Tag Archives: Program Notes

Christmas 2014 – Program Notes

A few notes from Ralph B. Woodward about selections on the program for this year’s Cathedral Concerts:

A rose in stained glass.

A rose in stained glass.

The only piece the choir has sung every year since its inception is “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (Es is ein Ros entsprungen).  Apart from its sheer beauty, it seems to have a particular ability bridge the centuries.  Although relatively young in terms of the entire Christian Era (having first appeared around 1600), it is one of the the earlier carols which we sing, and when we do so, I somehow sense we are joining our voices with those of ages past. 

I grew up hearing my mother, a gifted singer and voice teacher, sing the beautiful ” Le sommeil de l’Enfant Jesus (Berceuse pour al Nuit de Noel) by Henri Büsser.   Years later, after founding the choir, I suddenly remembered the piece, asked her about it, and upon locating it, adapted it for use by our choir.  This piece, to which we often refer as simply “Berceuse”, or lullaby, has proven to be a stirring high point of our Christmas concerts ever since.

Other long-standing traditions of our Christmas concerts are the special descants which are sung with the audience at the end of our concerts.  The one to “Silent Night” is partially derived from one my mother created and sang and, as far as I remember, was sung along with our newly-composed “O Come, All Ye Faithful” descant at our inaugural concert in 1979.  Our other carol descants were added not many years later and are, themselves, part of a long-standing tradition.

 

Spring Concert Program Notes, 2014

As our concert approaches this weekend, we wanted to share some program notes on some of the pieces to be performed written by our artistic director, and founder, of the choir – Ralph B. Woodward.  The concerts will truly be a journey across the history of music in both time and geography.  We hope that you enjoy learning more about the music, its place in the world and the relationship our choir has with some of these pieces.  Of course, no reading takes the place of hearing the real thing!  Please join us on May 2 & 3.  (Additional concert details available in the previous post – Tickets available from our website or at the door).

Hodie Apparuit:  This is a short motet by the great Franco-Flemish master Orlando di Lasso and is a prime example of 16th Century polyphony.  Its wonderful interweaving of parts makes it an extremely gratifying work to sing and to hear (the kids love it).

Bonne Nuit:  One of the great joys of working with these young people is to see what they can do with the Art Song.   We sing many of this genre–usually those by German masters.  However, in the beginning years of our choir, the very early ’80’s, one member’s mother (who also belonged to our first choir board) loaned me a book of songs which happened to contain the charming “Bonne Nuit  by the French composer, Jules Massenet (probably best known to most for his violin solo, “Meditation”–from the opera, Thais).  I then made an adaptation for the choir and we have done it periodically over the years.  I had never heard this charming song  before, and I have never heard it since — other than being sung by our choir.

Techot Volga ( by M. Fradkin):  This is a much loved by older Russians, and  was first sung by our choir in 1987.  It speaks of the permanence of the ever-flowing Volga and the stages and changes in our lives.  It is wistful, expressive and very beautiful. .

Caliche (by R. Alarcon):  This popular Chilean song, in the “cueca” dance rhythm, is a real favorite.  It refers, in endearing terms,  to  dark-complected “Caliche, ” which I originally thought meant a pretty girl.  In fact, this is a symbolic reference to a black ore that is mined in Northern Chile and which sustains  many miners of that area and their families.

Turn Ye to Me: from Scotland, is a bitter-sweet song of parting of someone who is leaving a loved one to go to sea.

Follow Me Down to Carlow: a rousing Irish dance tune, is one of the Choir’s all-time favorites.

Makedonska Devoice:  from the Republic of Macedonia (formerly part of Yugoslavia and not to be confused with Greek Macedonia) was introduced to me by a friend from Bosnia.  It is very tuneful, rhythmic (in 7/8) and very popular all over the Balkans.

Vienna, City of My Dreams:  This captivating waltz by Rudolf Sieczynski is much loved the world over (and especially by German-speaking people). It is full of irresistible Viennese charm and one of our favorites,

Kaya Kaymanta Ripusaj:  An Andean song of farewell from Bolivia in the ‘quechua’ language (language of the Incas)–with a couple of Spanish words. The melody and complimentary harmonies (which we have added) have a unique, mystical quality.

Palomita del arrozal:  This song is also from Bolivia, but from the Santa Cruz region–which is lower and more tropical.  It’s lyrics are mostly Spanish–but also include words of the native Guarani people of that area.

Kapusi Kali Kongo: is a novelty song from Zambia with fascinating poly-rhythmic percussion.

On the Sunny Side of the Street by Jimmy McHugh:  This popular American standard will be a lively, refreshing return to our own shores.  The perrformance will be complete with skat singing by the choir and the artistry of jazz pianist extraordinaire, Steve Keen.

Program Notes from Mr. Woodward

Children of the Salt Lake Children's Choir in their robes.

The Salt Lake Children’s Choir ready to sing at the First Presbyterian Church.

Tonight, May 11, is our last Spring Concert in Salt Lake for 2013.  Here are a few more program notes for pieces being performed tonight:

Anicka dusicka   arr. M. Schneider-Trnavsky
This lovely dance song has the combination of spice and melodic charm  for which Slovak songs are so widely known and loved..  It is one of the most  popular folk songs of Slovakia.

 

Las Amarillas  arr. by Stephen Hatfield
Back in 1997, when I first saw this arrangement of a southern Mexican huapanago, I thought it was one of the best (but most difficult) arrangements of ethnic music I had ever seen.  However, not wanting  to avoid a worthwhile challenge for the choir,  I immediately had our kids prepare  and perform it–and was glad I did (as was the audience!). Since then, it has been sung all over the world (mostly by groups older than ours)– and we have also done it once since.  However, it has been many years since we have tackled it and I am delighted this year’s group has the opportunity.  It is rhythmically complex, exciting, and great fun for all involved.

 

Springtime in the Rockies  by Robert Sauer
By the time we come to this sentimental favorite, we will have been on a wonderful musical journey (including a trip to the Norwegian mountains) and it will feel good to be back home.  Of local interest is that the composer, a German immigrant, was a member of the BYU music faculty when the song was written in 1927.  There will be more great things yet to come on the program, but this will start us on the home stretch.

Program Notes from Ralph B. Woodward: Moonlit Night

Moonlit Night (Mondnacht) by Robert Schumann

In many ways, I relate more to the music of Robert Scumann than any other composers of the German Romantic Era,  and this is one of the greatest of all his songs.
The characteristic interplay between piano and voice is exquisite, and the overall effect of the song is simply transporting (especially as sung by these young voices).  As with all our settings of such music, the accompaniment  is left untouched, the vocal parts enhanced with appropriate harmonies only sparingly and at strategic points. I don’t think this song can ever be programmed too often.
Text of the English translation sung by our choir:

 

It seemed as if, serenely, by heav’n the earth were kissed
That she so bright and queenly must dream of heav’nly rest

 

The breeze was lightly straying through cornfields waving light
and forest leaves were sighing as starlit was the night

 

And my rapt soul, her pinions, in eager joy out spread,
moved o’er the earth’s dominions as homeward on she sped.

Program Notes: Stars

Leading up to the concerts this weekend, we will be publishing some “Program Notes” by the choir’s director, Ralph B. Woodward, about pieces you will hear :

Stars (verse, Sara Teasdale) by R. Woodward
The poem conveys in simple, vivid terms the wonder and reverence elicited by being outdoors witnessing the infinite majesty of the heavens. The music uses in great measure the ethereal, openness of the whole-tone scale (in similar fashion to that heard in some of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”).  Despite the other-worldly sounds of the song, our young singers really respond to its evocative effect and message.
Alone at night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,And a heaven full of stars
Over my head,
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
That aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill,
I watch them marching
Stately and still,
And I know that I
Am honored to be
Witness
Of so much majesty.