Director/Conductor for the Nebraska Children’s Chorus and the Nebraska Choral Arts Society.
Of special interest to tonight’s theme is the “nationalist” musical character of both sections: the very British sound of the famous Holst musical theme and Stroope’s distinctly “American”-sounding introduction, middle section, and interludes/transitions, strongly reminiscent of Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson.
I vow to you, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best:
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price.
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.
Though the road has bends and turns, and my spirit suffers,
Humans fail, systems fail, shadows fall.
But the ruts run deep, cut by the blood of faces above,
And voices now silent. . . .
But the message loud is heard: “Homeland. Homeland
Renew your growth, restore your soul!”
Homeland, the country that I love, hold out your arms to me.
I strive for you, and give to you the best I hope to be.
May your wisdom be your armour, your compassion be your sword;
May your strength be forged with mercy, your courage lives restore.
Homeland, the country that I love, forever reign supreme;
And when time stands still, my homeland, may heaven hold your dream.
My homeland, be my dream, my hope.
Arranged by Z. Randall Stroope
Copyright © 2001, 2013 Transferred to Colla Voce Music
Used by permission.
Program notes and translations (except as otherwise noted and with thanks to Steve Mulder) by Bill Pasch, copyright 2014.
All works on the program are performed under license from ASCAP and from BMI.
Michele Marriage-Volz, violin (Kazanetti String Quartet)
Elizabeth Alvarez, violin (Kazanetti String Quartet)
Julie Rosseter Sweeney, viola (Kazanetti String Quartet)
George Butler, cello (Kazanetti String Quartet)
Marcus Reddick, percussion (Mercer University)
Anna Makarenko, soprano (LYRA chamber choir)
Olga Turkina, mezzo-soprano (LYRA chamber choir)
Sergey Tupitsyn, tenor (LYRA chamber choir)
Alexander Kudriashov, bass-baritone (LYRA chamber choir)