The Music of Living by Dan Forrest
An exuberant setting of a text teeming with the joy and optimism of life:
Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to sing the words to Your song.
I want to feel the music of living
And not fear the sad songs
But from them make new songs
Composed of both laughter and tears.
Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to dance to the sounds of Your world.
I want to move in rhythm with Your plan.
Help me to follow Your leading
To risk even falling
To rise and keep trying
For you are leading the dance.
I Will Arise and Go arranged by Shawn Kirchner
Innisfree is a small island in Ireland where William Butler Yeats spent his childhood summers. In 1888, walking along Fleet Street in London, he was struck with the inspiration for his poem: “I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-window which balanced a little ball upon its jet, and began to remember lake water. From the sudden remembrance came my poem ‘Innisfree,’ my first lyric with anything in its rhythm of my own music…”
Shawn Kirchner’s setting is filled with sounds from the poem: the “bee-loud glade,” the song of the circket, the beat of linnet’s wings, and “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore.” Through the minor mode used by Kirchner, one can feel the reality of Fleet Street and the longing that the “pavements grey” induced in the heart of this sensitive poet.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Geantrai by Michael McGlynn
Michael McGlynn is a composer-in-Residence and Artistic Director of ANUNA, Ireland’s National Choir, which he founded in 1987. Ireland has no indigenous history of choral music, and Michael created Anuna with the intent of developing a uniquely Irish form of ensemble singing that wove convincing connections between the ancient vocal traditions and literature of his homeland. Geantrai intertwines several traditional texts together into an almost trance-like dance:
Caithfimid suas go heasc í
Caithfimid suas is suas i seachain a chroí na pleasc í
Déanfaidh sí damhs’ is damhs’
Déanfaidh sí damhs’ le pléisiur
Déanfaidh sí damhs’ is damhs’ mé féin ‘si féin le chéile
We will throw her up easily
We will throw her up and up, hopefully she will not explode
She will dance and dance
She will dance with pleasure
She will dance and dance myself and herself together
To A Wild Rose by Edward MacDowell
The story on how this piece came to be can be traced back to Edward’s wife, Marion. Every morning Edward would sit at the kitchen table and compose little fragments of music, like a warm up exercise. He usually tossed the pieces of paper in the trash but this fateful morning he missed. His wife picked it up off the kitchen floor, uncrumpled it and took it to the piano where she fell in love with the melody. Upon his return from his studio, she played what he had written and he agreed and said, it sounds like a lovely rose.
The Old Boatman by Florence Price
Florence Price was an African American Composer, pianist, organist and teacher. She was educated at the New England Conservatory of Music. Price is noted as the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra. Price composed over 300 works: four symphonies, four concertos, as well as choral works, plus art songs, and music for chamber and solo instruments. In 2009, a substantial collection of her works and papers was found in her abandoned summer home. Florence’s music brings together the European classical tradition in which she was trained and the haunting melodies of African American spirituals and folk tunes.
O Love by Elaine Hagenberg
This work was inspired by the words of Scottish minister, George Matheson in 1882. Blinded at the age of nineteen, his fiancé called off their engagement and his sister cared for him as he endured new challenges. Years later, on the eve of his sister’s wedding, he faced the painful reminder of his own heartache and loss as he penned the words to this hymn. Given a fresh melody that soars with eloquence, composer Elaine Hagenberg uses hopeful ascending lines representing renewed faith. Though lingering dissonances remind us of past heartache, the beautiful promise remains: “morn shall tearless be.”
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thy ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Joy that seeks me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
Brightest and Best arranged by Shawn Kirchner
Is a lively arrangement of the sturdy American hymn tune STAR IN THE EAST with text by Reginald Heber. Kirchner is a composer/arranger, singer and pianist active in the music circles of Los Angeles. Kirchner’s choral writing is informed by his interest in songwriting and folk traditions. Best known for his setting of the Kenyan song Wana Baraka, he has also set many traditional American songs, including this one.
“The Sentimental One” from Lyric Quartet by William Grant Still
William Grant Still is known for being one of the foremost African-American composers of the 20th century. Still was the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera, the first African-American composer to conduct a major American orchestra and the first to have an opera performed on national television.
The Lyric Quartet was composed in 1960, and was dedicated to Still’s friend, Joachim Chassman. Set into three movements subtitled Musical Portraits of Three Friends, the quartet takes the listener on a personal journey. “The Sentimental One” opens in unison fluctuations which create warmth between the quartet’s timbres. Throughout much of this movement the ensemble plays as a unit of sound, which creates ripples of music. The style in which this movement is written showcases Still’s more sensitive style of writing, which is highlighted through the textures and rhythms of the music. The music resolves on the final chord to, ending this sentimental movement quietly.
“The Ground” from Sunrise Mass by Ola Gjeilo
Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Julliard School in New York City. “The Ground” is based on a chorale from the last movement of his Sunrise Mass for choir and string orchestra. This chorale is called “The Ground” to convey a rooted, solid sense of harmony and peace after the long journey of the Mass through many different emotional landscapes. The final latin text “Dona nobis pacem,” translates to “Grant us peace.”
True Light by Keith Hampton
Opening phrases of the traditional spiritual This Little Light of Mine introduce Keith Hampton’s lively original words and music, which feature a sixteen-measure solo sung to lines from tenth-century poet Grigor Narekatzi’s Book of Mournful Chants: “Don’t let the light that You’ve given me die, And don’t desert my mind. But let the one who serves You Praise You again and again.”
Flight Song by Kim André Arnesen
Written as gift to Dr. Anton Armstrong and the St. Olaf Choir, composer Kim Andre Arnesen was impressed not only by the artistic work, but also the personal development and safe environment Armstrong has given to so many young singers. The Welsh-Scottish poet and librettist Euan Tait wrote the text, alive with the imagery of water, fire, and birdsong. He lives in a house that overlooks two great British rivers, the Wye and the Severn, and the air is constantly alive with the sound of seabird wings and calls.
All we are, we have found in song:
you have drawn this song from us.
Songs of lives unfolding
fly overhead, cry overhead:
longing, rising from the song within.
Moving like the rise and fall of wings,
hands that shape our calling voice
on the edge of answers
you’ve heard our cry, you’ve known our cry:
music’s fierce compassion flows from you.
The night is restless with the sounds we hear,
is broken, shaken by the cries of pain:
for this is music’s inner voice,
saying, yes, we hear you,
all you who cry aloud,
and we will fly, answering you:
so our lives sing, sing,
wild we will fly,
wild in spirit we will fly.
Like a feather falling from the wing,
fragile as a human voice,
alive to love, we sing as love,
yet our flight begins as song.