I Hear America Singing
Spring 2012 Concert Notes
Tina Johns Heidrich, Conductor
Joe Jacovino, Accompanist
Connecticut Master Chorale Orchestra
Saturday May 19, 2012 8:00 pm
St. Rose of Lima Church, Newtown, Connecticut
- Concert Photos - Rehearsal Photos - Review - Clips -
We are proud to present this program on Armed Forces Day, and we dedicate it to the brave men and women who have served our country. Our concert notes were written by Ginnie Carey, soprano and edited by Jocelyn Miller, alto.
I Hear America Singing – André Thomas
Currently a Professor of Music at Florida State University, Dr. Thomas has distinguished himself as a composer, conductor, and author. This composition incorporating the words of American poet Walt Whitman and the spiritual “Walk Together, Children” was conducted by the composer at the February 2012 President’s Day Choral Festival Concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In his notes about the experience he wrote, “As we sang and played ‘I Hear America Singing’, I could feel not only the words of Walt Whitman and the slaves in that setting but that I was clearly transforming the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood!”.
O, America! – Brendan Graham & William Joseph; arr. Roger Emerson
This tribute to the American dream was written exclusively for the Irish musical group Celtic Woman and dedicated to the American people as a thank you for being the first country to embrace their music wholeheartedly. It seems particularly appropriate that the song is a collaboration between American pianist and composer William Joseph and Irish novelist and composer Brendan Graham. The lovely choral arrangement is by Roger Emerson.
Choose Something Like a Star (from Frostiana) – Randall Thompson; lyrics Robert Frost
Eminent American composer Randall Thompson was commissioned by the town of Amherst, Massachusetts to put his good friend Robert Frost’s poetry to music for the town’s 200th anniversary celebration. His creation, Frostiana, is a seven-movement choral piece based on seven Frost poems. Robert Frost (1874-1963) often used settings based on his life in New England to reflect on social and philosophical issues that were important to him. He was obviously fascinated with stars, as many of his poems refer to stars; this one references John Keats’ poem “Bright Star”. Although the text remained the same, in later years he changed the title of this poem to “Take Something Like a Star”.
The Battle of Jericho – arr. Moses Hogan
Pianist, conductor, composer, and arranger Moses George Hogan was best-known for his popular and unique settings of spirituals. Believed to have been composed by slaves in the early 1800s, this musical retelling of the biblical story of Joshua and the Israelites and their triumph over Canaan was probably a disguised message of hope for slaves longing for freedom.
Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit – arr. William Dawson
Entering Tuskegee Institute at the age of 13, William Levi Dawson went on to study music at some of the the country’s most prominent music conservatories before returning to Tuskegee as Director of the School of Music in 1931. As a composer, conductor, and arranger, he made Tuskegee’s a cappella choir into an internationally recognized ensemble and was in charge of their music program for 25 years. This traditional African-American spiritual was inspired by the words of Jesus and also by the desire for freedom in that the “River Jordan” was used as a secret code word for crossing the Ohio River, and the train to heaven was a euphemism for the Underground Railroad.
The 23rd Psalm – Bobby McFerrin
A ten-time Grammy Award winner, Bobby McFerrin is well-known as a jazz-influenced vocal performer and conductor who has worked creatively with both Yo-Yo Ma and Chick Corea. His recording of his song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was a pop hit in 1988 and has been used in two movies. This a cappella version of the beloved 23rd Psalm was influenced by the chants he heard in church as a child and is dedicated to his mother.
Hoe-down (from Rodeo) – Aaron Copland
One of the most respected composers of the 20th century, Copland incorporated popular forms of American music into his compositions and created classical music that was uniquely American. His ballet Rodeo is a celebration of the Old West, and was commissioned by the classical Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a dance company that moved to the U. S. during WWII. They hired Agnes de Mille as choreographer; she talked a reluctant Copland into a collaboration that became famous in American dance and musical history. The ballet premiered in 1942 at the Metropolitan Opera House and received 22 curtain calls.
Bring Him Home (from Les Misérables) – Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyrics Herbert Kretzmer & Alain Boublil; arr. John Leavitt (for men's voices)
Schönberg b. 1944
This remarkable musical, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, was conceived by Claude-Michel Schönberg and was performed in Paris in 1980, in London in 1985 and in the U. S. in 1987, to wide acclaim. America has adored this musical since the first show on Broadway. It later returned for a revival production and is currently on tour throughout the country. The school edition has been a popular production in many schools as well. “Bring Him Home” is sung by Jean Valjean, asking God to send Marius home, and was created especially for the revival production. John Leavitt created this touching arrangement for male voices.
You'll Never Walk Alone (from Carousel) – Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II; choral arr. Clay Warnick
Richard Rodgers 1902-1979
Oscar Hammerstein II 1895-1960
Carousel was the second musical created by the legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein team. It opened in 1945, became an instant success, and was the personal favorite of Richard Rodgers. Time Magazine named it the best musical of the twentieth century. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is from the second act and is reprised again in the final scene. This stirring arrangement for chorus and orchestra is by Clay Warnick.
Rhapsody in Blue – George Gershwin (featuring Joseph Jacovino, Jr. on piano)
Commissioned by the visionary bandleader Paul Whiteman, this distinctively American favorite premiered in 1924 at a concert Whiteman called An Experiment in Modern Music with many prominent composers of the time in attendance, including John Philip Sousa and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Gershwin played the piano solo at a nod from Whiteman and only wrote out his score after the performance, so it is not known exactly how it originally sounded. It is difficult for us today to believe that this iconic work received mixed reviews with many negative comments, however the audience responded with “tumultuous applause”.
This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie; arr. James D. Ployhar
James D. Ployhar
American singer-songwriter and folk musician Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in Oklahoma and was deeply affected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. He hit Route 66 looking for a way to support his family and traveled to California and eventually over most of the country. In New York City, he and his friends founded “The Almanacs”, a group which helped to establish folk music as a viable commercial genre. His best-known song, “This Land Is Your Land”, was put to the melody from an old gospel song, “Oh My Loving Brother” in 1940, but wasn’t actually published until 1944. This year, 2012, many memorial celebrations are being held throughout America for Guthrie’s 100th birthday. He didn’t win many awards while he was alive, but he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 along with Bob Dylan, and in 2000 was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Shenandoah – arr. Mack Wilberg
One of America’s most recognizable folk songs, “Shenandoah” has origins that are difficult to determine. It probably originated in the early 1800s, because it was widely popular by the end of the century. Some believe that it began as a sea chanty since it first appeared in print in an article, “Sailor Songs”, by William L. Alden in 1882. The text is just as unclear, with many different interpretations; Shenandoah is the name of a Native American tribe and also the name of a river, and perhaps it was sung by boatmen on that river as well as the Missouri. In spite of these inconsistencies and contradictions, it remains an American classic. Dr. Wilberg, the Music Director and Conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, is well-known for his interest in American music as passed down through generations. His inspired arrangement features a piano score that echoes the sound of running water.
Home on the Range – Daniel E. Kelly; lyrics Dr. Brewster M. Higley; arr. Mark Hayes
Daniel E. Kelly
Dr. Brewster M.
Often considered the unofficial anthem of the American West, “Home On the Range” is the state song of Kansas, reflecting its origins there. Dr. Brewster M. Higley wrote the words in a poem called “My Western Home”, in the early 1870s, which was set to music by his friend Daniel E. Kelley. Settlers and cowboys spread the song across America in various forms. Mark Hayes created this arrangement with wonderful harmonies for the Kansas State-Wide Choir.
Dirait-on – Morten Lauridsen (for women's voices)
American composer Morten Johannes Lauridsen has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than thirty years. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2007 for his “radiant choral works combining musical power, beauty and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.” In addition to his vast output of German poetry, Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote nearly 400 poems in French, including Les Roses. Lauridsen found these poems about roses especially charming and was inspired to create Les Chansons des Roses, musical settings of five of the poems. The fifth and final piece, “Dirait-on”, is exquisite and lyrical in his version for women’s voices.
Chattanooga Choo Choo – Harry Warren; lyrics Mack Gordon; arr. Mac Huff
The first major American composer to write primarily for film, Harry Warren won three Oscars and was nominated eleven times. Mack Gordon was a frequent collaborator with Warren. One story has it that they actually composed this while on a train. Recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1941, it became the first gold record in history. It was also featured in the movie Sun Valley Serenade. Mac Huff’s forties-influenced choral version is great old-fashioned fun!
Sing, Sing, Sing – Louis Prima; arr. Philip Kern
Born in New Orleans, Louis Prima was a trumpeter, band leader, singer, composer, and actor who was playing trumpet professionally at the age of 17. He moved to New York and formed a group called the “New Orleans Gang” which found work at the Famous Door, where they were a big hit. They recorded Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” in 1936 with lyrics; it was later recorded by Benny Goodman in a 1937 instrumental recording that lasted more than eight minutes and took both sides of a 12-inch 78 rpm record. It was a hit for Goodman, was played at every important performance of his band, and eclipsed the Prima song.
Armed Forces - the Pride of America! – arr. Larry Clark and Greg Gilpin
Arrangers Greg Gilpin and Larry Clark have created the definitive patriotic American musical presentation with this medley of songs from all five military branches and marches from John Philip Sousa and Edwin Eugene Bagley, culminating in our National Anthem.