Gerald Finzi - My Spirit Sang All Day

Thomas Weelkes - All at once well met fair ladies

Eric Whitacre - The Seal Lullaby

Gustav Holst - I love my love

Moses Hogan - I'm Gonna Sing 'Til The Spirit Moves In My Heart


Johann Pachelbel - Magnificat


Johannes Brahms - Warum

Francis Poulenc - Margoton va t'a l'iau

Jules Massenet - Chantez


Joseph Carey - hope begins*

Tori Ovel - Everywhere is Singing*

Ralph S. Kendrick - The Etcher


Stephen Paulus - When in Our Music God is Glorified


* - world premiere


A Note from the Conductor

This concert focuses on the human spirit - how we love, laugh, live, lament. BCCV has lived with this music for four months, and it has become a beautiful and integral part of our lives. Recently, I asked the choir members to send me their thoughts on the music, so we could share that part of our spirit with you.

“As concert time draws near, the music we are singing is actively swirling through my brain. I wake up and go to bed with concert music. I hear it everywhere I go. Music is the one thing that stays with me and comforts me through the day with out needing to be physically heard.  The mind is amazing!”

Today’s concert begins with Gerald Finzi’s My Spirit Sang All Day. Finzi composed The Seven Partsongs of Robert Bridges at a time of great joy in his life - his marriage to Joyce Black: much of his music from this period alludes to her. Indeed, the word “joy” appears 12 times in this brief piece. ❧ Next we move to the Renaissance era with Thomas Weelkes’ All at once well met fair ladies. “Madrigals have a special place in my heart. They are so light, carefree and always end on a wonderful upbeat cadence. I love the fa-la-las in this piece - how they weave in and out of each voice line.” ❧ Eric Whitacre is one of the most influential living American composers. The text of his piece, The Seal Lullaby, comes from the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s story of the same name, where a mother seal is singing softly to her young pup. “I can hardly make it through The Seal Lullaby without getting choked up. I just became a mother, and my love for my daughter is so new and raw. The melody of this piece is hauntingly beautiful, and the text .. the text! Such an evocative illustration of the deep desire to soothe and protect our little ones.” ❧ In Gustav Holst’s I love my love, a Cornish folksong,a young man is sent to sea by his disapproving parents, and his young lover is sent to Bedlam, a London hospital for the mentally ill. She sits in the window singing, “I love my love because I know my love loves me!” Her faith is proved well founded because he returns from sea and rushes to her side, rescuing her from her distress. “Holst’s setting of "I love my love" is full of wonderfully modal harmonies typical of British folk songs. But the most poignant moment is in the last verse when the those harmonies drop away, leaving tenors alone with the melody.” ❧ The first set ends with Moses Hogan’s original spiritual, I’m Gonna Sing ’Til The Spirit Moves In My Heart. “Singing is praying. The highlight for me is when the tenors softly ask the question, Can't you feel the spirit movin'? echoed by the basses. This section builds into uncontrollable rejoicing with, ‘Shout! Oh my Jesus, 'til he comes!’ I never grow tired of singing this great arrangement.” 

Our next set features two pieces by the German Baroque master, Johann Pachelbel. The first piece, Praeludium in D minor, showcases Nick Klemetson on the organ. ❧ The second piece is Pachelbel’s Magnificat in D Major. We will be singing in Germanic Latin, a dialect which would have been used in Nuremberg at the time. “It’s always exciting to perform a familiar piece in a new way. By using a Germanic pronunciation of Latin, we get to hear the text of ‘Magnificat' more closely to Pachelbel's own experience. The result is familiar, yet distinctly different.” This particular setting of the Magnificat, the song of joy and praise Mary sang when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, is rhythmically and musically diverse. There are nine musically distinct sections in under six minutes! “My favorite rhythmic moment of this whole program is the second section of Magnificat. It's just 14 measures and the tempo is quick so it flies by. It ends with a hemiola. The music is written with three beats in each measure, but Pachelbel shifts the emphasis to sound like two beats for the final measures. It's exciting to sing and hear!” 

The second half of our program begins with a set of German and French pieces. Warum, by Johannes Brahms, opens with an energetic ascending piano motif and shifts into a lilting, lyrical mood as it asks “Why do songs resound heavenwards?” “Warum is a personal favorite of Brahms's choral works because of the colorful chord modulations, meter changes and grand piano accompaniment.” ❧ Next we move to Poulenc’s setting of Margoton va t’a l’iau. This is a traditional French song from the sixteenth century with a rather common topic: that of a young woman in distress, and the less-than-virtuous men who try to save her. However, in most variants of Margoton, there is a final verse that alludes to a bearded man to whom the young woman’s favors belong. Poulenc made his arrangement purposefully prurient by omitting this final line! “I love the lively lilt of this piece, the subtle and not-so-subtle messages, and the way the alto and soprano notes bounce together and apart from one another throughout.” ❧ Our foreign language set ends with Chantez by Jules Massenet. The text here is rather more innocent, and rejoices in the songs of birds and all of nature’s wonders. “Performing ‘Chantez' is a little like riding a roller coaster through springtime. The piano accompaniment provides momentum as the singer's lines rise and fall. It's an unapologetic celebration of nature's beauty.” 

Our next set features music by Iowa composers. One of the truly glorious things about music is its ability to help us confront, understand, and value the many different facets of the human spirit. These pieces look at the music in everyday life, the struggles of depression, and the poignancy of aging. The first piece, Everywhere is Singing by Tori Ovel, was commissioned by Alice Pruisner in memory of her grandmother, Augusta Reid. This reflection is by Alice’s father, Tony Reid, who sings in the ensemble. “Everywhere is Singing is based on a poem my mother wrote, and I can see her and hear her as I sing it. She loved to read and discuss ideas and write humorous skits. She also loved working in her enormous garden and building rock walls around it, and in my mind I see her hoeing and weeding as I sing this song. She had an eye for the beauty in nature, which I feel in the line about the birds singing. It seems like she always smiled; she smiled at delight in living, so I smile as I sing her song.” ❧ The second piece, hope begins, by BCCV resident composer Joseph Carey, is a setting of an Anne Lamott text. “Hope Begins touches my heart every time we sing it. The texture can be very disjointed, to symbolize the sometimes rocky and uneven terrain we may take as we make our way through life. Despite the uncertainty, there is beauty when we are able to find ourselves on the stronger side of a struggle.” ❧ The final piece of the set is Ralph Kendrick’s The Etcher. The Etcher is part of a larger choral set called Etchings of Time, completed in 2010 on a joint commission by the Iowa Choral Directors Association and the Iowa Composers Forum. The work is based on three poems by Jay Sigmund, a Cedar Rapids poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Although the world favors the younger face, I am quite proud of those fine lines in my face and wear them as a survivor of years of life. They do contain a wisdom not gained any other way. So we give up youth for wisdom. Too soon old, too late smart!”

The final piece on our program is performed in honor of Stephen Paulus, who died in October of 2014. Paulus was an exceptional and prolific American composer. In 1973 he co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now known as the American Composers Forum, the largest composer service organization in the U.S. With When in Our Music God is Glorified, we honor Paulus’s musical vision, his dedication to his craft, and the joy he has brought to musicians and audiences around the world. “I remember the first time I heard the work of Stephen Paulus. It was an Iowa All-State Chorus piece many years back, and they performed Pilgrims’ Hymn. It was just one of those breathtaking music moments that literally moved me to tears…it hurt my heart with its’ beauty. I absolutely love the Paulus piece we are doing. While it’s true that we lost Paulus far too soon, his legacy in the music he left behind can certainly be said to transcend death.”