by Richard H. Trame, S.J., Ph.D.
The contemporary Japanese-American composer, Paul Chihara (b. 1938), witnessed a performance of his commissioned Missa Carminum (Folk Song Mass) on January 17, 1976 by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia Orchestra under the baton of the late great Aaron Copland. In celebration of the opening of the Master Chorale's Thirtieth Anniversary year, he has composed In Praise of Music as a choral fanfare. Chihara is the 1993- 1994 Composer in Residence for the Los Angeles Master Chorale through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Morton Gould (b. 1913) has enjoyed a distinguished career as a piano virtuoso and composer of extraordinary talent. His music exhibits a skillful combination of jazz and folk music united to classical forms. He became widely known from 1935 to 1945 through his highly successful weekly radio broadcasts, and for music subsequently composed for such television documentaries as Verdun and Holocaust. As a conductor, his performance of works by Charles Ives with the Chicago Symphony won him a Grammy Award in 1965.
Tolling (of the bells), a work setting the poem For Whom the Bells Toll by the 17th century English mystic poet John Donne, and Solfegging, a virtuoso study of scale singing, were composed in 1988. Commissioned by four professional ensembles (The Gregg Smith Singers, Chanticleer, Plymouth Music Series and the Oratorio Society of Washington), they received their premiere performance on February 10, 1990 in St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York. At that same concert, Gould's Spring Song, an excerpt from Of Time and the River was resurrected after a lapse of 45 years. Gould himself hadn't attended the premiere performance of the work in 1945 by the Westminster Choir, as commissioned by the great pioneer choral conductor, John Finley Williamson. Spring Song exhibits attractive virtuosity in the choral imitations of the chittering, fluttering, and singing of birds awakened in the park by the advent of Spring.
Libby Larsen (b. 1950) has certainly risen to become one of America's most prominently recognized and widely performed women composers. She has long been based in Minnesota and, together with Stephen Paulus, founded the Minnesota Composers Forum. Her Settling Years was commissioned and premiered by the Singing Sergeants of the U.S. Air Force for the 150th anniversary of the Music Educators National Association. Her own words describe the work:
'The Settling Years is a three-part collection based on poetry of American pioneers. The texts are full of a kind of raw energy, swashbuckling attitude and profundity of heart and commitment characteristic of those settlers west of the Hudson [River!...I chose these rougher stanzas because the primitive voices, the pioneers, were profoundly simple in the way they expressed the nature of their experiences.·
"The first piece, Coming to Town, is about cowboys after months on the range - bawdy, rowdy, and raucous. The second, Beneath these Alien Stars, is a poem about the bonding of the human spirit to the land. The third piece, A Hoopla, depicts a barn dance with vocalists who circle 'round the instruments, stomp, clap, and generally perform with abandon, vigor, and boisterousness."
PROGRAM NOTES ON "IMAGES, SHADOWS AND DREAMS: FIVE VIGNETTES"
by David N. Baker
The five poems that I chose for this work are by Mari Evans, a world-renowned poet and playwright, and a close friend. Each of the poems is rich in imagery and represents the poet's unique view of, and comment on, the human condition.
In setting these poems, elements of my own background - gospel music, jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm & blues and the study of the works of such diverse composers as Ives, Ellington, Bartók and Gunther Schuller - informed both my philosophical and musical choices. By drawing on the scales, harmonies, rhythms and gestures of these various styles I have tried to speak to the moods evoked by the poetry - moods that run the gamut from sorrow and resignation humor and optimism - images, shadows and dreams.
PROGRAM NOTES FOR PART TWO
by Alan Chapman, Ph.D.
The second half of this program, with the exception of two selections, is the creation of Robert Hunter. For this concert, he has arranged fifteen of America's favorite Broadway tunes expressly for the Master Chorale. The shows represented embrace a considerable span of musical theatre history: from the Capitol Revue (1919) to A Chorus Line (1975).
Born in Vienna in 1904, Frederick Loewe came to the United States in 1924. Despite his impressive musical background, he explored a number of vocations, including professional boxing, before resuming his songwriting activities in the 1930s. Loewe's first collaboration with Alan Jay Lerner was Life of the Party, which closed during its out-of-town tryouts in 1942. After Brigadoon (1947) and Paint Your Wagon (1951), they scored their greatest triumph with My Fair Lady (1956), based on Shaw's Pygmalion. Camelot (1960) took audiences to the court of King Arthur. Gigi had two incarnations: as an Academy Award-winning film in 1958 and a Tony Award-winning stage production in 1973.
From Harvard man Lerner, we move to a divine ballad by Yale man Cole Porter. Nelson Eddy, playing a football hero, sang "In the Still of the Night" in the 1937 film Rosalie.
The medley which follows draws upon musicals of three decades: West Side Story (1957), music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Hello Dolly (1964), music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and A Chorus Line (1975), music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. A Chorus Line went on to become the longest-running Broadway musical, with 6,137 performances.
"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was the big hit of 1933's Roberta, music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Otto Harbach.
In 1917, the eighteen-year-old George Gershwin was rehearsal pianist for a musical by Kern, who helped launch his career. "Swanee," with lyrics by Irving Caesar, was included in a 1919 vaudeville revue at the Capitol Theatre. The song became much more widely known as a signature tune of AI Jolson. The singular Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by Dubose Heyward (author of the original novel) and Ira Gershwin, was first produced in 1935. Revived many times since, its Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1985. Gershwin's last theatrical song, "By Strauss," appeared in The Show Is On, a 1936 revue created by fellow songwriter Vernon Duke. At the time of his death in 1937, Gershwin was writing songs for Sam Goldwyn's first all-Technicolor production, The Goldwyn Follies. Among the delights of that score was "Love Walked In."
State Fair, a Hollywood musical made in 1945 (and remade in 1962) introduced Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It's A Grand Night For Singing" (and "It Might As Well Be Spring"). This set also includes the title tune from the team's last show, The Sound of Music (1959), as well as selections from three of their "quartet of classics": Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), and The King And I (1951). (The fourth of this quartet is 1949's South Pacific - I couldn't leave you guessing.) Our concert ends with the closing number of the show which began the "Golden Age" of the Broadway musical. Originally titled "Away We Go," the name was changed in New Haven. The Theatre Guild, which was producing, told the authors they could call it Oklahoma! (as long as they included the exclamation point).