The Song Within- Spring Choral Festival May 1, 2013 by Kenneth Dake
Posted on April 25, 2013 by Ken Dake

Please join us for our gala Spring Choral Concert: The Song Within - May 1 at 7:30pm featuring the Marble Sanctuary Choir and Festival of Voices! Continuing a tradition of choral excellence and unparalleled variety, these two Marble choirs will present an eclectic array of sacred and secular music, all of it spiritual, beautiful and emotionally powerful. The concert will have everything from rollicking African-American Spirituals to quiet moments of pure transcendence.

Featured will be three brilliant Marble soloists: Soprano Marie Mascari opens the concert singing the spiritual Over My Head. Tenor Christopher Preston Thompson will present a sublime setting of I Am in Need of Music by Chris DeBlasio. And on the more contemporary pop side, tenor Michael Graye will sing a work of singer songwriter Ken Medema – I Dream of Home, which is a beautiful song about the universal longing for a place to “hang my hat and a place to hang my fear…a place to spread my clothes and a place to spread my tears.” Powerful stuff, and truly inspired music.

Here are just a few of the other choral highlights to whet your appetite!

Wana Baraka, arr. Shawn Kirchner
We begin with a joyful song from Kenya which will be sung with choirs scattered around the sanctuary, along with a very special guest who is a master at playing the djembe! This is a favorite of the Marble choirs, who recorded it on their 2008 CD, Songs of Simple Faith. [LISTEN] On April 15th, 2007 the award-winning Marble Community Gospel Choir opened their tour of South Africa with a performance in collaboration with the esteemed Stellenbosch University Choir. Among the repertoire of this outstanding college choir was Wana Baraka. Kirchner was inspired to compose this arrangement after hearing it sung by a delegation of Kenyans at an Agricultural Missions International Consultation in Sogakope, Ghana.

In true Marble style this will be followed by a miniature masterpiece of the Renaissance era, composed by Giovanni Gabrieli. Much of Gabrieli’s music was written for the cavernous Basilica di San Marco in Venice where he presided over the music from 1585-1606. His uncle Andrea Gabrieli had preceded him in the same post. The tradition of placing choirs antiphonally throughout San Marco is reflected in much of Gabrieli’s poly-choral music, and this gives it a sense of royal occasion. We will sing his dance-like setting of a psalm text, Plaudite omnis terra, which is scored for 12 voices spread among 3 different choirs.

Centuries of poets have tried to use words to describe the transporting effect that music has on the soul, and most fall woefully short. Music expresses those longings of the heart which are beyond the ability of language to describe. However, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson comes closer than most: “There is sweet music here that softer falls / Than petals from blown roses on the grass, / Or night-dews on still waters between walls / Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass.” The choir will sing a lush, romantic setting of There Is Sweet Music by contemporary American composer Robert Hobby. [LISTEN] Hobby’s music brings Tennyson’s beautiful words to an even deeper level of meaning.

As a teenager I had the distinct honor of playing principal trumpet in Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony under the direction of one of America’s great 20th-century composers and music educators, Howard Hanson. Hanson’s neo-romantic sound took root in my young ears and has stayed with me ever since. We were performing his famous Symphony No. 2 (“Romantic”) which Hanson wrote in 1930 for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony. It also contains music which became known as the “Interlochen Theme,” serving as a postscript to every summer concert there and forever eliciting tears of nostalgic remembrance from Interlochen alumni. Howard Hanson also served as head of the Eastman School of Music for forty years. The Sanctuary Choir will sing A Prayer of the Middle Ages [LISTEN] which opens dramatically with passing chromaticism and mild dissonances. However, the piece soon melts into a serene, harmonious closing section in G major.

Prayer by René Clausen is one of two powerful texts by Mother Teresa of Calcutta that the choir will present. [LISTEN] Clausen, a nationally renowned composer, teacher, and conductor of the famed Concordia Choir in Moorhead, Minnesota. His music is known for its rich harmonies and full range of choral sonority, frequently dividing into 8 parts or more. I have to admit that few pieces touch me more deeply than this one. I will always associate it with my dear friend and a longtime pillar of Marble Church, Dwight Rangeler, who passed away the day before we sang this piece in church for the very first time. Mother Teresa’s simple text provides inspiration for us all in how we seek to live out our faith: “Help me spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may be only a radiance of Yours.” Another text by Mother Teresa, “All works of love are works of peace” will also be sung in a setting by American composer Joan Szymko that is full of quiet yearning for peace. We will sing this in memory of those who lost their lives or were wounded in the tragic events in Boston last week.

I’m truly excited that Marble’s own David Sisco, who is in his thirteenth year with the Sanctuary Choir, will present the premiere of an incredibly beautiful piece he has composed, Give Me a Song. It is dedicated to Mary Schroyer, his former music teacher, a dear friend and, miraculously, a survivor of pancreatic cancer. The minute I heard it I said, “We have to do this!” David is such a gift to Marble, and this song will move you deeply.

There will be plenty of music on a lighter note, including a fun new work that the Festival of Voices will sing, Carpenters of God by Vijay Singh. [LISTEN] Vijay (the composer, not the golfer) is an active performer, composer, teacher, conductor, and clinician residing in Ellensburg, Washington where he is Professor of Music at Central Washington University. He has been rapidly gaining international attention for his eclectic musical compositions. As you can hear, Carpenters of God, for which Vijay also wrote the text, is reminiscent of American folk song, with shades of Copland in his harmonic palate. The piece ends on an unusual chord made up entirely of open fifths, stretching up to a high ‘B’ in the sopranos, recalling the raw sound of open strings in an orchestra.

My Song in the Night, arr. by Paul Christiansen is based on the haunting melody of a Southern American folk tune. [LISTEN]Christiansen was conductor for over 50 years of the Concordia Choir, and he was part of a choral conducting dynasty with his father F. Melius Christiansen founding the St. Olaf Choir and his brother Olaf Christiansen taking over his father’s post there. My Song in the Night speaks powerfully to the idea of a Song that serves as the never-ending source of “comfort and joy and soul’s delight” amid all the peaks and valleys of life.

Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends, arr. Mack Wilberg. [LISTEN] An old English folk tune served as the inspiration for Wilberg’s spine-tingling setting of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ text Thou Gracious God. Mack Wilberg is the conductor of and composer in residence for the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Some may know this tune as The Water Is Wide. The music has been used in several different films, perhaps most notably in The River Wild.

What Is Your Song?

Of course, that’s a different question than “What kind of music do you like to listen to?” Every one of us has a song, a passion, a reason, a central theme that silently underscores everything we do and who we are. It is The Song Within. Its melody defines who we become. Its harmony defines whose we become, and how we interact with the world. Its rhythm dictates the pulse of our ambitions, our hopes, and our longings. What is your song within, and how is it sung through the way you live each day? As the Church, what is our song in the world? Paraphrasing the words of poet and composer Frank Ticheli: Are we the sound of hope, the instruments of peace, the song within the Song?

Please join us on Wednesday, May 1st at 7:30pm as we sing about some of these profound truths embedded in some amazing choral music sung by some truly exceptional singers. You’ll be very glad you were there to experience it, I guarantee it!

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