Sunday, May 09, 2010

Something Like A Star: Poems That Inspire Song

Poems by Robert Frost, Ogden Nash and others are the inspiration for vocal works sung by the HSU University Singers and the community-based Humboldt Chorale in their joint concert on Sunday night, May 9 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

American choral composer Randall Thompson set seven poems by Robert Frost to music for the bicentennial of Amherst, Massachusetts, where Frost had lived. The University Singers will perform the seventh of these, “Choose Something Like A Star,” with its final lines: “So when at times the mob is swayed/To carry praise or blame too far,/We may choose something like a star/To stay our minds on and be staid.”

After a choral arrangement of “Tatkovina,” a traditional Macedonian folk song (with violin accompaniment by Amanda Lake), and the finale from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers,” the University Singers perform a longer work, “Carmina Burana” by German composer Carl Orff. A 20th century piece, it is a scenic oratorio derived from a large group of medieval poems discovered in the early 19th century.

In its half of the concert, the Humboldt Chorale performs two pieces directly based on 20th century American poems. As part of his 2005 “Nocturnes,” choral composer Morten Lauridsen wrote music for a poem by 20th century American writer James Agee that begins: “Sure on this shining night/Of star made shadows round,/Kindness must watch for me/This side the ground.” Lauridsen received the Medal of Freedom in 2007.

The most famous 20th century American writer of light verse, Ogden Nash wrote a number of witty--and silly—poems about animals. Contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre set some of them to music. The result is “Animal Crackers,” also performed by the Humboldt Chorale.

The Chorale’s featured work is “Fancies” by English choral composer John Ritter, a set of songs meant to suggest the fleeting fancies that might occur to a poet on an idyllic summer night.

HSU students comprise the University Singers, directed by HSU Music professor Harley Muilenburg, while the Humboldt Chorale is a community-based group, directed by Carol McWhorter Ryder. John Chernoff provides piano accompaniment for the Singers, and Larry Pitts for the Chorale.

The HSU University Singers and Humboldt Chorale perform on Sunday night, May 9 at at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye

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