The DeKalb Choral Guild
P.O. Box 1931
Sweet Passion's Folly
Bryan F. Black, Director
Saturday, February 11, 2006
A Choral Valentine
Never Seek to Tell Thy Love (1998) by Timothy Snyder (b. 1971)
Sweet Day (1913) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Go, Lassie Go (2004), arranged by Mark Sirett
Zelený Majerán [Green Marjoram] (1986) by Jirí Laburda (b. 1931)
Amor de mi Alma [You are the Love of my Soul] (2001) by Z. Randall Stroope (b. 1953)
An Old Man He Courted Me (1996) by Stephen Chatman (b. 1950)
Love Lost (1969) by Paul Sjolund (b. 1935)
1. One Perfect Rose - Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Bohemian Rhapsody (1975), words and Music by Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)
"Hearts to Hart" – A medley of favorites by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, including "My Heart Stood Still," "Bewitched," "My Funny Valentine," and "Falling in Love with Love"
Julianne Reeves and Ben Bailey, soloists; Bob Amar, piano
By Michaelene Gorney
"Never Seek to Tell Thy Love" is a somber poem from the collection Songs and Ballads by William Blake (1757-1827), the noted English Romantic poet, painter, and engraver, whose disillusionment with the human potential for perfection extended to the social and political conditions of his time. David Erdman cites this title as "Never Pain to Tell Thy Love."1 Timothy Snyder wrote this soulful setting while a student of choral music at Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music, having already earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music from Colorado State University. He is the recipient of many commissions for university, church and public school choirs.2 "…Love that never told can be."
The poem "Sweet Day" was penned by George Herbert (1597-1633), English poet and orator, who, having come from a wealthy intellectual family, enjoyed first a secular career, then a contemplative life, with most of his poems written as a priest in the last three years of his short life, a period during which he suffered from poor health.3 Thus it is not surprising that in "Sweet Day" (titled "Vertue" in The Temple of 1633) Herbert dwells on the "mingled finality and sweetness, harmony and destruction"4 summed up in the word "closes," a reference to the endings of musical phrases as well as to death, where "the sweet and virtuous soul.…chiefly lives." Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) imparts the flavor of an English folk song to Herbert's text, No. 1 in his Three Elizabethan Folk Songs,5 its shifting modalities representing the dual and ever-changing nature of that which brings both pain and pleasure, be it of this world or the next. "Sweet spring! Full of sweet days and roses…."
"Go, Lassie Go" is a traditional Scottish folk song evocative of "Memories of young love amidst the wild mountain and blooming heather." This lilting tune, enhanced here by Mark Sirett with gentle counterpoint, was first recorded by Francis McPeake in 1957, who claims to have heard it from his uncle in Northern Ireland, and the lyrics are by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774-1810). True to the loving spirit of today's celebration, Sirett, a native of Kingston, Ontario, and graduate of Queen's University, dedicated this arrangement to his daughter, Heather Ellen, who sang in the choir which premiered it in 2001.6 "Will ye go, lassie go?"
"Zelený Majerán" ("Green Marjoram," 1986) is an arrangement by Czech composer Jirí Laburda (b. 1931). Laburda's prize-winning setting of Slovakian folk poetry reveals his affection for choral writing with a sensitive understanding of text, which lends its own rhythmic character, and the use of rich modal harmonies.7 The Guild was honored to perform this piece for Mr. Laburda at the St. Nikolas Church in Prague while on its 2005 tour of Germany and the Czech Republic. Laburda, who teaches at the University of Prague, is no stranger to techniques of modern composition, but the broad appeal of much of his music lies in its ties to neo-classicism and folk tradition.8 "…vedela by, komu mám rúcku dat'."
The poem "Amor de mi Alma" ("You Are the Love of my Soul") was written by Garcilaso de la Vega (1503-1536), a leading poet of the Spanish Renaissance, a man skilled in "music, arms, letters, and in the battles of love," who died at the age of 33 of combat wounds. His poem is heard tonight in a sumptuously rich musical setting by Z. Randall Stroope (b. 1953), Kayser Professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a conductor, lecturer and composer who has performed with choruses throughout the world.9 In listening to this setting, it is hard to imagine either man, poet or musician, being more passionate about anything except that done "por vos."
Stephen Chatman (b. 1950), Professor of Composition at the University of British Columbia School of Music in Vancouver, was born near Minneapolis-St. Paul and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. His music varies stylistically, depending upon the material with which he works, and his writings include works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, choir, band and keyboard. "An Old Man He Courted Me" is one of Chatman's Five Canadian Folk Songs, another of which, "The Grand Hotel," was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for the Vancouver Choir. All are traditional folk songs, some tender and passionate, some highly irreverent, but all reflective of the pioneer spirit. "An Old Man He Courted Me" is from Ontario10 and will be sung tonight with no reverence whatsoever. "Fal the dol doo dle, fal the dol doo dle…"
Love Lost is a cycle of satirical poems on love, all of them by American poets. The first, "One Perfect Rose," was written by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), also critic and short-story writer, known for her malicious wit.11 "When You're Away" and "Your Little Hands," are by Samuel Hoffenstein (1890-1947), a screenwriter who wrote comic verse as a pastime, often referred to as "The thinking man's Ogden Nash."12 The third, "Careless Talk," is by Mark Hollis. The texts are punctuated with poignant doses of reality and practicality both amusing and painful. But such can be love, and we cannot be less than honest! This musical gem was written for the Norman Luboff Choir by Paul Sjolund, an American composer, arranger and author whose original works and arrangements are widely sung in the United States. "It's always just my luck to get…"
"Bohemian Rhapsody," words and music by the legendary Freddy Mercury, recorded by the legendary rock band Queen, is heard tonight in an arrangement by Mark Brymer, head of Wow! Entertainment, composer and arranger of hundreds of works for chorus and vocalists, including several for Disney films.13 Freddy Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to Indian parents who practiced the ancient Persian Zoroastrian religion. Educated at a boarding school near Bombay, where he first played in a band and gained the name "Freddy," and at a school in Mambai, at the age of 18 he and his family fled from a revolution in Zanzibar to England. There he pursued a diploma in art and graphic design, later using these skills to design the Queen crest. To the group, Mercury brought a four-octave vocal range, including falsetto, and wrote some of their most creative pieces, among them "Bohemian Rhapsody," a combination of balladic and operatic styles originally considered far too lengthy to be popular. Although Mercury insisted that the words had no meaning,14 they remain the subject of much speculation and many a lengthy blog. Is this a Faustian tale of a certain lead singer later infected with HIV? The lament of a boy who's killed someone? Think what you will, we revel in its singing, as did Queen. "Bismallah," by the way, is the opening phrase of all chapters of the Qu'ran and means "In the name of God." As to why we are singing this for Valentine's Day(?)……"any way the wind blows."
1 The William Blake Archive, www.blakearchive.org
2 Never Seek to Tell Thy Love," by Timothy Snyder, text from Songs and Ballads by William Blake, Mark Foster Music Company, Champaign, Illinois, 1998.
3 Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, "George Herbert," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Herbert
4 From Robert Pinsky, U. S. Poet Laureate, on "Virtue," as quoted in Christian Classic Ethereal Library, "Herbert, George (1597-1663): Poet and divine," The Temple, "Sweet Day"
5 "Sweet Day," No. 1 of Three Elizabethan Folk Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, ECS Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts, 1941.
6 "Go, Lassie, Go" arr. Mark Sirett, Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., 2004
7 "Zelený Majerán" by Jirí Laburda, Alliance Publications, Inc., Fish Creek, Wisconsin, 2000
8 Alliance Publication, Inc., "Jirí Laburda," http://188.8.131.52/composersb.cfm?ln=L
9 "Amor de mi Alma" by Z. Randall Stroope, Walton Music, Inc., 2004
10 "An Old Man He Courted Me" by Stephen Chatman, Jaymar Music Limited, London, Ontario, Canada, 1996
11 Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, "Dorothy Parker," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Parker
12 Kessinger Publishing's Rare Reprints, Books by Samuel Hoffenstein, http://kessingerpub.com/searchresults_orderthebook.php?Author=Hoffenstein, Samuel
13 Hal Leonard Corporation, Composer Biographies, "Mark Brymer," http://www.halleonard.com/biographyDisplay.jsp?id=102&location=Church&subsite=subsite_church
14 Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, "Freddy Mercury," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddie_Mercury