by Richard H. Trame, S.J., Ph.D.
The program opens with the lovely and most delicate of all Renaissance settings of the Ave Maria by the Spanish priest-composer Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548- 1611). Victoria's composition uses the melodic structure of the beautiful Gregorian chant that immediately precedes it.
The masterful, versatile and inventive Claudio Monteverdi certainly ranks among the world's foremost composers. Ecce mormorar l'onde sets a poem of Italian poet Torquato Tasso. It appeared in his Second Book of Madrigals, which was published in 1590, and exhibits the strong influence of the prince of Italian madrigalists, Luca Marenzio. This madrigal is set for five voices and conveys in its courtly pastoral style the mirror image of dawn reflected on the sea.
George Frederic Handel's (1685-1759) chorus Music Spread Thy Voice Around appears in the third act of his oratorio Solomon as part of the king's entertainment for the Queen of Sheba. After 1749, Handel, as was his practice, modified the chorus's constituent elements providing a solo part for King Solomon to introduce it. However, for performance outside the oratorio, the first version with its sixteen measure introduction and fivepart chorus provides a better option.
Well before the publication of Pope Pius X's Motu proprio of 1903 outlines the musical principles desired in the composition of liturgical music, the 19th century German Cecelians strongly recommended a return to the ideals and purity of Renaissance polyphony, exemplified especially by Palestrina. Influenced by this group, Bruckner (1824-1896) composed 10 motets in conformity with these ideals. The gradual Os justi (Psalm 37:30-31) was first sung at his beloved Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian on the feast of St. Augustine, August 28, 1879.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) composed his See the Chariot at Hand, a wedding poem of Ben Jonson, for his opera Sir John in Love. He subsequently excerpted the chorus from the opera and incorporated it into his cantata Windsor Forest. The poem's fulsome imagery, so adroitly and exquisitely set by Vaughan Williams, describes the beauty of the bride riding by in her wedding carriage for all to admire.
Randall Thompson (1899-1984) composed Alleluia at the request of Serge Kousevitsky, famed music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It premiered at the opening exercises of the now-famed Berkshire Music Center on July 8, 1940 by the Center's newly formed student body choir under the direction of G. Wallace Woodworth.
In 1799, Haydn (1732-1809) composed his majestic Te Deum in C for the Empress Maria Theresa, wife of Emperor Francis I, an admirer of his. His jealous patron, Prince Esterhazy, did kindly not receive the news that Haydn had composed a large-scale Te Deum for the Empress, though it would appear that Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton were the first to hear the work on a visit to Eisenstadt (home of the Esterhazys) sometime in September, 1800. The Te Deum is conceived on a large scale and to be executed by large forces. It is a grandiose work, one of Haydn's sublimest creations. As in several of his choral works, the themes are those of the Gregorian chant, which Haydn revered throughout his life. As the British musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon observes "Haydn's setting of the great Te Deum is one of the crowning efforts of his old age."
Having also completed his music degree at the National School of Music, Elifio Rosaenz (b. 1916) moved to the Argentinian city of Mendoza in 1942. He eventually joined the music faculty at the University of Cuyo where he composed many choral works for his student choirs. Candombe, for mixed chorus, is a vocalized rhythmic dance developed by descendants of former African slaves that came to the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina from Brazil in the early 19th century.
Henry David Leslie was most noted for his Leslie Choir, an English a cappella group he conducted for many years which, in 1878, won first place in an international choral competition in Paris. His setting of Robert Herrick's poem Charm Me Asleep illustrates Leslie's restrained Victorian style.
Shenandoah, the most famous of American sea shanties, boasts for its beloved melody several texts, the origins of which are obscure. Shanties served to coordinate the work of sailors as they got the great windjammers under way, weighing anchor, or hoisting and trimming the sails. "Shenandoah" may have been a name derived by the sailors from that of an Indian princess. Its beautiful melody has attracted innumerable arrangements, of which that of composer James Erb (b. 1927) has enjoyed artistic and lasting success.
A long-time resident of Southern California, Leroy Southers arranged his Three Folk Songs (Canadian, British and American) to "provide mixed choruses with a small set of contrasting songs representative of three different English-speaking cultures." Commissioned in 1967 for the Kenosha, Wisconsin School System's Contemporary Music Project, they were first performed by the Tremper High School A Cappella Choir. Rhythmic and virtuosic versatility characterizes these whimsical settings.
The first known printing of the Londonderry Air appeared in 1855 in the Peters Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland. Collected by Miss J. Rose of County Londonderry, it initially had no name, but received many settings to different texts. The best known of these is Danny Boy, as written in 1913 by Fred Weathely and, in turn, the song has seen innumerable arrangements, not the least of which is the exquisite setting by Roger Wagner. Of the songs that he arranged himself, Danny Boy was the late conductor's favorite.
Fr. Richard Trame was the archivist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles from 1960 until his recent retirement. An expert on choral music, he has been the program annotator for the Los Angeles Master Chorale since 1979.
"From Stage to Screen"
by Alan Chapman
It was in the mid-19th century that a theatre district of international importance began to grow around the midtown Manhattan stretch of a street called Broadway. In the 1890s, its brilliant lights earned it the name "The Great White Way." (A French visitor described it in 1903 as a "bouquet of luminous advertising." An observer in 1910 called it "an immense blaze of legends and pictures, most of them in motion ... the finest free show on Earth") Luminous also were the talents who literally created American musical theatre there.
When talking pictures arrived in 1927, a new genre, the movie musical, was born and characters (both live and animated) sang songs written specifically for the screen. This program includes songs originally performed by a young girl from Kansas, a cricket, and an amiable assortment of seafood.
The outstanding commercial and artistic success of the 1927-1928 season was Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Edna Ferber, author of the original novel, thought it unsuitable for musical adaptation and reluctantly gave her consent.
Alan Chapman, music professor at Occidental College is also widely known as a pre-concert lecturer, composer/lyricist, performer, and radio host.