Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Concert Notes

Humboldt Chorale director Elisabeth Harrington:

James Kantor
Beati in domo Domini" by James G. Kantor, arranged for 3-part choir (SAB) and flute, and also featuring percussive sounds from the singers.

 "Sanctus" from Requiem in D minor by Gabriel Faure, arranged for 3-part choir (SAB) by Jill Gallina.

 "Rise Up , Shepherd, and Follow," a traditional American Negro Spiritual Christmas Carol, arranged for 4-part choir and tenor and soprano soloists by Nathaniel Berle Garris.

The Humboldt Chorale will be collaborating with the University Singers and the Humboldt Symphony to perform the Schubert Magnificat and two additional holiday carols arranged by Mack Wilberg: "Still, still, still" (traditional Austrian; sung in English) "How far is it to Bethlehem?" (English carol) Both of these carols were composed for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

University Singers director Harley Muilenburg:

John Rutter
John Rutter's “Gloria” was commissioned by the Voices of Mel Olson, Omaha, Nebraska. The [British] composer directed the first performance on the occasion of his first visit to the United States in May, 1974. Rutter writes that “Gloria” is “based mainly on one of the Gregorian chants associated with the text.” The music is festive and celebratory.

The practice of subdividing sections of the mass, such as the Gloria and the Credo, into separate movements as stand-alone compositions dates from the time of JS Bach. John Rutter based his setting of the “Gloria” on one of many Gregorian chants which utilized the Gloria text. Rutter says, "The accompaniment makes quite a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Rutter’s “Gloria” has become a favorite for its “freshness, dramatic impact, and its sheer beauty.”

Humboldt Symphony conductor Paul Cummings:

Franz Schubert
This is our traditional every-other-year concert with combined orchestra and choruses.  Our combined piece at the end of the concert is Schubert's Magnificat for orchestra, choir and four soloists.

In terms of the orchestra part, most of the heavy lifting is done by the strings.  The piece has the typical fast-slow-fast series of movements: the first movement is allegro Maestoso, the second is andante, the third is allegro vivace. There's very little counterpoint, especially for a German composer.

 For the voices, the piece is almost all ensemble choral singing, though in the second movement there's a lovely passage for soloists--a typical Schubert passage that's very melodic.  We have four wonderful students who auditioned for those parts--soprano, alto, tenor, bass--and they're doing a great job.

Schubert wrote this in 1816, a fairly early work.  It tells the Magnificat story as derived from the Gospel of Luke.  It's in Latin, as is most sacred music of this period.

Arcangelo Corelli
The orchestra on its own performs three works.  We did parts of these three in our last concert.  For this concert we perform the complete work.

Corelli's Christmas Concerto, the Concerto Grosso #8, is probably his best-known work for strings.  Parts of it are familiar from the holiday season.  Corelli was one of the great mid-Baroque composers at the end of the 17th century, active mostly in Rome.  He wrote quite a few pieces in this form of the concerto grosso, which features two main groups: the concertino group, which is a group of soloists, and the ripeno, which is everybody else.  We have three student soloists as part of the concertino group--there will be three different soloists each night.  There's also a nice harpsichord part, which we perform on a real harpsichord, not a synthesizer.

Karel Husa: Four Little Pieces (Vier kleine Stucke) 1955

Karel Husa
This is a very nice contemporary piece, atonal  but rather accessible.  It has a lot of material that's repeated and a lot of variety.  In some parts you can hear a melody, while other parts have no melodic material whatsoever.  We did the outer two of the four movements last time.  This time we perform the inner two movements as well.

 Karel Husa was born in 1921 in Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to the United States and began teaching at Cornell University in 1954. He published this work the next year.

Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg: From Holberg’s Time, Suite for Strings op. 40 #168

This is one of the classic pieces for string orchestra, so it's always nice to have our students doing core repertoire.  We did the first three movements last time--now we're doing all five.

 In the same vein as Franz Schubert, melody really drives Grieg's music. That’s very apparent in this piece, where there’s always melodic material that’s the basis of the development of the music.

 Grieg is considered Norway’s greatest composer. He wrote this in 1884 to honor Ludvig Holberg, a writer of the early 18th century who is considered the founder of modern Norwegian and Danish literature. He was called “the Moliere of Scandanavia.” So Grieg is capturing the spirit embodied in his literature and that earlier time.

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