“Songs of the Saints” Program Notes – Solis Camerata

Songs of the Saints 2014-1

November 6, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

Xavier Chapel of our Lady:
4710 North 5th Street,
Phoenix, Arizona 85012

Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/songs-of-the-saints-tickets-13613294731?aff=eac2

Ave Generosa
St. Hildegard Von Bingen (and St. Mary)
Hildegard Von Bingen (c. 1098 – 1179) is a significant figure in music and Church history. Hildegard suffered from what scholars believe were intense migraines from the age of three. The migraines brought on luminous visions that she believed were from God. At the age of 43, she began to write down these visions. With the help of male scribes who could read and write, she was able to document treatises on natural science, medicine, healing and spirituality. Her visions and treatises, originally discouraged by the Catholic Church, eventually became accepted and admired due to her distinguished holy wisdom. Hildegard received veneration during her life and after her death, but it was not until May 2012 that Pope Benedict XVI declared her a saint and, in October 2012, named her a Doctor of the Church.

She is one of the few known women medieval composers, a champion of women, their spirituality and strengths in society. Although she did not question the role of women, she was outspoken in the presence of clergymen and nobility. Her long list of appointments includes as the Abbess at the Benedictine monastery of St. Disibod in Germany. She founded two convents despite intense Church opposition. When Hildegard founded the first convent, she was forbidden to use the Church-sanctioned liturgy. Instead, she composed her own music, developing her own musical style. Although she did not have a formal music education, her exposure to music of the Church inspired her to develop her own system.

Her music is nothing like existing 12th century chant. Instead, we see monophonic writing with extraordinary wide ranges, unheard-of ascending intervals of a fifth, soaring melodies, highly melismatic melodies and alternating soloists and choir. Her text directly pairs with the melodic action in the music, implying drama and narrative, which was a rarity in 12th century compositions. Because she did not receive formal music training, she did not make use of the medieval neumatic system of notation, therefore her scores look different from those of her contemporaries. Today when we perform her music, the rhythmic durations are up to interpretation by the performer. Hildegard enthusiasts celebrate her music, which much of the body of repertoire honors the mysticism and reverence for the Virgin Mary, such as the piece on tonight’s program, “Ave Generosa.”

Salve, Sancte Pater Patriae
Guillaume Dufay (St. Peter or St. Francis of Assisi)
This hymn, traditionally attributed to St. Francis, literally translated (Sancte Pater) could be for the Holy Father, or specifically for St. Peter. St. Peter, known in the bible originally as Simon the apostle, received the name Peter when Christ said: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” As the rock-like foundation, Peter became the first leader of the apostles as well as the head of the larger community who believed in Christ. He traveled to far lands proclaiming the gospel, but died as a martyr for his faith by crucifixion on an upside down cross. He was the first pope of the Catholic Church and is the patron saint of Fishermen and workers.

Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397 – 1474) had a broad spectrum of talents. In addition to his activities as a composer, he labored as a doctor of Canon Law, regularly participating in ecclesiastical events as a holder of various prebends. A wealthy, cosmopolitan, and powerful man living in the area of Cambrai (Northern France), his correspondence with contemporary composers, such as Binchoi and Ockeghem furthered his compositional technique. Much of his output reflected his dedication his canonic duties, as it furthered the larger role that liturgical polyphony played in the Church. His melodies, harmonies and plainchant compositions are an area of distinction, as well as his continued development of the iso-rhythmic technique, an older style that he perfected. The motet for this program, “Salve, Sancte Pater Patriae,” displays the iso-rhythmic aspects of medieval rhythm. The rhythm and melody repeats, and those repetitions shift over time. Each voice has its own independent line, but placed in counterpoint to the other voices, which in turn have their own repetition. Some voices have elongated and augmented rhythms, while other voices have smaller and faster diminutive rhythms. The resulting sonic structure sounds to the modern ear as if it is syncopated, and quite dissonant. However, what sounds archaic and alien to us now, was new and innovative for its time.

Missa Pange Lingua, Kyrie
Josquin des Prez ( St. Thomas Aquinas)
At the tender age of five, St. Thomas Aquinas’ (c. 1225–1274) parents gave him to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino with the expectation that he would choose the life of an abbot. When Thomas reached the age of nineteen, he chose a different path against his Italian family’s wishes, and took up the Dominican habit. Shortly after, he began his career as a teacher and writer. That work later became the foundation of his faith and led to his renown as the preeminent teacher of Theology and Philosophy in the Church. His legacy lies within his writings where his main themes outline the natural order, human knowledge of the divine, the relationship between faith and reason, and the proof of God’s existence. He is the patron saint of students, schools, colleges and universities.

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455 – 1521) was not a composer by trade, but rather an aristocrat who ‘dabbled’ in music. In the 15th century, aristocrats trained musicians and poets. However, it was not acceptable to brag about one’s talent as a musician, but rather be ‘asked’ – if not ‘pleaded’ – by others to ‘favor’ them with a composition. Josquin acquiesced to that ‘favor’ so often, that he is now considered a central figure in the high Renaissance and was lauded and praised during his day for his mastery of the technique. During this period, composers were unencumbered by the medieval formulaic methods of the text or rhythm, and did not have to rely upon a pre-existing melody (cantus firmus). It was a time of inventive creativity and an opening of new expressive ideas. Therefore, Josquin was able to compose freely, creating his own musical form.
Josquin’s “Missa Pange Lingua” came from a contemporary source of inspiration, the well-known hymn of the same name by St. Thomas Aquinas. Josquin set the tune as the basic melodic structure of the entire mass. As in previous compositions, Josquin turns to paraphrasing and imitation as the basis of his technique. The opening and closing Kyrie sections display imitative counterpoint defined rhythmically and melodically where each new vocal line conveys a new point of imitation. The concept of tact (or pulse) is clear in the writing of these two sections. In the middle Christe section, each new line of text conveys a new point of imitation. Some imitative motives occur in duetted pairings (the same idea which led later to antiphonal choirs). Yet, other motives trail each other with ‘question and answer’ canons. The Renaissance melodic method of horizontal lines in independent voices, combined with long chains of interlocking motives paved a path for exquisite overlapping phrases. The listener hears tension and resolution, and the long aching melodies that we have come to associate with Renaissance writing. Josquin’s genius is not only in his compelling melodies and in imitative structures, but also that he displayed a strong relationship between the text and music. This technique laid the groundwork for the Renaissance maxim: “Music is not the servant, but the mistress of the words.”

Ask Anything
Joshua Ian Elder (St. Thomas Aquinas)
*Commissioned for “Songs of the Saints” by Catholic Phoenix

I have a deep regard for the mystic poets – their poems cause us to ponder and meditate; never offering answers, but always leading to more questions, they allow us to unravel for ourselves the Divine Mystery. So, when I happened upon “Ask Anything,” I knew immediately that I would set the text to music. The poem is a beautiful reminder that we can come before God with all of our questions, doubts and fears, and that when we grapple with our issues before God, we will be rewarded by a deeper understanding of God’s nature and our own. – Notes by Joshua Ian Elder

Beatus Franciscus
Jerónimo de Aliseda (St. Francis of Assisi)
St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181 – 1226), founder of the Franciscan order, came from the least likely background to live a life dedicated to the Church. His mother named him Giovanni after John the Baptist, but his father returned after a time in France and refused to name his son after a Christian figure. His father, a French merchant, renamed him Francesco after his own love of France. Francis lived a life of luxury and wealth, and had a reputation as a friendly and well-loved child and a natural leader. However, he tended to indulge himself in alcohol, fine food, friends, and women. As a grown man, he was much like his father, in his love for France, keen sense of adventure, business acumen, and excitement at the prospect of joining a crusade. He answered the call for knights in a war against the nearby town of Perugia. However, the war ended poorly and Francis landed in prison, suffering both physically and mentally. There he had the first of several visions from God. God told him to return home, repair the Church and live a life of poverty. A ransom from his father was accepted, but when Francis returned home, he was a different man. His transformation to man of God was not immediate, yet over time Francis lost his desire for an indulgent life. Instead, he disposed of all his possessions, devoted himself to solitude, prayer, and helping the poor. A naturally joyful man, Francis learned that he did not need possessions, wealth, or glory to be happy and at peace, but rather to be in the service of God. An important sojourn of St. Francis’ life occurred when he followed Christ’s journey through forty days of fasting and prayer. During his fast, an angel brought him a vision and at the angel’s adjourn, St. Francis became the first person to receive the stigmata, wounds similar to Christ’s wounds on the Cross.

Scholars know little about the life and works of Jerónimo de Aliseda (c. 1548 – 1591) except that he was a composer working at the Toledo Cathedral in Spain. This motet about St. Francis comes from the Toledo Polyphonic Choirbooks, a large collection of illuminated, musical liturgical sources from the Toledo Cathedral between 15th and 19th centuries. The atlas-sized book, only discovered in 2002, unearthed 170 previously lost Masses, motets and plainchants intended for liturgical functions. Although scholars do not have a large body of historical information about the piece “Beatus Franciscus,” it is clear that the reverence for St. Francis, his life and sacrifice was a topic this Spanish composer still found compelling and inspiring three hundred years after the saint’s death.

Nos Qui Sumus
Orlando di Lasso (St. Nicholas)
This 3rd century saint is the real person behind the Santa Claus story. Far from the legendary home at the North Pole, Nicholas was born in the city of Patera, on the southern coast of modern Turkey. Nicholas dedicated his life to serving the God at a young age. His parents died, leaving him a significant inheritance, which he gave to the needy, sick, and poor. He became Bishop of Myra and his paved his legacy through his generosity to those in poverty, needy children, and sailors at sea. Many stories about this Saint have been passed down, some about his kind deeds during his life and others about the many miracles which occurred through beseeching prayers to St. Nicholas after his death. One of the most famous stories led to a tradition we celebrate during the Christmas holiday today. It tells of a poor man with three daughters but no money for a dowry to prevent their being sold into slavery. On three different occasions, an anonymous person threw a bag of gold into the house through an open window giving the father money for each of the daughters’ dowries. The stories say the bag landed in stockings or shoes left beside the fire. Some variations of the story describe the contents of the bags from St. Nicholas as either three gold balls, or three oranges. Today we honor St. Nicholas, the gift giver, by leaving a stocking or shoes out for him to fill, whereby he secretly enters the house through an open window, or chimney.

Originally from Belgium, Orlando di Lasso (c. 1532 – 1594) began as a nine year old chorister soprano at St. Nicholas Cathedral choir. His famous vocal talent caused him to suffer kidnapping on three occasions, stolen away to a new cathedral. He spent many years in Italy working at the Gonzaga court in Mantua and studied singing and composition from Italian masters. After working in Italy for the Medicis and as chorus master at the Basilica of San Giovanni di Laterano (St. John Lateran), and extended travel to study music all over Europe, he returned to the Belgium. Eventually he settled in Bavaria, and Lasso received the appointment of Kapellmeister at the ducal court in Munich, Bavaria. Considered one of the Renaissance’s great composers, Lasso (or Lassus) was an authoritative writer of all genres and techniques. His music explores more chromatic and intrepid harmonies than most of his contemporaries, save perhaps Don Carlo Gesualdo. The prose for “Nos Qui Sumus” comes from the liturgical sequence for St. Nicholas’s feast day, remarking on shipwreck, despair, and rescue of sailors. The St. Nicholas liturgical sequence, attributed to Adam of St. Victor, was a popular form during the 14th century and would have been included before the gospel during medieval worship. It was only after 1570, with the introduction of the Tridentine Missal that Pope St. Pius V drastically reduced the number of sequences in the Roman Rite.

Ave Maria
Franz Biebl (St. Mary, Mary the Blessed Virgin)
St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, is the Mother of God and wife of St. Joseph. Mary’s life is exalted and celebrated through multiple feast days and holidays across multiple Christian denominations. In life, she became the mother of Jesus Christ, saved her son from the grasp of King Herod, and raised him with her husband Joseph. Mary was present during Jesus’ first documented miracle at the wedding in Cana and she was present at his Crucifixion. In death, Mary’s body rose to heaven as celebrated in the Feast of Assumption. She is traditionally known as the first disciple and the preeminent witness to Christ. As such, she leads us to Christ and gives hope, love, nourishment, and comfort, standing by our side from birth until death. St. Mary’s legend and many miracles that occurred on her behalf led to the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Middle ages, emphasizing the relationship between her and the holy child. A popular topic for composers since the Middle Ages, thousands of choral works exist in her name. Some familiar works about the Virgin Mary are: Magnificat, Ave Marie Stella, Ave Dulcissima Maria, Assumpta est Maria, Ave Virgo Gloriosa, Ave virgo Sanctissima, Beata es Virgo Maria, Maria Matrem Virgine, and the most famous Ave Maria.

The “Ave Maria” on this program is a contemporary composition by Franz Biebl (c. 1906 – 2001) from Bavaria, Germany. A devout Catholic, Biebl served as choirmaster at St. Maria in Munich and then later taught theory and voice professor at the Mozarteum Academy in Salzburg, Austria. His most famous work, Ave Maria, quickly became popular after the American choral director, Thomas A. Sokol of the Cornell University Glee Club, came across the score music while on a concert tour in Germany. After his introduction of the work in the US, it became a staple of men’s professional choral group, Chanticleer, reaching the status of a choral “hit” after their first recording. The text comes from the ancient Angelus prayer, which is recited at three times during the day accompanied by the ringing of a bell. Scholars believe the Angelus stems from the 11th century tradition of saying three Hail Marys during the daily bell, which Pope Gregory IX ordered rung to pray for the Crusades.

Love’s Living Flame
Kira Zeeman Rugen (St. John of the Cross)
*Commissioned for “Songs of the Saints” by Catholic Phoenix

As a child, St. John of the Cross (c. 1542 – 1591) lived a life of poverty, hunger, and sacrifice, after his father died and left his family destitute. St. John of the Cross joined the Carmelite order where St. Teresa of Avila enlisted him to help establish a monastery, which would return the order to a life of prayer. Carmelite dissenters of the renewed directive kidnapped St. John of the Cross, locked him in a cell for nine months, where they beat, and starved him. During his this period of suffering, St. John of the Cross had heavenly visions, and he wrote down several works of exquisite poetry based on those visions. These poems, described as mystic poems, deal with the perpetual relationship between man’s soul and God. St. John of the Cross wrote that the soul must lose all earthly attachments before it can be united with God. Cardinal Wisemen (first Archbishop of Westminster, b. 1802) said of this journey, “St. John of the Cross gives us clearly the results of his own experience in himself and others. He presents you with a portrait, not with a fancy picture. He represents the ideal of one who has passed, as he had done, through the career of the spiritual life, through its struggles and its victories.”

In the composition “Love’s Living Flame” (Poetry title: Living Flame of Love), Kira Rugen chose to set the text both from the perspective of St. John of the Cross, during his imprisonment and his intimate struggle to find God’s light, and also in relation to the divine yet turbulent relationship between all humans and God. In this poem, St. John of the Cross emerges from the “Dark Night of the Soul,” where he experienced the absence of God’s light. He now feels of God’s presence, but it is not yet a complete reunion, and St. John finds the relationship is more painful than it is peaceful. Yet, St. John seeks more understanding, climbing higher where he attempts to partake of the Divine Nature. Instead of exaltation, he perceives the pain as a part of his cleansing to fully receive the glory and the light of God. So too in our lives do humans seek the love of God, but like Job and St. John of the Cross, in order to understand the fullness of his glory and mercy, we must first be stripped of ego, earthly materials and honor to find ourselves humbled and in need of His grace. Kira Rugen’s composition uses harmonies, colors and rhythm that present the perpetual human questioning of God’s absence, the need for his love, and the simultaneously mystifying and clarifying nature of God’s answers.

St. Crucis Mass
Josef Rheinberger   (The Holy Cross)
Although the “St. Crucis Mass” is not about a specific Saint, its name reflects the vital and the central point of focus for the Catholic Church – the Holy Cross. When examined as separate words, St. Crucis presents a deeper meaning. The Latin word for Saint (St.) is Sanctus, otherwise translated as “holy,” reflecting the sacred, consecrated, canonized or a set of descriptors recognized as good, kind, patient, of eminent piety and virtue. The definition for Crucis is cross, or crux meaning the most vital or decisive stage, a central difficulty, a crossroads of interpretation or a central point.

Scholars have not unearthed historical background for the “St. Crucis Mass,” aside from the assumption that its intended use was for worship and Rheinberger composed it in 1882 while he held the title of Bavarian court Kapellmeister (Munich). However, a possible commissioning came from a church in Germany by the same name, Saint Crucis, church of Erfurt. The size and architecture of this late Gothic building built around 1170 suggests the medieval importance of the nearby castle in Landsberg (Saalekreis). The double chapel was used for church government for the Bishop of Salain Hohenstaufen. The tapestries hung on the pillars and columns highlight a community of wealth and agricultural strength.  Alternately, Josef Rheinberger (c. 1839-1901) may have simply named the Mass for his own devotion to the Church and his convictions regarding the liturgical purpose of the Mass. A devout Catholic, Rheinberger was a member of the Caecilian Society, whose religious ideals advocated for a purity of the spirit in worship through a revival of interest in Gregorian chant. Rheinberger preferred an a capella ideal, which he considered to be “the special medium of the Church,” and drawing from 16th century fugal and canonic forms he alternated homophonic and contrapuntal techniques. Rheinberger, a strict conservative, looked to musical forms of previous centuries interspersed with a nineteenth harmonic language of traditional classical harmony and rich chromaticism. The legacy of his compositions lies in their simplicity, clarity, intricate contrapuntal harmony and soaring melodies without adhering to the overly dramatic overtures found in Wagner and Brahms. He earned a distinctive reputation as a conductor during his time as director of the German Oratorio Club (Oratorienverein) and Director of Sacred Music at the Bavarian Court. Now considered one of the great religious composers of the 19th century, his German Romantic peers largely overshadowed him in popularity for more than one hundred years. With a revival of his music in the late 20th century, scholars have discovered his long history as a harmony professor at the Royal School of Music in Munich, having taught such composers as Engelbert Humperdink, American George Chadwick and even acting as a mentor to Richard Strauss.

Hymn to St. Cecilia
Benjamin Britten  (St. Cecilia)
It is only befitting that tonight’s musical journey concludes by honoring the life and influence of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, who (as said in the text below) “appears in visions to all musicians” to “inspire.” Although St. Cecilia was not a musician, the tragically romantic story of her life dating from the third or fourth century says that Cecilia heard heavenly music when she was forced to marry a Pagan, Valerian. She told her husband that an angel watched over her to guard her purity, and when he wanted to see the angel, she told him he would only after his baptism by Pope Urban. After Valerian converted, Cecilia, her husband, and her brother undertook a mission of burying Christian martyrs killed by the Roman city officials. All three of them received a death sentence for their efforts, but Cecilia did not die after being struck by the executioner’s sword three times. Instead, she survived for three days while people came to her home to honor her. In the Middle Ages, her popularity as a saint flourished. Many songs, poems, stories, and compositions arose in her honor and several paintings of St. Cecilia emerged. Her feast day inspired a wealth of famous compositions bearing her name and spirit: Henry Percell’s “Ode to St. Cecilia,” George F. Handel’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day,” Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “In honorem Caeciliae,” Charles Gounod’s “Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cecile,” and tonight’s final work, Benjamin Britten’s “Hymn to St. Cecilia.”

Benjamin Britten was actually born on St. Cecilia’s feast day, November 22 (c. 1913 –1976). The poem “Hymn to St. Cecilia” written by a close friend, William H. Auden, is divided into three parts. The first section refers to the holy lady, St. Cecilia, as an innocent virgin, who constructs an organ to extend the power of her prayer. Auden likened her to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of fertility, as she floated on a shell in the sea. The second section is the voice of music itself, carefree, innocent, playful, and joyful to all who partake of its aesthetic–for music cannot hurt or cause suffering. The third section deals with humankind offering prayers to St. Cecilia, calling upon her to help us overcome our sorrows and restore our lost innocence. Additionally, the third section offers St. Cecilia’s answer, in which she reproaches humans for overlooking sorrow, and being blind to the destruction they cause. The poem ends with hope, returning once again to artists beseeching St. Cecilia to continue inspiring musicians to create “immortal fire.” Keep in mind that this poem, written in the midst of World War II, holds meanings reflective of pre-war and wartime Europe. First, there is a happy time, joyful and blissfully unaware of pain, then a time of lost innocence and tremendous human suffering. Benjamin Britten, a leading 20th century composer, was an active pacifist, speaking out against the war-ridden Europe, who eventually gained status as a conscientious objector.


A Shakespearean Tragedy of the Heart

A Shakespearian Tragedy of the Heart

Sung by the members of Solis Camerata

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Next week Solis Camerata performs our first concert of the spring semester. I’ve really enjoyed creating a Shakespeare program, but an intriguing manifestation occurred through the study of these texts.  It became more than just a program of choral music. Instead, a gripping and heartbreaking story developed. This classic ‘Shakespearean tragedy’ of lost love also features gorgeous choral music by both modern composers, and from the bard’s time.

(Read the descriptions under the pictures below to decipher the plot. Modern English translations included through a link on the title of each song).

ASU Choral Concert “Songs of Love”  February 26, 2012, 7:30 p.m. Valley Presbyterian Church 6947 E. McDonald Drive Paradise Valley, AZ
Tickets are sold at the door only. $5 for general admission and $2 for students with valid student ID.

“Ah Robin” round by William Cornish (d. 1523)

Twelfth Night 4.2
Soloists: Margaux Fox, Rebecca Woodbury, Mariana Barboza
The Fate of love. Some love is beautiful and lasting. Yet, be warned, some love is cruel and sorrowful.
Prologue: The Fate of love. Some love is beautiful and lasting. Yet, be warned, some love is cruel and sorrowful.
*Refrain: Ah, Robin, gentle Robin,

Tell me how thy leman doth and thou shalt know of mine 
Singer 1: My lady is unkind, perdie, Iwis, alack, why is she so?
She lov’th another better than me and yet she will say no.*
Singer 2: I cannot think such doubleness for I find women true:
My lady loveth me doubtless and will change for no new.*
Singer 1: Thou are happy while that doth last but I say as I find,
That women’s love is but a blast and turneth like the wind.* 

“Three Merry Men” – anon

Found in the John Playford Manuscript (ca. 1623 – 1686)
Twelfth Night 2.3
Soloists: Eric Chapman, Noah Brown, and Caleb Boyd
Three men roam in the forest, relaxing and enjoying life.
Three men roam in the forest, relaxing and enjoying life.
Three merry men, and three merry men
And three merry men be we.
I in the wood, and thou on the ground,
and Jack sleeps in the tree.

Romeo and Juliette 1.5

Spoken by Noah Brown
Suddenly one man spies a marvel… A beautiful woman! He calls out to her.
Suddenly one man spies a marvel… A beautiful woman! He calls out to her.
Did my heart love ’til now?
Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty
’til this night!

“Where the Bee Sucks” Robert Johnson (ca. 1583-1633)

The Tempest 5.1
Soloist: Joyce Yin
Dancers: Noah Brown, Elizabeth Lee
The young lady flirts with this handsome young man and finds herself intrigued.
The young lady flirts with this handsome young man and finds herself intrigued.
Where the Bee sucks, there suck I,
In a Cowslip’s bell, I lie,
There I couch when Owls do cry,
On the Bat’s back I do fly, after Summer merrily.
Merrily, Merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the Bough.

“It Was a Lover and his Lass”  by Thomas Morley (ca. 1557-1602)

As You Like It 5.3
The happy couple fall in love and plan to marry.
The happy couple fall in love and plan to marry.
It was a lover and his lass
with a hey, and a ho and a hey nonny no.
That o’er the green corn fields did pass
In Spring time, the only pretty ring time.
When birds do sing Hey ring a ding a ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring. 
This carol they began that hour
with a hey, and a ho and a hey nonny no.
How that a life was but a flower
In Spring time, the only pretty ring time.
When birds do sing Hey ring a ding a ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring.

“Fancy Bred” by Elliot Sneider (b. 1977)

(Arizona State University DMA Composition TA)
The Merchant of Venice 3.2
Soloists: Sarah Moore, and J.D. Lawson
However, she doubts and questions her love for him:
However, she doubts and questions her love for him.
Tell me where is fancy bred?
How begot how nourished?
Or in the heart
Or in the head?
It is engendered in the eyes.
And fancy dies in the cradle where it lies
Let us all ring fancy’s knell
I’ll begin it. Ding Dong Bell

“Take, O Take Those Lips Away” by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927)

Measure by Measure 4.1
Pianist: Elliot Sneider
In remorse and sadness, he laments about the loss of her promised love, and the loss of her sweet kisses.
In remorse and sadness, he laments the loss of her promised love, and the loss of her sweet kisses.
Take, O Take those lips away
That so sweetly were forsworn
And those eyes, the break of day
Lights that do mislead the morn
But my kisses bring again,
Seals of love, but seal’d in vain.

“Farewell Dear Heart” by Robert Jones (ca. 1577 – 1617)

Twelfth Night 2.3
Soloists: Elizabeth Lee, Brina Gerstenberger, and Noah Brown
She asks a friend for advice, unsure if she desires to stay with him, or leave.
She asks a friend for advice, unsure if she desires to stay with him or leave.
 *Girl:  Farewell dear heart,
Since I must needs be gone,
*Friend: His eyes do show his days are almost done,
*Boy: But I will never die.
*Friend: Yet Sir Toby, there you lie.
*Girl: Shall I bid him go?
*Friend: What an if you do?
*Girl: Shall I bid him go, and spare not?
*Friend: O no, no, no ,no you dare not.

“O Mistress Mine” by Matthew Harris (b. 1956)

Twelfth Night 2.3
Soloist: Noah Brown
He spins a persuasive and heart-felt narrative, trying to convince her to stay and give their love a second chance.
He spins a persuasive and heart-felt narrative,
trying to convince her to stay and give their love a second chance.
O Mistress Mine where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear, your true love is coming,
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers meeting
Every wise man’s son doth know.
What is love? Tis not herafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter,
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

“Loath to Depart” anon

Found in Ravenscroft’s Deuteromelia 1609
Soloists: Elizabeth Lee, Brina Gerstenberger, Rebecca Schmidt, Alexa Valencia
Nevertheless, she insists on parting despite her distaste of farewells.
Nevertheless, she insists on parting despite her distaste of farewells.
However, she justifies that their courtship was only a friendship that could not last.
She justifies that their courtship was only a friendship that could not last.
Sing with thy mouth,
Sing with thy heart,
Like faithful friends,
Sing loath to depart.
Though friends together
may not always remain
Yet loath to depart,
Sing Once again.

“Come Away Death” by Ralph Vaughn Williams (ca. 1872-1958)

From Twelfth Night 2.4

This tragic tale ends with his unrequited love.
This tragic tale ends with his unrequited love.
He mourns the loss of his love, equating it to death.
He mourns the loss of his sweet love, equating it to death.
Come away death
And in sad cypress let me be laid.
Fly away breath.
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white,
stuck all with yew, o prepare it!
My part of death
no one so true did share it.
Not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown
Not a friend great,
My poor corse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand sighs to save, Lay me
O, where sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there!

The Golden Rule / The Golden Music

Since I am a musician and fervent believer in the restorative and healing power of music, I feel compelled to share music written about and for victims. I have collected ten personal favorite events and compositions that communicate hope and a desire to overcome pain and suffering. This music challenges humanity, yet in order to heal we must face pain, and some of the pieces I included are downright tear jerking. My heart aches especially for hurt and suffering inflicted upon children, so you might notice that thread in my musical choices.

I am incredibly grateful to these composers, conductors and singers for their foresight, courage, and willingness to create art that challenges us, but also makes the world a more beautiful and gratifying place.


1- Example 1 is not a specific piece, but comes from a blog I wrote a year ago about my experiences with the Irish choir Anúna, during our concert tour in Japan. The blog outlines my observations as we visited the Tsunami stricken Fukushima region of Japan. We gave a concert to an enthusiastic crowd of primary school children and they touched my heart. It is an experience I will not soon forget. You can read it in either location listed below:

Michael McGlynn’s Blog

Paul Carey’s Blog

(Michael McGlynn also arranged one of the most famous carols about victims: the slaughter of thousands of children at the hand of King Herrod, in the bible. This version of Coventry Carol is simple, ethereal and haunting)

2-  Castle on a Cloud – Les Miserables

My favorite musical, Les Miserables, is a powerful story of cruelty, humanity and hope. The story addresses starvation, war, unfair justice, and it delves into the deep and ugly world of child abuse. This song is a bitter/sweet moment in the show where the neglected and abused child, Cosette, copes with her circumstances by dreaming of a brighter life. The beautiful tale awards her that brighter life, but not without the immense sacrifice and love of Jean Valjean, her adopted father.

3- A Child’s Prayer – James MacMillan

This composition is powerfully heartbreaking, and much harder to listen to than most of the other pieces on my list. Composed in the memory of the Dublane School Massacre in Scotland, where a man entered a primary school, shot and killed sixteen children and one adult. It was the turning point in the UK discussion about legislation for gun control. James MacMillan etches two high melancholy voices in the score, representing the lost children.

4- Prayer of the Children – Kurt Bestor

Although every sort of choir, band and soloist has sung this song, (and often not particularly well) it remains high on my list of wrenchingly beautiful music about victims. The text speaks of children living in circumstances that would turn the most jaded of us pale. The text asks God to hear the hearts and voices of those children, take them away from harm and hope for a better day amidst their world, which is ‘full of hate’.

5- Requiem – Craig Hella Johnson arranged this beautiful song, by Eliza Gilkyson for choir.

The text is a plea to Mother Mary from a population of victims who suffered from the 1996 Tsunami’s in Indonesia. Their lives changed forever as homes, belongings and families disappeared in an instant, swallowed up by the sea. Over 260,000 lives were lost in that natural disaster. The voices in the composition seek comfort for their soul from ‘Mother Mary, full of grace’. This piece holds relevance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Japanese Tsunami of 2011.

6- Across the Vast Eternal Sky  – Ola Gjeilo

I listened to this piece a great deal last summer after my sister and her family endured a horrific car accident. It was a miracle that my 8-year old niece not only survived her life-threatening injuries, but now thrives. This song gave me immense hope while my niece was fighting for her life for several weeks in a coma. Blessed with awe-inspiring talent, composer Ola Gjeilo creates music that is not only beautiful and warm, but healing and transcending. This piece, in my opinion, is his shining jewel. Charles Anthony Silvestri’s text recounts the magical path of the Phoenix beginning with youth, light and soaring flight. Parallel to evolution in our own lives, over time the Phoenix turns sadly grey, losing its bright vibrancy of color. Yet even in the midst of death, the Phoenix affirms: “Do not despair that I am gone away; I will appear again when the sunset paints flames across the vast eternal sky.” Sure enough, my niece did appear again, more brilliantly painted than before her tragic injuries!

7 – The Seal Lullaby – Eric Whitacre

This piece, originally conceived as a ‘disney-esque’ lullaby, narrates the tale of a mother seal singing to her young pup assuring him safety and love. Although this piece is not specifically about victims, it most certainly pulls on the heartstrings of all parents who would do anything to protect their children from dangers beyond their loving arms. Whitacre’s portrayal is a comforting and warm tale, full of hope and peaceful innocence… something we all need a little of now and then.

8 – There Will be Rest – Frank Tichelli

Composed on a text by Sara Teasdale, she expresses that although there may not be peace in this lonely life, there is rest and beauty found in music, snow, and ultimately in the vast majesty of the stars. The harmony, texture and carefully crafted flow of the song take the listener on a journey, which slowly awakens the mind to the infinite potential of the universe.

9- Canticum Calimatatis Maritamae – Jaakko Mäntijärvi

This 13-minute work honors the victims of the 1994 tragedy, in which the MS Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea and became one of the worst maritime disasters of the 20th century. 917 lives were lost that day, only 137 survived and not a single survivor being under the age of 12. Finnish Composer Jaakko Mäntijärvi’s work begins with the haunting whisperings of the victims lost at sea, while the single plaintive voice of the lost sea captain’s widow sings a sorrowful hymn (based loosely on Irish hymn, Nearer My God to Thee. Popular rumors state that the hymn is one of the last songs played by the musicians on the Titanic as it sank into its fateful grave in 1912).  We then hear the actual news report of the disaster, spoken in Latin, which leads into choral illustrations that evoke images of thrashing waves, undulating currents, frightful activity, and finally a deep unsettling rest as the deep claims its prey.

9 – War Requiem – Let Us Sleep Now – Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is one of the hardest large choral works to absorb mentally, physically and emotionally due to its heavy and overwhelmingly visceral depiction of war’s devastation. However, his last movement moves away from the pain and towards rest, reconciliation and forgiveness. Yet even though there is a sense of rest in Let us sleep now, Britten casts an ironic tone, as there is no way to recover truly from the horrors of a war in which over 60 million people died.

Tis’ the Season

Many of my friends on Facebook have been posting EE user cards (http://www.someecards.com/). The cards are a daily ‘funny’ that can be personally tailored to your own life. I saw one the other day that read: “Hooray it’s December! Oh wait… I’m a musician”.  I laughed and laughed, but to be honest… it hit a little close to home.

For those of you that support us creative/music type at this time of year, you have our eternal gratitude and thanks! We often hear that we move our audiences to tears, bring them joy, hope, love and peace. However, there are occasions that musicians must work very hard at not seeing our concertizing as merely a ‘job’. Often, we have rehearsed the music (both conductors and ensemble members alike) for months. If we are not at a rehearsal, we are in a concert. If we are not in a concert, we are practicing. If we are not practicing we hope we find some time to get some sleep. And for those who conduct/direct, we have the extra jobs of secured venues, contracting musicians, creating posters, making programs, researching translations, holding extra rehearsals for soloists, sorted out concert attire, managing decorations, writing press releases and disseminating marketing etc…. etc…. etc….. The list goes on and on.

In the the middle of our music bustle, many of us also desire to participate in the fun of the season.  It IS the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” after all! Musicians Christmas shop, cook, wrap, take our kids to see Santa and Christmas lights, decorate our homes and entertain (when there is time!). By the time you see us in a concert venue we are often wiped out from the holiday madness, and exhausted from our music preparations.

I admit, I’ve experienced a holiday ‘burn-out’ this year.  So I’ve been trying to find ways to invigorate the Christmas spirit. My children and I put up the tree, but I wasn’t really in the mood to put up the rest of the decorations. I turned on Christmas music. However, it made me think of the myriad of concerts I was responsible for this season, so I turned it off. I baked the family favorite “Candy Cane Christmas Brownies” and my husband baked Gingerbread Cookies… but who needs a few extra pounds on the scale? Perhaps my problem was the weather? It was an average of 80 degrees here in Phoenix from Thanksgiving until December 13th  … it just didn’t ‘feel’ like Christmas. So I thought to myself… what does Christmas feel like and what exactly am I missing?

In my pondering, I began to think about my childhood and a flood of Christmas memories came to the surface:

  • The glittering lights of my childhood Christmas tree.
  • A house visit from the ‘real’ Santa Claus.
  • How quiet my neighborhood became under a blanket of snow.
  • The smell and feel of cold crisp mountain winter air.
  • A real pine Christmas tree.
  • Endless hours of sledding down tall hills covered with snow.
  • Moon boots!
  • A homemade nativity pageant with my cousins under my grandmothers Christmas tree.
  • Wassail (Utah Style… mostly juice and Christmas spices).
  • An indoor wood-burning fire.
  • The Temple Square lights.
  • Putting our shoes out for Sinterklaas (my father is Dutch, so we celebrated that tradition).
  • Baking Julekake (My mother is Norwegian. It is a Norwegian Christmas bread).
  • My Grandma Stout’s beautiful tree and pretty Nativity set in angel hair.
  • My Grandma Zeeman’s extraordinary cooking in her remote country home.
  • A Christmas moon rising over the Wasatch Mountains at twilight.
  • The magic and mystery of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
  • The long drive back home after a joyful day visiting cousins and grandparents and falling asleep in the car.
  • The unquestioning belief and knowledge of the love my parents and grandparents had for me.
  • A child’s faith in the story of Jesus’ birth.

I’m sure that over time the distance of my childhood diminishes the reality of that time, and frames instead pictures of a cheerful age. My family lived anything but a charmed life, as we were very poor and my father scraped by paycheck to paycheck keeping all eight of his children fed and clothed. However, I’m grateful that I have precious and happy memories of my childhood Christmases, as it’s my path in finding the Christmas Spirit this year.


Christmas as a baby.

Kira's Pictures 019

Christmas when I was 16 months old.


Christmas with the cousins


Christmas Pageant with the cousins.


I think I’m about 3 here.

Julias Pictures 009

After a Christmas music program at my church, with my father and sister Julia. 

Richard  Pictures 005

Christmas Dinner at Grandma Zeeman’s house with my brother Richard.


One of my dad’s Barbershop quartets.

I have one more set set of childhood memories that cause me to remember Christmases of times past:

  • Church Christmas music programs.
  • Christmas piano recitals.
  • My fathers Barbershop Christmas concerts (and/or gigs).
  • My mother’s Christmas Concerts in the Mormon Tabernacle.
  • Christmas Caroling with my family.
  • School Holiday programs.
  • Performing in the musical ‘A Christmas Carol’.
  • My Christmas concerts with the Salt Lake Children’s Choir

At the discovery of these memories, all I really can do is chuckle. My adult self, suffering with Christmas concert ‘burn out’, is able to find joy, peace and happiness in my childhood memories of… CHRISTMAS CONCERTS!?!? hehe, oh yes, the joke is on me.

As of tonight (two days before Christmas) I have directed and produced eight major Holiday programs (including a Children’s Musical), and have sung in five Christmas Concerts all with six different choirs. Yes, I’m tired. But every one of those concerts held meaning and joy for many people who sought love, joy and peace in a world that often experiences far too much pain. When I analyze the joyful musical experiences I’ve had this season, I realize I live a blessed and fulfilling life. I am grateful that music is a considerable part of the way my family and I celebrate Christmas.

My Christmas wish is that my children too will have happy and lasting musical Christmas memories. Here are just a few musical moments in their lives that I cherish.

IMG_4536 IMG_9587

Christmas Eve Services


Allison’s Holiday Dance Program


Allison Attending her first Phoenix Chorale Concert and meeting Charles Bruffy


Benjamin singing in my Cholla Choir

May your 2012 Christmas Season be filled with joy, peace, happy memories, and most of all … Music!

Merry Christmas.

My Mommy’s a Musician

I have decided to start a blog! This was not an easy decision, as I tend to be an intensely private person, only imparting my inner most thoughts with a very small circle of friends. By it’s nature a ‘blog’ implies that personal information is shared with many, and that concept has always scared me away. It’s not as if I am new to a public forums ‘about me,’ as I have a professional web page, and maintain a Facebook account. However, the way I use those mediums (as I believe many other do) is to 1- share professional information and 2- share random short musings about life. My public image is not a true reflection of who I am or my core philosophies. Rarely do I relate my inner most thoughts and feelings beyond my safe circle. Yet, recently I find that I desire to express my beliefs and experiences.

For the past four years, I have been working on a doctorate degree in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University. I am very happy to say that I am officially ABD (all but dissertation) as of this week and I’m very much looking forward to the end of this stage of my career. My educational journey has been everything from joyful, exquisite, and enlightening to painful, exhausting and at times even devastating. I know that I’ve grown as a teacher, a conductor, a singer, a researcher, and writer. I also have a much keener understanding of my own weaknesses, tendencies and self-defeating behaviors.

I have worked harder than I knew I was capable of, and my family has made enormous sacrifices. I constantly strive to be an active part of my children’s lives, including homework, hopes, dreams, laughter, struggles and activities for developing their talents and knowledge. I burn the candle at both ends knowing fully that I do not want to miss out on my children’s lives just because I am in an intense doctoral program. I pick them up from school daily, spent all afternoon with them for homework, activities, dinner and evening routines. The moment they are tucked away into bed I hit the books, and the papers, and the lesson planning, and the scores etc… But nothing comes without a cost and I have lived with heavy doses of mommy guilt for missing a myriad of ‘little things’ like field day, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, bedtime stories and sick days.


Many people have asked me how I do it and tell me I appear as if I have it ‘all put together’, I have a ‘calm demeanor’, and that I’m ‘super organized’. Truthfully, I usually feel that I’m one step away from a major catastrophe, emotional breakdown or crisis. I’ve had significant trials over these past four years that have been, and will continue to be areas of perpetual worry.  However, through it all I have had one saving grace… my quiet majority.  My husband is my advocate, my motivator and my unyielding supporter. He, more than anyone, understands how important this degree is for my career, but more importantly for my well-being. I have always felt that I was ‘meant’ to be a musician and honestly… many of my best opportunities were the ones I did not seek, but quite literally ‘fell into my lap’. As I nourish these precious opportunities, my husband never fails to take on the role of ‘father extraordinaire’ (and I do mean laundry, dishes and making kids school lunches), and continually encourages me in my pursuits.


Unfortunately, motherhood does not always match up with some of the more subtle expectations of a DMA degree. There were times I had to gracefully bow out and decline multiple events. Even though there might have been an ‘understanding’ for my obligations as a mother, it wasn’t always understood. I weathered many an awkward conversation or situation as I stood up for my belief in being a dependable, available and valuable parent. The often led to misunderstandings and unfortunate perceptions about who I am and what I stand for. I have been told that it will be an area in which I may continually struggle as I move forward in my career.

As late as just last week, I questioned why I am even doing this. There are so many negatives to this profession: working on late nights and weekends, ugly politics, hours and hours of score study and logistical planning, and the famous musicians decry of “ridiculously low wages.” It is a hard career to balance close friendships, family life and philanthropic work at church.  Nevertheless, the answer to myself is always the same, and it really is quite simple. I absolutely love what I do. I love making music. I love teaching. I love sharing the beauty of music both with those under my ‘baton’, as well as the audience in a live concert and those that may hear recordings in the future. I love how through music we can foster communication, relationships, and communities. I love how music is universal and doesn’t require a linguistic language to express a mood, or make a listeners arm hair stand up on end. I love to see people grow, change, improve and appreciate the art in the process of rehearsals and concerts. I love to help people feel good about themselves, their accomplishments and confident in their performance. Although I know I am meant to be in this profession, and I ‘need’ it as a part of my life, my participation in this career not about ‘me’. It is not about the ego, the exposure, or the reputation of the conductor. It is about the people, the humanity, and the sharing of all the joys, sorrows, love, and loss of our collective spirit.

2009 Oct 16 031

Has my schooling been worth it? For my personal growth and edification… absolutely! I wouldn’t trade the progress I have made for anything in the world. My journey on this path is only just starting, so I can’t say for sure if the degree is really worth it for my career. I certainly hope so! I can say this. It is important to me that my children see their mom as someone who sets a goals and attains them, as someone who knows their purpose, as someone who believes that the term ‘impossible’ is absurd, and as someone who doesn’t let anything stand in her way to achieve her dreams. Do I make my kids proud? I think my daughter answered that question tonight when she enthusiastically announced at the dinner table, “My mommy’s a musician! … a singer and a conductor!”