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 LatoucheDorothy ParkerLillian HellmanStephen SondheimJohn MauceriJohn 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      

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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.

2017 Messiah Sing-In Conductors

Soon to be announced!




Angela Rice Thy Will Be Done      

Friday, March 16, 2018

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

Thy Will Be Done is a 90 minute Easter oratorio for soloists, choir and orchestra composed by Angela Rice of Lexington, Kentucky.

After years of studying voice and piano, teaching others, and tirelessly supporting the arts, Angela Rice decided to turn her considerable talents to composing.

That decision has thrilled audiences and performers alike.

Angela Rice ComposerHer oratorio Thy Will be Done was hailed by Rich Copley, music critic for The Lexington Herald-Leader, as “sterling” and “an ideal hit in the church choir world.”

Metropolitan Opera tenor Gregory Turay, who premiered in the role of Jesus, raved about Rice’s “very singable, beautiful music.”

And audiences have been packing performances since the work for choir and soloists was first performed by The Bluegrass Opera.

The work also received national attention when it was selected to be part of the Music Reading Session at the 2013 Montreat Presbyterian Music Conference in Montreat, N.C.
Since the debut during the 2012 Lenten season, Rice has expanded the work from a cantata of 16 musical numbers to the current oratorio of 30 pieces about Jesus’ life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and impact.

“I’ve tried to use the music to depict the emotions of the characters in the specific biblical contexts,” said Rice. “I hope that as you listen you can hear the love, surrender, obedience, despair, humility and awe – emotions that the characters experienced.”

While Rice has composed in many genres, she is perhaps best known for her vocal music, which runs the gamut from soaring opera to children’s songs.

Getting to this point in her musical career has been a long journey.

A gifted singer and pianist from an early age, Rice studied piano under Robert Harris of the Julliard School, and voice at the New England Conservatory under Sahar Hassan after graduating from the University of Louisville.

While raising three children in Lexington with her husband Tom, a radiologist at Baptist Health, Rice continued her studies at workshops at the Tanglewood Music Center and under Phyllis Jenness, the founder of the Lexington Singers who also directed the voice program at the University of Kentucky until the early 1990s.

She also formed a close collaboration with composer and UK professor Joseph Baber, who helped her orchestrate Thy Will be Done.

Rice has performed several times in the Schola Cantorum at the Cathedral of Christ the King, UK’s It’s a Grand Night for Singing, and in a variety of other musical events.

Composing and performing haven’t been her only passions. She also has a long and distinguished history in Lexington’s arts community.

She was co-founder and executive director of the Ashland School of Music, where she also taught piano, and she has been an active member of the Executive Committee of the Lexington Opera Society.

Her work in the community also includes service on the Lexington Philharmonic board, including two years as Vice President of Education.  She was on the founding board of the UK Friends of Music and has been a past president of the UK Library Associates.  She currently serves on both the UK Libraries National Advisory Board and the Chrysalis House Board.

Rice is also president of Melodia Music, a publishing and production company that specializes in large-scale works for voices and instruments, as well as compilations of shorter works in the vocal and choral genres.

For more information about Rice and her music visit



Beethoven  Symphony #9                                                            


Friday, April 13, 2018

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) began his musical studies in his native Bonn, with Christian Gottlob Neefe, who used the works of Bach as composition manuals for his uniquely gifted student. He recommended that Beethoven study with Mozart, but when he moved to Vienna in 1792, Mozart was dead and he studied, instead, with Franz Josef Haydn and Antonio Salierei, two of the most famous composers of their time.  In a composing career encompassing a great variety of works, Beethoven used the complexities he had learned from Bach and the musical forms perfected in the late 18th century by Mozart and Haydn to move into a new 19th-century realm – one which ensures his place in the world’s pantheon of great composers.

Beethoven’s symphonic works reshape, in startlingly original ways, the traditional techniques he inherited from the 18th century, pushing compositional and performance boundaries further, and giving the orchestra a new and increasingly dramatic role. There is nothing abstract in Beethoven’s music: it reflects a complex, contradictory universe and a very beautiful and personal one, and nowhere is this more evident than in his Symphony No. 9.

He began sketches for the 9th Symphony in 1815, but the final shape and content took nearly 10 years to mature. In 1823 he contacted the London Philharmonic Society to see if it would commission a new symphony: the Society offered him L50 for an “unpublished” work, allowing him to premiere it in Vienna. By early 1824 it was complete, and the Viennese premiere took place on May 8, 1824.

By 1824 he was profoundly deaf and unable to hear the performance or the thunderous ovation it received. It seems to have been a scratchy performance: the orchestra, a combination of theater orchestra professionals and amateurs, had difficulty learning the score, and, in performance, some actually stopped playing when the parts became too difficult. Vocal soloists complained of the tessitura and difficulty of the work, and apparently transposed high entrances down or did not sing them at all. The composer, immersed in his score, was unaware of this:, hearing, in his own way, the extraordinary contribution he had made to the choral-orchestral repertoire.

The Symphony No. 9 is in the traditional 4-movement form, but there is nothing traditional about the work’s size and complexity or the unexpected addition of a chorus to the final movement. In four movements, it is scored for solo vocal quartet, chorus, strings, flutes, piccolo, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, timpani and percussion. The last movement recapitulates themes from the first three, making it a small symphony in itself, and the inspired setting of parts of Schiller’s Ode to Joy make it marvelously unique in the symphonic literature.

Also on the program…

Ralph Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music

Serenade to Music is  a work originally written for 16 vocal soloists and orchestra, composed in 1938. The work can also be performed with 4 vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, which is the way that it will be performed this evening. The text is an adaptation of the discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Vaughan Williams later arranged the piece into versions for chorus and orchestra and solo violin and orchestra. The piece was written as a tribute to the conductor Sir Henry Wood to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Wood’s first concert. On 15 October 1938, Wood made the first recording (with the same soloists and the BBC Symphony Orchestra) at the HMV Abbey Road Studio No. 1. Vaughan Williams and HMV donated copyright fees received from the initial record sales to the Henry Wood Jubilee Fund, which was established to endow London hospital beds for British orchestral musicians.

Glen Roven The Most Jubilant Song

Symphony No. 2, “The Most Jubilant Song,” by Glen Roven—In 2016 I had the honor of having the National Chorale, con- ducted by Dr. Everett McCorvey, premier my “Goodnight Moon” at David Geffen Hall. After the performance, Everett told me 2018 was the Chorale’s Fiftieth Anniversary—a momentous achievement and something that needed to be cele- brated. He suggested I compose a short, commemorative piece. I jumped at the opportunity. I loved working with the Chorale for their passion, their commitment and musicality, and love working with Everett, as he is the consummate musi-

cian; his attention to detail is second to none. I was fired up and my piece came quickly. But after I finished, I realized I had more to say, and so the ten-minute, one movement piece became the first move- ment of a four movement symphony. For the text I chose selections from two Walt Whitman poems that celebrate the glory of music. Tonight, you (and I!) will hear the world premiere of the first movement, “O to Make the Most Jubilant Song,” with a performance of the entire symphony scheduled for September. Next week, Everett and the Chorale will record the entire piece. I’m honored to be performed on their first CD and thrilled that the Chorale has been a champion of my music. This piece is dedicated to my late partner Robin Addison (as are all of my major pieces) and his best friend, Margaret Korda.