Carl Orff, Carmina Burana
Friday, November 3, 2017
David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center
In 1954 American audiences had their first encounter with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, which became an instant audience success. The composer, born in Munich in 1895 and living until 1982, considered that his true composing life began with the writing of this work in l935. After its phenomenal success around the world, he directed his publisher to destroy all of the plates of his earlier compositions still in print, and that was done. The Carmina were songs of medieval goliards: traveling students and ex-monks who left universities and monasteries to pursue a roaring life of gambling, drinking and making love. The texts of the songs, in a mixture of 13th-century “low” Latin and “low” German, were discovered in a Bavarian monastery near Munich in the early 20th-century. Orff chose 24 of them to set for soprano, tenor and bass soloists, four-part mixed, male and female choruses, and instruments. The effect of Orff’s music is often hypnotic, and includes repetitive chords, multiple stanzas of songs, and many ostinato patterns, coupled with extreme rhythmic repetition. The chorus stars in this work in an unusual way: singing in unison, octaves and parallel intervals, but always immersed in a sea of colorful and unusual instrumental sound. The work features three solo roles: the old Abbot (Anthony Clark Evans), a roistering, gambling drinker and ex-monk; the Young Girl (Elizabeth Caballero) who is the object of the Abbot’s intentions but hopes for springtime love with a young man; and the counter tenor Swan (Matthew Truss), who sings an actual “swan song” as he is being roasted to feed the hungry patrons of a tavern. A rollicking celebration of the coming of pring, Carmina Burana’s American popularity began with that performance 61 years ago and continues today
Also on the program…
Chichester Psalms, by Leonard Bernstein, is tuneful, tonal and contemporary, featuring modal melodies and unusual meters. Through its use of motivic repetition, there is the sense of a hallowed rite. From the time of its sold-out world premiere at Philharmonic Hall on July 15, 1965 conducted by the composer himself, it was apparent that Bernstein had created a magically unique blend of Biblical Hebrew verse and Christian choral tradition; a musical depiction of the composer’s hope for brotherhood and peace. Bernstein composed Chichester Psalms amid a busy schedule, completing his first work since the Third Symphony, Kaddish, in 1963, written in memory of President Kennedy. Both pieces combine choruses singing Hebrew text, with orchestral forces, but where Kaddish is a statement of profound anguish and despair, Chichester Psalms is hopeful and life-affirming. Chichester Psalms juxtaposes vocal part writing most commonly associated with Church music, with the Judaic liturgical tradition. Bernstein specifically called for the text to be sung in Hebrew (there is not even an English translation in the score), using the melodic and rhythmic contours of the Hebrew language to dictate mood and melodic character. By combining the Hebrew with Christian choral tradition, Bernstein was implicitly issuing a plea for peace in Israel during a turbulent time in the young country’s history. Each of the three movements of Chichester Psalms contains one complete Psalm plus excerpts from another paired Psalm. Chichester Psalms is tuneful, tonal and contemporary, featuring modal melodies and unusual meters. Through its use of motivic repetition, there is the sense of a hallowed rite. Bernstein created a magically unique blend of Biblical Hebrew verse and Christian choral tradition; a musical depiction of the composer’s hope for brotherhood and peace.
A performance by the Chorale’s Vocal Education Partner, the Professional Performing Arts High School:
Leonard Bernstein’s Warm Up is a Round, which is used in Bernstein’s Mass was written as a ‘warm-up’ to the full composition of Mass, formally, “MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers” is a musical theatre work composed by Leonard Bernstein with text by Bernstein and additional text and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy, it premiered on September 8, 1971, conducted by Maurice Peress. The performance was part of the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mass premiered in Europe in 1973, with John Mauceri conducting the Yale Symphony Orchestra in Vienna.
Songfest: A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers and Orchestra is a 1977 song cycle by Leonard Bernstein. The cycle consists of 12 settings of 13 American poems, performed by six singers in solos, duets, a trio and three sextets. The work was intended as a tribute to the 1976 American Bicentennial but was not finished in time. Its first complete performance was given by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer on October 11, 1977, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., although some portions were performed earlier. The work was first performed on the West Coast in 1983 at the Hollywood Bowl, the composer conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. On July 4, 1985, Bernstein conducted a nationally televised performance of Songfest as part of the National Symphony’s annual A Capitol Fourth concert. Performed tonight will be “Opening Hymn: To the Poem”.
“Make our Garden Grow” from Candide is an operetta with music composed by Leonard Bernstein, based on the 1759 novella of the same name by Voltaire. The operetta was first performed in 1956 with a libretto by Lillian Hellman; but since 1974 it has been generally performed with a book by Hugh Wheeler which is more faithful to Voltaire’s novel. The primary lyricist was the poet Richard Wilbur. Other contributors to the text were John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Stephen Sondheim, John Mauceri, John Wells, and Bernstein himself. Maurice Peress and Hershy Kay contributed orchestrations. Although unsuccessful at its premiere, Candide has now overcome the unenthusiastic reaction of early audiences and critics and achieved enormous popularity. It is very popular among major music schools as a student show because of the quality of its music and the opportunities it offers to student singers.
“Somewhere“, also sometimes referred to as “Somewhere (There’s a Place for Us)” or simply “There’s a Place for Us“, is a song from the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story that was made into a film in 1961. The music is composed by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and takes a phrase from the slow movement of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto, which forms the start of the melody, and also a longer phrase from the main theme of Pyotr Tchaikovsky‘s Swan Lake. This evening’s performance was arranged by the late Martin Josman, Founder of the National Chorale.
Handel’s Messiah Sing-In
Friday, December 15, 2017
David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center
The annual Handel’s Messiah Sing-In at Lincoln Center was created as a celebration of choral singing and is today New York City’s most popular Holiday Season Community Music Event.
The Sing-In audience-chorus includes 3,000 singers of all backgrounds who come from throughout New York City, the greater New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area, across the United States and from countries around the world. It includes choral singers who sing in church and temple choirs, community choral organizations, high school, college and alumni choruses, people who formerly sang in choirs and many vocal music lovers who want to spend this one special evening singing and being surrounded by thousands of stereophonic voices, all singing Handel’s great choral masterpiece together.
The audience is the chorus—there is no chorus on stage. Rather than being seated in block SATB sections, the audience is seated “scrambled” so that attending choral groups and participating singers can sit with those whom they came with. Each participant brings a Messiah vocal score, and the sound of the massed mixed vocal parts in a tapestry of song throughout the hall is glorious.
There are 17 distinguished choral conductors, each of whom, in turn, conducts one chorus accompanied by the Sing-In organist at the Avery Fisher Hall organ. (Almost every well-known choral conductor in the Greater New York Area and beyond either participates or has participated in the Chorale’s annual Sing-In.) There also are 4 splendid professional soloists singing some of the best known solos and providing additional musical inspiration. Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director of the National Chorale and the Sing-In, is the host for the performance.
The Messiah Sing-In was conceived and developed in 1967 by Mr. Josman, the Chorale’s Board and a group of New York City choral conductors to celebrate choral singing on a community-wide basis. It was agreed by all that the best way to achieve this was to invite the choral singing community to gather one evening annually during a traditional singing time of the year and to sing a great choral work in a major concert hall under the shared leadership of a team of prominent choral conductors. As a result, the name Messiah Sing-In was created. The December Holiday Season was determined to be the best time of year for the event and Handel’s Messiah was selected as the great choral work with which most singers were familiar. Avery Fisher Hall, the exciting new concert hall in the City in the 1960’s was chosen to be the Sing-In location. The plan attracted the enthusiastic interest of New York’s choral community and the public, and the first Messiah Sing-In took place on Friday evening, December 13, 1967. It was an immediate success and has continued as a joyous, traditional choral community singing event every year since then.
The National Chorale has also presented Handel’s Messiah Sing-In in Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, Rochester, NY, Phoenix, Tulsa, Lawrence, WI, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Amphitheater and the Ocean Grove Auditorium, NJ.
This year is the eagerly looked forward to 49th Anniversary of the New York Messiah Sing-In.