March 25, 2022Print | PDF
Sfogava con le stelle is an Italian madrigal written by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) from his “Quarto libro de' madrigali a cinque voci” in 1603. The poem was written by Ottavio Rinuccini (1562-1621), and the English translation is as follows: “A lovesick man was venting to the stars his grief, under the night sky. And staring at them he said: "O beautiful images of my idol whom I adore, just as you are showing me her rare beauty while you sparkle so well, so also demonstrate to her my living ardour: by your golden appearance you'd make her compassionate, just as you make me loving." – Annika Joy
In To Be Sung on the Water, composer Samuel Barber uses a four-part chorus to create a beautiful yet somber sound. Barber completed this piece in December of 1968. It is a setting of a lyric poem by Louise Bogan, who in turn wrote this poem to represent the loss of a loved one. The poem works well for Barber as at the time he wrote it, he was struggling with the relationship of his lifelong partner, Gian Carlo Menotti. The words in this piece connect to his personal life as they speak of something (or someone) beautiful that is their delight, as well as different phrases that could connect to a marriage, such as “To which our vows were made.” – Niko Rigden-Briscall
“In the Night We Shall Go In” captures a kind of expressivity that is highly unique to choral music. Composer Imant Raminsh paints several scenes through a mixture of piano and cello accompaniment. These instruments create distinct atmospheres that are indicative of changing seasons and weather patterns around the time of spring. Raminsh sets a poem by Pablo Neruda, and quite literally the music can appear to be “suddenly changed” (as Neruda writes) by the emergence of darker textures. Raminsh’s instrumentation moves the text off the page to simulate these various vignettes as shown in the last few stanzas of the work as it moves from a state of mystery to beauty. Neruda’s content is further enhanced by the predominance of the Alto section and the rich sounds created by their lower tessitura. Raminsh does not shy away from highly expressive dynamics ranging from the quietest of whispers to the loudest of exclamations in his depiction of changing seasons. — Paul Booker
“Lasciatemi morire” is Claudio Monteverdi’s musical take on the Greek myth of Ariadne, a story that was quite popular in the baroque era. Left by her lover Theseus on the island Naxos, Ariadne laments her abandonment. The lyrics of the piece translate to “Let me die! And what do you want, when you comfort me in such a hard destiny, in such a great martyrdom? Let me die!” This piece is the first of a four-part opera called Arianna which was composed in the year 1608. The piece implements a number of complex chords and echoing of parts which come together to form an emotional movement full of misery and heartbreak. Unfortunately much of the opera’s music has been lost but thankfully this beautiful piece has survived. —Sophia Malowany
Shruthi Rajasekar is an Indian American composer and singer. Rajasekar writes beautiful intersectional music drawing from her training in both Carnatic (South Indian Classical) and Western Classical idioms.
The text of the piece “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” is from a poem by Clare Harner although for many decades it was thought to be written by Mary Elizabeth Frye; due to this, many often say the poet is unknown. The poem gives comfort to a grieving friend and is, according to Rajasekar, a “timeless source of peace”. This piece speaks of death and loss in a welcoming tone, providing comfort to those of us who have lost someone or even something they love. The poet uses beautiful imagery in her poetry which is what drew Rajasekar to this poem. The beautiful message of hope was something that Rajasekar aspired to capture musically. The depictions of nature in the poem inspired Rajasekar to compose this piece as a ragamalika, which is a garland of ragas which, similarly to western classical modes, are the emotive scales of Indian classical technique. After a discussion with Rajasekar, we learned about a few of the ragas she uses in the piece, the first being associated with the idea of rain, another associated with morning, and the last representing light or radiance. Keep these in mind when we perform this piece.
This piece is very relevant to us during this time where so many of us have lost loved ones and experiences. I hope you can find some peace in this song as we perform for you today. —Gabriella Bell-Divincenzo
“Upon your Heart” by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley was commissioned in 1999 as an anniversary gift from a husband to his wife. As such it dwells on the theme of the bond of love, drawing on two texts from the Bible. This first is from Song of Solomon 8:6-7, which endorses the lover to “set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death […] Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it”. Secondly is John 15:9-12, with the text “”If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love [...] love one another as I have loved you [...] then shall your joy be complete”. These texts depict love both as a concrete uplifting force, as well as something that requires active participation. The call to love is not just the call to feel affection, but to pay careful attention to those around us, seeking out ways to care for one another. This is the love which cannot be quenched.
As a chorister I am a firm believer in the text of a piece of music being central to the experience. I am always looking for how music can heighten the meaning of its poetry and how I as a performer can convey that meaning. Ave Maris Stella is a great example of taking words and doing so much with them: it has a simple yet elegantly cascading melody filled with a serene stillness befitting the divine. It moves to a striking and contrasting middle section with a wonderful example of the transformative power of music. Suddenly from the echoes of the first section there is a hush and voices chant "Monstra te esse matrem / Show thyself to be a Mother" in a rhythmic brooding contrast to the previous material. The juxtaposition goes further when the upper voices enter and continue the text of the hymn, creating a haunting, simultaneous and unique image only achievable through music. There are many more moments to discover in such a vast piece and I hope you find a moment of your own that strikes you as only music can. —Morgan Ballantyne
Laura Mvula is an English singer-songwriter, born in 1986. “Sing to the Moon” was originally a song written and sung by Laura Mvula on her 2013 debut album also named Sing to the Moon. It was later arranged by Mvula in 2019 for the BBC Singers. To me, this song is about how even in your darkest moments when you are broken and beaten down there is still some amazing things out there if you just look for them. Because even in the darkest night if you “sing to the moon the stars will shine over you, [and] lead you to the other side.”