The Marble Choir
Wednesday, February 25, 8pm
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
I am proud that we will be taking The Marble Choir to Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, February 25! I hope you will share your pride in Marble’s music ministry by joining us that evening and inviting friends. Tickets are available at www.carnegiehall.org or at the Carnegie box office at 57th and Seventh Avenue.
For the theme of the concert I have chosen Where Peace Begins. It reminds me of a sermon I once heard during an ecumenical summertime service at Interlochen. It was given by my then trumpet teacher and band director, the late Arthur Katterjohn. His title, “From Cacophony to Symphony,” was inspired by the nightly transformation that takes place on concert hall stages around the world. Individual musicians gather onstage, forming an audio cloud of simultaneous riffs and warmups, no doubt engaging in some last minute practicing. Then the moment comes when the conductor lifts the baton and the many voices are instantly united into a harmonious one. The backdrop to his sermon on that crystalline northern Michigan morning was a message in giant letters sprawled across the back wall of Kresge Auditorium: “Dedicated to the promotion of world friendship through the universal language of the arts.” I stared at those words for eight years – from the time I was ten years old until I graduated from Interlochen and came to New York to attend college. Their simple message rooted itself deeply in my mind and heart: music can bring people together. Dissonance can become harmony. Cacophony can become beauty.
Despite our many differences we share a common language of the soul, and that language is music.
Below are thoughts on some of my favorites that we’ll be singing on the concert. Click here to download a PDF of the complete program titles.
Ubi Caritas – Stephen Caracciolo [LISTEN]
The Ubi Caritas is a 10th century French chant which is traditionally sung on Maundy Thursday: “Where there is charity and love, God is there. The love of Christ has gathered us together….from a sincere heart let us love one another.” It celebrates the Mandatum, or commandment that Jesus’ gives His disciples in his farewell instructions: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). The ancient Ubi Caritas chant has inspired countless settings by centuries of composers. Stephen Caracciolo retains the mystical spirit of the chant, while imbuing it with harmonies that sound somewhat impressionistic. We were privileged to record this piece on our CD It’s About Love.
In Pace – René Clausen [LISTEN] This recording is from Eternal Rest by Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale
The music of René Clausen – renowned composer, teacher, and conductor of the famed Concordia Choir at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota – is recognizable for its rich harmonies and full range of choral sonority, frequently dividing into eight parts or more. His dramatic a cappella work In Pace (In Peace) was composed in memory of Holocaust victims. Though awash with thick sonorous harmonies and ever-changing key centers, the work is tightly constructed around three central motifs. The first is a rising three-note theme (C-F-G – “In pace”) that first appears in a hushed tone in the lowest register of the choir, soon permeating all voice parts. The second theme is a stepwise melody interspersed with triplets (“si dedero somnum oculis meis” / “If I give slumber to my eyes”). This theme appears repeatedly amid the thickening layers of choral texture. The final of the three motifs makes its entrance at the start of the “Gloria Patri” text (“Glory to the Father and to the Son”). As the music builds to an emotional culmination the three themes are ingeniously combined, simultaneously answering one another across the choir. A feeling of divine serenity then returns to close out this miniature masterpiece, with the choir again receding to their lowest registers as the baritones pronounce a final benediction with their three-note “in pace” theme.
Deep River arr. Anders Paulsson [LISTEN]
This beloved African-American Spiritual describes the longing for “that promised land where all is peace.” The mournful melody and heartfelt lyric describe not only the longing of the enslaved peoples for freedom from oppression now, in this life, but also their longing for an eventual deliverance to the heavenly “campground.” In his imaginative arrangement, Swedish saxophonist virtuoso Anders Paulsson employs a kind of blues style, utilizing soprano saxophone and a cappella choir, in order to convey the soulful, plaintive wail of the oppressed.
There Will Be Rest – Frank Ticheli [LISTEN] This recording is from Water & Light by Daniel Hughes and The Choral Project
The music of Frank Ticheli has been described as being “optimistic and thoughtful” (Los Angeles Times), “lean and muscular” (New York Times), and “brilliantly effective” (Miami Herald). Ticheli joined the University of Southern California’s Thornton Frank School of Music faculty in 1991, where he is currently Professor of Composition. He is well known for his compositions for band, as well as his orchestral and choral works. In choosing to set this text of American poet Sara Teasdale the composer writes, “There Will Be Rest, one of her last poems, is a perfect summary of her lifelong concern for the stars and their ancient promise of peace.” Using tenderly poignant harmonies, Ticheli conveys a dreamlike sense of inner peace: “A reign of rest, serene forgetting, the music of stillness holy and low.” This profound work concludes the first half of the concert.
To the Mothers in Brazil: Salve Regina – Lars Jansson, arr. Gunnar Eriksson
This unique work fuses the worlds of jazz and classical in some genre bending and very engaging music. In its original state To the Mothers in Brazil was an instrumental composition performed by the Lars Jansson trio. [LISTEN] Swedish choral conductor Gunnar Eriksson then arranged it for choir and set it to the Salve Regina text (translation: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve). [LISTEN – Voces Nordicae] Eriksson writes about what inspired him to marry this text with Jansson’s music: “Children are not the only ones to cry out for their mothers. Old men and women in solitude and despair cry out for their ‘mama’ like children. Mothers all around the world travel to the frontlines of war to bring their children home from unnecessary killing in pointless wars. Mary, mother of Jesus, represents well the loving, mothering qualities, and throughout history people have cried out to her for comfort and aid.” In this performance we are honored to be joined by Marble’s Jazz Revelation music director and pianist extraordinaire, Chris Whittaker.
Sure On This Shining Night (from Nocturnes) – Morten Lauridsen
Morten Lauridsen’s achingly beautiful setting of Sure on This Shining Night has become something of a signature piece for The Marble Choir. [LISTEN] Until I heard this piece for the first time it was difficult for me to imagine a setting more beautiful than the beloved art song by Samuel Barber. But with his soaring lyricism it is as though Lauridsen’s melodies are literally lifting us heavenward on wings of song. American composer Morten Lauridsen is a National Medal of Arts recipient (2007), and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music for more than 40 years. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he once worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mt. St. Helens). He now divides his time between Los Angeles and his summer residence on a remote island off the northern coast of Washington State.
Lauridsen has been called “a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered.” That would seem a most appropriate quality when setting James Agee’s profound words, “All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth, Hearts all whole.”
Perhaps it is this sacred ground – that place of healing, health and wholeness deep within the core of our being – that, when awakened, can provide the fertile soil Where Peace Begins.
See you at Carnegie Wednesday, February 25th!