It is all falling into place so well.
The Chamber Singers rehearse one of Elgar’s most well-known orchestral works, “Nimrod,” from his "Enigma Variations"—heard here in an arrangement for choir written by John Cameron.
The CMC Chamber Singers close the 2018-2019 season with a concert it will also be performing in Charleston, SC at Piccolo Spoleto. Join the acclaimed ensemble as they explore the lush, serene soundscapes of the late Italian Renaissance and 20th century Great Britain.
Super Flumina Babylonis
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Palestrina’s setting of Psalm 137 is a beautiful example of Renaissance polyphony, as the motive is introduced throughout each voice part at varying intervals and is shaped by each succeeding line of text. As the motet progresses, the singers give voice to the lament of the Babylonian exile; the line “illic sedimus” finds the singers moving in lockstep for the first time in the piece as they sit and weep together on a river bank. The memories of their homeland echo throughout the middle passages, before descending lines in each voice part give attention to the hanging of harps in willow trees, as branch and spirit are bowed with weight and sorrow.
Another iconic Renaissance work, Allegri’s Psalm 51 motet for double choir was written to be sung at a Tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday, as the Passion story begins. Set in G minor, the piece draws upon polyphony and ornamentation typical of its time, as well as elements of chant that hearken back to the early church. The first choir of five voices performs the traditional setting of the text, while the second choir of four voices provides a second reading with ornamentation and chant. Today’s performance will be an abridged version of the piece.
O Vos Omnes
Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa
The striking chromaticism of this Gesualdo work sets it apart from its contemporaries; while other composers employed occasional shifts in tonality, “O vos omnes” hardly settles on a tonal center. Written for five voices, the lament expressed in the text is made evident through a texture replete with changes in rhythmic structure and motive, as well as the chromatic language.
O stellae coruscantes
A master of the Renaissance style, Monteverdi demonstrated his keen ability to draw out every ounce of praise and pathos in the feast day vespers with this work. After a brief introduction of adoration and blessing, the tone shifts to Christ’s “precious blood,” shed in descending passages throughout the six voices. A final prayer for mercy concludes the piece.
– Data Est Mihi Omnis Potestas
– O Radiant Dawn
A composer from the age of ten, James MacMillan is perhaps the most well-regarded Scottish composer of his era. His contemporary compositional style touches on both his Scottish heritage and his Catholic faith. The Strathclyde Motets premiered in 2005 as a commissioned work for the Strathclyde University Chamber Choir. As Paul Spicer notes, MacMillan’s purpose in writing the work was to “provide a very welcome opportunity for almost any choir of reasonable attainment and ambition to sing some contemporary music of real value.” Centered around communion and feast days in the Catholic liturgy, the Motets approach the table from various directions. In “O Radiant Dawn,” MacMillan sets the text of one of the “O” antiphons, which are best known from the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Christ’s ascension is the subject of “Data est mihi omnis potestas,” including what is often referred to as Jesus’ “Great Commission.”
One of Elgar’s most well-known orchestral works, “Nimrod” from his "Enigma Variations" is heard here in an arrangement for choir written by John Cameron. Set to the traditional communion text from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, the work is chorale-like and swells to magnificent cadences before releasing in a prayer for light and peace.
Hymn to St. Cecilia
Given his birth on St. Cecilia’s Day (November 22) and profession, it seems as though Britten was destined to write a tribute to the patron saint of music. Indeed, the English choral tradition is replete with odes to the saint, and Britten was keenly aware of them. Having met Auden some five years earlier, Britten found the poet fitting to pen words he himself could not conjure. The marriage of text and tune soon came to fruition in the early 1940s; however, it was to be one of their last collaborations.
Written for a small chorus with soloists from within the ensemble, the work is in three contrasting sections, each concluding with a sort of doxology to St. Cecilia. The first section envisions Cecilia in a lush garden, making music in such a way that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was moved to cross the sea. In a similar manner, angels from heaven were drawn to the song, and souls in Hell were soothed by the dulcet tones. Following the first refrain, a hectic, if not playful passage follows; the sopranos and tenors race around one another in a game of tag while the altos and basses are rooted in defiance. The concluding section serves as an observation of contemporary life and implores the listener to [word] in nostalgia, and rejoice in that most beautiful art which serves to inspire and startle.
Jim Clements (Ben Folds)
Originally written for a now-deleted scene from the movieLoser, this Ben Folds piece made its debut as part of Folds’ first solo album. Jim Clements arranged this setting for the English choral ensemble Voces8. Reflective in text and pensive in tune, the piece is a full-hearted declaration of love. From an observation on the seemingly random moments that bring two people together, to the prospect of soulmates separated by time, to the bond of love in life and death, the refrain always returns with heartfelt thanksgiving.