PROGRAM NOTES by
RICHARD H. TRAME, S.J., Ph.D.
While the Los Angeles Master Chorale enjoys national fame in its presentations of the great classic masterworks, it joins with the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers this evening in a dazzling program of folk literature arranged for chorus with soloists and sundry instruments. French favorites such as Parlez moi d'amour and Alouette contrast with the delicate Haiku-like Japanese songs of Yoshinao Nakada. The choral arrangements are designed to convey the character of each song, some of which were written for single voice or accompaniment.
Stephen Foster composed Glendy Burk in 1860 as one of his later "Ethiopian" songs using a less pronounced dialect than in his earlier songs. The song gives evidence that Foster renewed his acquaintance with the waves of black stevedores and deck hands on the riverboats of his day.
In 1854 he produced I Dream of Jeanie, one of several songs inspired by his wife Jane McDowell over a period of years. It serves witness to Foster's disputed ability to write love songs. The song was published in 1854 and by 1857 had earned royalties for him of $350.00.
Skip to My Lou has the chorus serve as the caller in the square dance maintaining the rhythm and steps with piquant, nonsensical phrases.
An American carol from the Appalachians, the Seven Joys of Mary emerged from the British folksong traditions characterized by modal and pentatonic harmonic features and exhibiting a rather wide vocal range with irregular rhythms.
Between 1907 and 1918 Cecil Sharp and Olive Dame Campbell collected and published 122 Kentucky and Georgia folksongs which they published in English Folksongs from the Southern Appalachians. Among those was The Sunny South, first sung in public at Endicott, Virginia by Mrs. Lucy Commady on August 23, 1918. The arranger, Salli Terri, describes it as “nostalgic and mesmerizing."
Dixie was composed in 1859 by Daniel Decatur Emmett, founder of the first group of black-face “Negro Minstrels." Having conceived Dixie as a "walk around" song, Emmett, a Northerner, was considerably chagrined to see his work become the very soul of the Southern cause's rallying and marching spirit.
Jester Hairston has introduced the Spiritual to myriads of singers all over the world. He has not hesitated to pair Spirituals with great Renaissance choral classics such as those of Victoria (1548-1611) to emphasize their genuine religious content.
Howard Thurman , presenting the Harvard Divinity School's Ingersoll lecture in 1947, notes that Ingersoll's book of meditations on the Negro Spiritual was entitled Deep River. Such a title clearly emphasizes the profound nature of this enduringly beautiful Spiritual.
Hall Johnson organized the Negro Chorus of Los Angeles in 1936. His 1951 European tour with the choir was sponsored by the State Department. Although he composed original choral music and arrangements for film and television he was known at his death in 1970 as one of the greatest of Spiritual arrangers. I Wannabe Ready is one of that category of the Spiritual in which the singer anticipates a friendly welcome into Heaven by the Lord and His saints.
On the other hand, God A’mighty warns the defiant sinner who rejects salvation that "God A'mighty's gonna cut him down."
The contemporary Brasilian composer, Carlos Pinto Fonseca has attempted in his Missa Afro-Brasileira to integrate into the Latin and Portuguese texts "something of the religious syncretism of Brazil" especially in African ceremonies which combine authenticity and respect for traditional faith that was brought by the slaves and Catholicism introduced by the Portuguese. Fonseca "tried to abolish barriers between sacred, classical, and popular music" and integrate Afro rhythms with such Brasilian forms as "marcha rancho" and "samba-cancao" and with the musical modes of the Brasilian Northeast. The Kyrie excerpt well illustrates the character of this original work.
The calypso song originated chiefly in Haiti and Trinidad and flourished where calypso singers competed in public extemporizing contests utilizing often conventional melodic patterns. The assigned topics in the contest often elicited whimsical reflections, such as Marry A Woman Uglier than You, often sung in an Anglo-French dialect understood by the natives only.
This premiere performance of Ellingtonia extols the art of one of the most remarkable of all jazz musicians, Duke Ellington, whose chief contribution to art was to elevate the earlier unlettered jazz improvisations to the dimensions and scope of classical forms. Arranger Lawrence Farrow here pays tribute to the Duke's genius.
The resounding success of The Wiz has spawned numerous arrangements of its upbeat music and feeling illustrated here in Farrow's arrangement of Ease on Down.
Having achieved distinction as a music educator and as "Dean of the School of Music at Indiana University, Robert Sanders (1906-1974) often set words of Walt Whitman to music. The Mystic Trumpeter is such an example.
Wagner's arrangement of Adios Muchachos capitalizes on the latin flavor of this charming song.
Considered the first Christmas carol written in America, Jesus Ahatonhia was authored in the Huron language by St. John de Brebeuf, one of the French Jesuit North American martyrs of 1649 slain by the Iroquois. Later, Catholic Mohawks learned the French folksong Une jeune Puceile. It is partly sung in Huron and English.
San Sereni, the children's saint, pleases the singers greatly because he is the saint of the good life. This song of playful childlike joy depicts women scrubbing clothes, shoemakers hammering, and bell ringers in their happy daily rounds.
Ernesto Lecuona graduated in 1911 from the National Conservatory of Havana. He and his Cuban dance band toured Europe and Latin America. Siboney along with Malaguena and Andalucia constitute a trio of his most popular and famed melodies.
I've Been Workin' on duh Railroad is by tradition a song that "sparks" a medley of tunes that really "go together steady." The introductory treatment is presented in a quasi-barbershop style. Banjo effects add a dash of flavor as the medley moves through "Dinah's kitchen" and back out to the railroad track.
El-a-Noy seems almost like a commercial advertisement, soliciting all to the attract ions of settling on the favored land of the state of Illinois. ·
When the Saints Come Marching In is classified as a type of joy song by John Wesley Work in his book Folk Songs of the American Negro. All the best and most interesting of these songs were born in slavery days, innumerable examples and variations of which have come down to us. It forms a fittingly triumphant close to the Folk Song Jubilee.
(Data for the preparation of some of these notes has been provided by Salli Terri)