Songs of Smaller Creatures and Other American Choral Works
Grant Park Chorus, Christopher Bell
Lee R. Kesselman, Ned Rorem, Stacy Garrop
Conducted by Christopher Bell, Chicago’s Grant Park Chorus is “as fine a symphony chorus as any to be found anywhere in the nation” (Chicago Tribune). Celebrating its 50th season, the chorus makes its a cappella CD debut with an all-American program of eight imaginative, moving, and sometimes whimsical works written between 1975 and 2005, including four world premieres.
ABBIE BETINIS (b. 1980)
Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures*
LEE KESSELMAN (b. 1951)
Buzzings: Three Pieces about Bees*
ERIC WHITACRE (b. 1970)
STACY GARROP (b. 1969)
Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy*
DAVID DEL TREDICI (b. 1937)
NED ROREM (b. 1923)
Seven Motets for the Church’s Year
PAUL CRABTREE (b. 1960)
Five Romantic Miniatures*
ERIC WHITECRE (b. 1970)
What the Critics Are Saying
“It is likely that only a small percentage of the readership of Fanfare will have any interest in a disc devoted exclusively to unaccompanied choral music. This is a pity, because there is much fine music in this collection, and performances to match. It is consequently strongly recommended to those of you inclined to this medium, and to others who would like to listen outside the box.”
“The high point of the CD is the quality of the recording itself. Captured inside the Harris Theater under the guidance of chorus director Christopher Bell, Smaller Creatures gives listeners the opportunity to hear the group in full exposure without the accompaniment of an orchestra. From large-scale chorus to solitary soloist, Smaller Creatures is further proof of the GPC’s ability to pack a serious vocal punch.”
“Here, the [Grant Park] chorus goes it alone under the direction of Christopher Bell and present a collection of short pieces by modern American composers, some of the works descriptive, some serious, some humorous, some of them in world-première recordings, and all of them a pleasure. . . . The choir sing[s] . . . as they do throughout, with clarity, precision, and, most of all, with feeling.”
“Marking its golden anniversary this year, the Grant Park Chorus is celebrating with the release of its first a cappella recording, “Songs of Smaller Creatures.” The Cedille disc contains a delightfully offbeat assortment of American choral works by such established figures as Ned Rorem and David Del Tredici, also younger composers like Stacy Garrop and Eric Whitacre. The expert performances under Christopher Bell’s direction make for pleasant summer listening.”
Program NotesDownload Album Booklet
Songs of Smaller Creatures and other American choral works
Notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda
Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures (2005)
Abbie Betinis (b. 1980)
Abbie Betinis, born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 1980 and now living in St. Paul, Minnesota, holds a bachelor’s degree in music with a linguistics concentration from St. Olaf College and a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Minnesota, where her primary teacher was Judith Lang Zaimont. Betinis also spent two summers in Paris on Cynthia Lilley Scholarships from the European-American Musical Alliance to study harmony and counterpoint with faculty from the Juilliard School and Paris Conservatory. Since 2005, Betinis has served as Composer-in-Residence for the Schubert Club in Minnesota; she has also held residencies with the Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists and the Rose Ensemble. She has received a Jerome Composers Commissioning Grant,Esoterics’ Polyphonos Young Composer Prize, Craig and Janet Swan Composer Prize, awards from the American Com-posers Forum, ASCAP and Minnesota Music Educators Association, and com-missions from more than forty noted musical organizations; in 2009, she was named a McKnight Artist Fellow. In 2006, Betinis launched a self-publishing company, and now markets and distributes her own scores internationally. Since 2001, Minnesota Public Radio has partnered with American Public Media to record her annual, original Christmas carol — composed in the family tradition of her great-uncle Alfred Burt (The Star Carol, All on a Christmas Morning ) — for broadcast to an estimated listening audience of 800,000.
Abbie Betinis wrote (in the third person) of her choral compositions:
Always an enthusiast of language, Betinis enjoys delving into ancient and modern texts in the hope of inspiring greater cultural literacy and exchange. She has set texts in English, Gaelic, ancient Greek, Latin, medieval Persian, Spanish, Tang-era Chinese, and gibberish (in which she is most fluent), and has recently completed a song cycle featuring the Norwegian poetry of Rolf Jacobsen. Her text setting has been called imaginative and sensitive, even while pushing performers to explore extended vocal techniques such as yodeling, crying, whistling, glottal grunting, or bird-calling. Her recent projects investigate topics as varied as ancient Greek love charms and binding spells, African melorhythm, early American shape-note singing, and Sufi mysticism. A recent piece for the Rose Ensemble explores the pre-Christian Gaelic tradition of keening in a staged piece for solo soprano, mixed chorus, Gaelic harp, bodhran, and vielle.
Betinis composed Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures in 2005. This piece was selected as a finalist in the Young Composers Competition of the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, which performed the first two movements on June 2, 2005 under the direction of Nathan Davis. The premiere of the complete work, by the University of Minnesota Chamber Choir under the direction of Kathy Romey, came on March 26, 2006 at the St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota. The composer writes:
Hans Christian Andersen once wrote (in the voice of a butterfly): “Just living is not enough … One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures comprises three tone-poems for mixed a cappella chorus, each a character study on a small creature from the natural world.
The first, the bees’ song , takes its silly text from British poet Walter de la Mare, who included no less than 33 ‘Z’s’ in his poem of the same name. This musical setting highlights those ‘Z’ sounds, as each part buzzes around, looking for a nice cadence to land on. The second movement, which takes its title and text from Walt Whitman’s A noiseless, patient spider , compares the questing soul to that of a spider able to know her position in the world by launching and trusting her web. Set for eight-part chorus, the piece begins with each of the voice parts representing a leg of the solitary spider as she walks slowly to the edge of the promontory. Suddenly she “launches forth filament” and the voices begin the process of weaving a web of their own. envoi uses Charles Swinburne’s simple text to illustrate the flocking and migrating of a mass of butterflies. The nonsense syllables seek to propel the piece while providing a subtle flapping of tiny wings, as if the singers are suddenly there in the thick of the migration.
Buzzings: Three Pieces about Bees (1976)
Lee R. Kesselman (b. 1951)
Lee R. Kesselman, born in Milwaukee in 1951, has been Director of Choral Activities at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois since 1981; he was named Outstanding Faculty Member at the College for 1994–1995.Kesselman, who holds undergraduate degrees in piano and composition from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota and a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Southern California, is the founder and Music Director of the New Classic Singers, a professional choral ensemble, and directs the DuPage Chorale and College of DuPage Chamber Singers. He has also taught at Doreen Rao’s Choral Music Experience Institute in Chicago since its inception in 1986, served on the faculty of the Académie International de Chant Choral in Parthenay, France for two summers, and addressed state and divisional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association. In addition, Kesselman performs as a pianist, accompanying many of Chicago’s finest singers in recital and appearing on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts and the Live! From Studio One series on WFMT-FM. As a conductor, he serves as music director for a variety of local opera and musical theater productions, including conducting Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco for Opera-Works! in Madison, Wisconsin.
As a composer, Lee Kesselman is best known for his vocal works, which include operas (The Bremen Town Musicians and The Emperor’s New Clothes ), music for chorus, and solo songs. His works for children have brought him national attention — The Bremen Town Musicians has been performed over 300 times — and commissions to write for school and university choirs as well as community, church, and professional ensembles. His distinctions include annual ASCAP Awards since 1994 and prizes in the Melodious Accord Composition Search (New York), Chautauqua Chamber Singers Composition Contest, Chautauqua Children’s Chorale Composition Contest, and Illinois Choral Directors’ Association Contest. Kesselman composed Buzzings: Three Pieces about Bees in 1976 for Paul Rusterholz, then a Doctor of Musical Arts degree candidate in Choral Conducting at the University of Southern California. Rusterholz led the work’s premiere as part of his graduation recital on February 20, 1977 at the United Methodist Church of West Covina, California.
The composer writes:
These three choral vignettes are inspired by the whimsical poetry of Emily Dickinson. To make a prairie , a pastoral musing, should be performed leisurely, almost tasting the atmosphere the poet paints, but allowing occasional flights of fancy. A Bee his burnished Carriage pokes fun at the eternal skirmish of love and mating, set in the metaphor of the Bee and the Rose. Its insistent, driving rhythms portray the ardent quality of the Bee’s love, and yet the piece ends with an ironic glance at the Rose. In Bee! I’m expecting you! the Fly “types” a brief note to its friend the Bee, hopping from key to key. The Fly exhorts the Bee to come quickly and join in the days of Summer.
When David Heard (1998–1999)
Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)
Eric Whitacre initially gained notice when he received First Prize for Cloudburst in the American Choral Directors Association’s “Composers of the Future” competition in 1993; he was 23 years old and had only started reading musical notation five years before. Born in Reno, Nevada in 1970, Whitacre taught himself piano, and played synthesizers and wrote a few tunes for a garage band in high school. Although he had no formal training and was not fluent reading music, he showed enough ambition and talent that he was admitted, in 1988, to the University of Nevada/Las Vegas as a music education major, vaguely hoping that it might help his career in pop music. (“I was astonished to find that there was no degree program offered for future pop stars,” he recalled.) It was an encounter during his sophomore year with David Weiller, the choral conductor at UNLV, that changed Whitacre’s life:
He auditioned me to sing in one of his groups and graciously accepted me into the university chorus. I distinctly remember how weird I thought the choir people were, with their embarrassing stretches and warm-ups, and undoubtedly the only reason I stayed in class was because there were so many cute girls in the soprano section…. The first piece we sang was the Mozart Requiem . It was like seeing color for the first time, and I was regularly moved to tears during rehearsals, crushed by the impossible beauty of the work. I became a choir geek of the highest magnitude.
In the fall of 1991, Whitacre used his new-found notational skills to make an a cappella setting of Edmund Waller’s Go, Lovely Rose for Weiller; Weiller not only performed the work in Las Vegas but also used it to close the choir’s tour concerts in Hawaii the following spring. Later in 1991, Whitacre composed Ghost Train for symphonic wind band (which has become a staple of the wind ensemble repertory) and Cloudburst for chorus. After finishing his baccalaureate at UNLV in 1995, Whitacre completed his master’s degree in composition at the Juilliard School during the next two years, studying with David Diamond and Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano. He moved to Los Angeles in 1997, and has since devoted himself to composing; conducting concerts, festivals, and choral workshops across the Americas, Europe, and Asia; serving as chorus master for the Nevada Symphony Orchestra; and fulfilling residencies with Cambridge University, Pacific Chorale, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Northwestern University, Marktoberdorf Music Festival (Germany), NOW Con-temporary Music Festival (Columbus, Ohio), and Mid Europe Festival (Schladming, Austria, the biggest wind orchestra festival in Europe). He has also collaborated with composer Hans Zimmer on the score for the feature film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and written the music, book, and lyrics for Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, a musical based loosely on Milton. After being premiered in Pasadena in 2007 starring his wife, Grammy Award-winning soprano Hila Plitman, Paradise Lost won the ASCAP Harold Arlen Award and the Richard Rodgers Award, and received ten nominations for Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards.
In 2010, Whitacre signed a core recording contract with Universal/Decca; his debut album on that label, Light & Gold, became the No. 1 Classical Album in the United States and England within a week of its release. In 2010, Whitacre organized the first “Virtual Choir,” in which 185 vocalists from twelve countries individually submitted videos of their singing the appropriate voice part while watching him conduct his Lux Aurumque on YouTube; the finished video of the mixed voices received over a million views in just two months. Virtual Choir 2.0 (April 2011, performing Sleep) involved over 2,000 voices from 58 countries (see http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir). In addition to his “Composers of the Future” award, Whitacre has been honored by the Barlow International Composition Competition, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, and other leading musical organizations; in 2001 he became the youngest recipient ever awarded the coveted Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association.
When David Heard , commissioned in 1998 by the Barlow Endowment for the Arts for the Brigham Young University Singers, is based on one single, devastating sentence from II Samuel 18:33: “When David heard that Absalom was slain he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept, and thus he said: My son, my son, O Absalom my son, would God I had died for thee!” Setting this text was such a lonely experience, and even now just writing these words I am moved to tears. I wrote maybe 200 pages of sketches, trying to find the perfect balance between sound and silence, always simplifying, and by the time I finished a year later I was profoundly changed. Older, I think, and quieted a little.
Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy (2004)
Stacy Garrop (b. 1969)
Stacy Garrop, Associate Professor and Head of Composition at the Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University,
received her baccalaureate from the University of Michigan, her master’s degree from the University of Chicago, and her doctorate from Indiana University. Among her rapidly accumulating distinctions are the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble’s Harvey Gaul Composition Competition, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize, two Barlow Endowment commissions, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s First Hearing Composition Competition, Omaha Symphony Guild’s International New Music Competition, National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award, and the New England Philharmonic’s Call for Scores Competition. Garrop has been in residence with several musical organizations, including the Skaneateles Festival and the Volti Choral Institute for High School Singers in 2011, Albany Symphony Orchestra in 2009/10, and Chicago’s Music in the Loft chamber music series in 2004/05 and 2006/07. Her works have been performed by the Grant Park Orchestra; the Minnesota Orchestra; the Detroit, Albany, Charleston, Illinois, Omaha, and Amarillo Symphonies; and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago; by the Cecilia, Chiara, Biava, Enso, and Artaria String Quartets; and by the choirs Chicago a cappella , Grant Park Chorus, Princeton Singers, and Volti. Theodore Presser Company publishes her chamber and orchestral works. Her compositions have been recorded on the Cedille, Innova, Equillibrium, Summit, and Ravello labels. Of particular note, Cedille Records released in February 2011 the first all-Garrop CD, comprising her String Quartet No. 3: “Gaia,” Silver Dagger for piano trio, and In Eleanor’s Words song cycle.
Garrop wrote of her Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy , composed in 2004 for the San Francisco-based choral ensemble, Volti:
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was an American poet who produced a great body of work in her lifetime. Among her works are several books of poetry, essays, plays, an opera libretto, and over 200 sonnets. The topics of her sonnets range from love to politics to the fate of mankind. They are beautifully constructed, and I find that many of them are well suited to be set to music. From 2000–2006, I set sixteen of her sonnets for a cappella choir, arranged into six sets. Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy is the fourth set. It takes a look at three aspects of love: unreasonable desire; inconsolable longing; and shallow, whimsical romance.
Acrostic Song from Final Alice (1974–1975)
David Del Tredici (b. 1937)
David Del Tredici made Alice in Wonderland the hinge upon which a musical revolution swung. In 1968, when the composer first took up Lewis Carroll’s books as creative catalysts, tunes and tonality in concert music were little in fashion. Though trained in modernist techniques at Berkeley and Princeton, Del Tredici said, “I couldn’t imagine setting a Carroll text to dissonant music,” and he used traditional styles of melody and harmony for what would prove to be a career-defining series of works based on Alice , showing how the language of Straussian Late Romanticism could be renewed and enriched after the post-World War II period of dedicated modernism. Del Tredici has since drawn upon other sources of inspiration for his work, but the lyricism, tonality-based harmonies, and glowing sonorities that he rediscovered for Alice in Wonderland have not only remained essential elements of his style, but have also become important forces in much of the new American music of the last forty-plus years.
Del Tredici composed Final Alice for soprano, folk group, and orchestra in 1974–1975 on a commission from the National Endowment for the Arts in observance of the United States Bicentennial. Sir Georg Solti conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the work’s premiere on October 7, 1976, with Barbara Hendricks as soloist. In 1979, Del Tredici made an arrangement for chorus of the Acrostic Song that closes the work. The composer wrote:
Final Alice , based on the closing chapters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland , tells two stories at once; primary is the actual tale of Wonderland itself, with all its bizarre and unpredictable happenings, which are painted as vividly as possible. But “between the lines,” as it were, is the implied love story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, as suggested by the poems Alice Gray and the Acrostic Song …. When the dream of all that has gone before seems completely dissipated, forgotten, all energy spent — then we hear, sung with quiet ecstasy, the Acrostic Song , the epilogue poem of Through the Looking Glass , the clearest expression of Lewis Carroll’s tender affection for his Alice. The acrostic — a visual device — is created by the initial letter of each line, which spell the name of the “real” Alice: ALICE PLEASANCE LIDDELL.
Seven Motets for the Church’s Year (1977, 1986)
Ned Rorem (b. 1923)
Ned Rorem, one of America’s most prominent composers and this country’s leading exponent of the art song, was born in 1923 in Richmond, Indiana, and raised in Chicago. Throughout his school years, he took lessons in piano and theory at the University of Chicago and at that city’s American Conservatory. After two years at Northwestern University’s School of Music (1940–1942), he won a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He was at Curtis for only one year, however, before transferring to the Juilliard School in New York, where he earned bachelor’s (1946) and master’s (1948) degrees. He spent the summers of 1946 and 1947 at Tanglewood as a student of Aaron Copland, and also studied composition privately in New York with Virgil Thomson while serving as his copyist. In 1949, Rorem moved to Morocco, where he produced much music, including his first opera (A Childhood Miracle), a ballet (Melos), several song cycles, a symphony, and a piano concerto. In 1950, he won the Lili Boulanger Prize for composition. On a Fulbright scholarship in 1951–1952, he studied with Arthur Honegger in Paris, and remained in that city for the next five years, composing prodigiously and recording his experiences in The Paris Diary , the first of his published books.
Since returning to the United States in 1957, Rorem has devoted himself largely to composition and writing, though he has also served occasionally as conductor and as accompanist, and held residencies at the State University of New York in Buffalo, University of Utah, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and Curtis Institute. His honors include the Pulitzer Prize (for his 1976 Air Music, written as a United States Bicentennial commission for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), election to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (of which he was elected President in January 2000), two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Ford Foundation grant, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In May 2003, he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Music, a prize awarded once every six years.
Rorem composed the first of his Seven Motets for the Church’s Year in 1977 on a commission from Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity, and St. James’s in Hartford, Connecticut; he completed the cycle in 1986 for the 75th anniversary of All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The first Motet (Christmas) reflects the peaceable words of its opening phrase: “While All Things Were in Quiet Silence.” Before the Morning Star Begotten (Epiphany) recalls the imitative “fuguing tunes” and sturdy harmonies of the traditional Appalachian hymnal, The Sacred Harp . The luminous Lay Up for Yourselves (Ash Wednesday) sings of the Christian hope of heaven. Praise Him Who Was Crucified (first Sunday after Easter) is Rorem’s modern analogue of the open-interval harmonies of Medieval organum. God Is Gone Up (Ascension) is a joyous acclamation of the belief in Jesus’ ascent into heaven. In Today the Holy Spirit Appeared (Whitsunday), a solo voice receives affirming “Alleluias” from the chorus in commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit to Christ’s disciples. Rejoice We All in the Lord is a restrained, almost mystical musical observance.
Five Romantic Miniatures (1999)
Paul Crabtree (b. 1960)
Paul Crabtree was born in 1960 in Rugby, England (ten miles east of Coventry), graduated from the Music Faculty at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he studied composition with Kenneth Leighton, and won a scholarship for two years of post-graduate study in composition at the Musikhochschule in Cologne, Germany. Crabtree grew up interested in both rock culture and classical music. He was disappointed that his European academic training never acknowledged the world of rock and pop, so he moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1984 and has since remained there and become a United States citizen. He says:
Exposure to the musically permissive culture in the Bay Area led me to integrate the various strands of my personal history to embrace and intermingle ideas as diverse as Latin poetry and 1960s girl groups, yet my music maintains a seriousness of purpose that intensifies both its ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural references.
Crabtree’s works, most for voices, draw upon a wide range of references and styles: from spiritual settings to Tenebrae Responsories on Songs by Bob Dylan ; from folk song arrangements to Pax et Bonum , which ironically juxtaposes the last letter that a young tenor friend wrote before his sudden death with a Shakespeare sonnet on immortality; from Glenn Miller is Missing , which sets Emma Lazarus’ poetry about the ecstasies of music in the style of a jitterbug, to Annunciata, which combines the lovelorn Victorian poetry of Emmeline Stuart-Wortley with Gabriel’s message to the Virgin. Crabtree’s work has been recognized with numerous commissions and an AMC Composer’s Assistance Program Award (2007), three ASCAPLUS awards (2004, 2007, 2008), a Subito Award from the American Composers Forum (2005), and a residency with the Carolina Chamber Music Festival in New Bern, North Carolina (2009).
Crabtree found inspiration in The Simpsons TV program for this set of Five Romantic Miniatures using texts from the show that he describes as:
…totally serious pieces about these little characters. They’re not cartoony or cheap in any way. They’re an in-depth probing of these cartoon lives. … It is their simplicity and their profundity that drew me to these five short outbursts of affection.
1. Grandpa Simpson re-experiences teenage infatuation. 2. Lisa exults in the name of her elementary school sweetheart. 3. Homer tries to express love for his wife. 4. Marge covers her embarrassed son with kisses. 5. Homer confesses that he has no-thing to offer his wife but his need to be loved.
There are two paternal influences that helped me frame these portraits. The first is my father, Raymond Crabtree, whose brutal selfishness and alarming immaturity were tempered by a genuine love which he could not express, and who is uncomfortably like Homer Simpson. The second is my teacher Kenneth Leighton, to whom I looked to provide an academic balance to my own father’s passionate ineffectualness. The Miniatures are dedicated to their memory.
(For biographical information on Eric Whitacre see notes for When David Heard above.)
The composer writes:
In the winter of 1999 I was contacted by Ms. Julia Armstrong, a lawyer and professional mezzo-soprano living in Austin, Texas. She wanted to commission a choral work from me that would be premiered by the Austin Pro Chorus (Kinley Lange, cond.), a terrific chorus in which she regularly performed. The circumstances around the commission were certainly memorable. She wanted to commission the piece in memory of her parents, who had died within weeks of each other after more than fifty years of marriage; and she wanted me to set her favorite poem, Robert Frost’s immortal Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening . I was deeply moved by her spirit and her request, and agreed to take on the commission.
I took my time with the piece, crafting it note by note until I felt that it was exactly the way I wanted it. The poem is perfect, truly a gem, and my general approach was to try to get out of the way of the words and let them work their magic. We premiered the piece in Austin, October 2000, and the piece was well received. Rene Clausen gave it a glorious performance at the ACDA National Convention in the spring of 2001, and soon after I began receiving letters, emails, and phone calls from conductors trying to get a hold of the work. And here was my tragic mistake: I never secured permission to use the poem. Robert Frost’s poetry has been under tight control from his estate since his death, and until a few years ago only Randall Thompson (Frostiana) had been given permission to set his poetry. In 1997, out of the blue, the estate released a number of titles, and at least twenty composers set and published Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening for chorus. When I looked online and saw all of these new and different settings, I naturally (and naively) assumed that it was open to anyone. Little did I know that the Robert Frost Estate had shut down ANY use of the poem just months before, ostensibly because of this plethora of new settings.
After a LONG legal battle (many letters, many representatives), the estate of Robert Frost and their publisher, Henry Holt Inc., sternly and formally forbid me from using the poem for publication or performance until the poem became public domain in 2038. I was crushed. The piece was dead, and would sit under my bed for the next 37 years because of some ridiculous ruling by heirs and lawyers. After many discussions with my wife, I decided that I would ask my friend and brilliant poet Charles Anthony Silvestri (Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, Lux Aurumque, Nox Aurumque, Her Sacred Spirit Soars) to set new words to the music I had already written. This was an enormous task, because I was asking him to not only write a poem that had the exact structure of the Frost, but that would even incorporate key words from Stopping, like “sleep.” Tony wrote an absolutely exquisite poem, finding a completely different (but equally beautiful) message in the music I had already written. I actually prefer Tony’s poem now… And there it is. My setting of Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening no longer exists. And I won’t use that poem ever again, not even when it becomes public domain in 2038.
Program annotator for the Grant Park Music Festival, Dr. Richard E. Rodda received a prestigious 2010 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his program note for Elgar’s The Dream of Geronitius, published in the program book of the Festival. Dr. Rodda has also provided program notes for many of the world’s top orchestras and musical institutions and liner notes for numerous major and independent classical record labels. Dr. Rodda teaches at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Betinis: Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures (2005)
1 1. the bees’ song
Text by Walter de la Mare
Thousandz of thornz there be
On the Rozez where gozez
The Zebra of Zee:
Sleek, striped, and hairy,
The steed of the Fairy
Princess of Zee.
Heavy with blossomz be
The Rozez that growzez
In the thickets of Zee.
Where grazez the Zebra,
Of the Princess of Zee.
And he nozez that poziez
Of the Rozez that grozez
So luvez’m and free,
With an eye, dark and wary,
In search of a Fairy,
Whose Rozez he knowzez
Were not honeyed for he,
But to breathe a sweet incense
To solace the Princess
Of far-away Zee.
2 2. a noiseless, patient spider
Text by Walt Whitman
A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them — ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing
— seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d — till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
3 3. envoi
Text by Charles Swinburne
Fly, white butterflies, out to sea,
Frail, pale wings for the wind to try,
Small white wings that we scarce can see,
Some fly light as a laugh of glee,
Some fly soft as a long, low sigh;
All to the haven where each would be.
Kesselman: Buzzings: Three Pieces about Bees (1976)
Texts by Emily Dickinson
4 I. To make a prairie
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
5 II. A Bee his burnished Carriage
A Bee his burnished Carriage
Drove boldly to a Rose —
Combinedly alighting —
Himself — his Carriage was —
The Rose received his visit
With frank tranquility
Withholding not a Crescent
To his Cupidity —
Their moment consummated
Remained for him — to flee —
Remained for her — of rapture
But the Humility.
6 III. Bee! I’m expecting you!
Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due —
The Frogs got Home last Week —
Are settled, and at work —
Birds, mostly back —
The clover warm and thick —
You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me —
7 Whitacre: When David Heard (1998–1999)
Based on the King James translation of the Bible verse, II Samuel 18:33
When David heard that Absalom was slain he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept, and thus he said: My son, my son, O Absalom my son, would God I had died for thee!
Garrop: Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy (2004)
Texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay
8 I. Now by this moon, before this moon shall wane (from Collected Poems. Copyright 1931, © 1958 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis.*)
Now by this moon, before this moon shall wane
I shall be dead or I shall be with you!
No moral concept can outweigh the pain
Past rack and wheel this absence puts me through;
Faith, honour, pride, endurance, what the tongues
Of tedious men will say, or what the law —
For which of these do I fill up my lungs
With brine and fire at every breath I draw?
Time, and to spare, for patience by and by,
Time to be cold and time to sleep alone;
Let me no more until the hour I die
Defraud my innocent senses of their own.
Before this moon shall darken, say of me:
She’s in her grave, or where she wants to be.
*Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions
Company, Inc., on behalf of Holly Peppe, Literary Executor, The Millay Society, www.millay.org
9 II. Time does not bring relief; you all have lied (from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, — so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
bu III. I shall forget you presently, my dear
(from A Few Figs from Thistles, 1920)
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And oaths were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far, —
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.
1l Del Tredici: Acrostic Song from Final Alice (1974–1975)
Text by Lewis Caroll
Epilogue to Through the Looking Glass
A boat beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden dream —
Life, what is it but a dream?
Rorem: Seven Motets for the Church’s Year (1977, 1986)
12 I. While All Things Were in Quiet Silence
Antiphon of Matins, Christmas I
While all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, thine Almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down out of thy royal throne. Alleluia.
13 2. Before the Morning Star Begotten
Antiphon of Evensong, Epiphany
Before the morning star begotten, and Lord from everlasting, our Saviour is made manifest unto the world today.
14 3. Lay Up for Yourselves
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
15 4. Praise Him Who Was Crucified
Antiphon of Evensong in Easter Octave
Praise him who was crucified in the flesh; glorify him who for your sakes was buried; worship him who hath risen from the dead. He whom you seek among the dead now liveth; and the life of man with him hath arisen. Alleluia!
16 5. God Is Gone Up
Alleluia Verse of Ascension
God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. The Lord is among them as in the holy place of Sinai; he is gone up on high, he hath led captivity captive. Alleluia!
17 6. Today the Holy Spirit Appeared
Antiphon for the Magnificat of Whitsunday
Alleluia. Today the Holy Spirit appeared in fire to the disciples and bestowed upon them manifold graces; sending them into all the world to preach the Gospel and to testify; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Alleluia.
18 7. Rejoice We All in the Lord
Introit for All Saints
Rejoice we all in the Lord keeping holy day in honor of all the Saints; in whose solemnity the Angels rejoice and glorify the Son of God.
19 Whitacre: Sleep (2000)
Text by Charles Anthony Silvestri
Reprinted with the permission of the poet
The evening hangs beneath the moon,
A silver thread on darkened dune.
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon.
Upon my pillow, safe in bed,
A thousand pictures fill my head,
I cannot sleep, my mind’s aflight;
And yet my limbs seem made of lead.
If there are noises in the night,
A frightening shadow, flickering light;
Then I surrender unto sleep,
Where clouds of dream give second sight.
What dreams may come, both dark and deep,
Of flying wings and soaring leap
As I surrender unto sleep,
As I surrender unto sleep.
Christopher Bell enters his 11th season as Chorus Director of the Grant Park Music Festival in 2012. He serves as Chorusmaster for the Edinburgh Inter-national Festival and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus. He was largely responsible for the formation of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) in 1996 and serves as its Artistic Director.
Born in Belfast, Christopher Bell was educated at Edinburgh University and held his first post as Associate Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra between 1989 and 1991. Since then, he has worked with many of the major orchestras in the UK and Ireland, including the Royal Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish Symphony, Ulster, Scottish Chamber, City of London Sinfonia, and London Concert.
Christopher Bell was Chorusmaster of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra between 1989 and 2002 and was the first Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union. For six years he directed the TOTAL Aberdeen Youth Choir, undertaking touring and recordings as well as many concerts in the Northeast of Scotland. He was the first Artistic Director of the Ulster Youth Choir between 1999 and 2004, a group he developed into a critically acclaimed ensemble. Through his leadership, the National Youth Choir of Scotland has performed at the London Proms and Edinburgh International Festival, and made numerous recordings and broadcasts on BBC radio.
For his work with singers (particularly with young vocalists) in Scotland, Christopher Bell received a Scotsman of the Year (2001) award for Creative Talent. In 2003, he was awarded the Charles Groves Prize for his contribution to cultural life in Scotland and the rest of the UK. For his services to choral music, Bell was awarded an honorary Master of the University in 2009 from the United Kingdom’s innovative Open University.
Grant Park Music Festival
The Grant Park Music Festival is dedicated to providing the public with free, high-quality orchestral performances through the presentation of classical music concerts. Founded by the Chicago Park District in 1935 and co-presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs since 2001, the festival is the nation’s only remaining free, municipally funded outdoor classical music series. In addition to performing an array of classical repertoire, the festival is known for its focus on contemporary American music. The Grant Park Music Festival runs for ten consecutive weeks each summer.
Grant Park Chorus
Resident ensemble with the Grant Park Orchestra for Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, the Grant Park Chorus was formed in 1962 by Thomas Peck, who led the group until his death in 1994. His protégé, Michael Cullen, then led the chorus until 1997, after which a series of guest conductors worked with the ensemble until 2002. An international search resulted in the appointment of current Chorus Director, Christopher Bell, who is also founder of Chicago’s Apprentice Chorale, which features some of the most talented young vocalists from DePaul and Roosevelt Universities.
The Grant Park Chorus is a fully professional ensemble. In addition to frequent solo appearances and teaching careers, members of the Grant Park Chorus perform in such acclaimed ensembles as Chicago a cappella, the William Ferris Chorale, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Choruses.
Katherine Gray Noon
Angela Presutti Korbitz
Total Time: 60:42
Producer: James Ginsburg
Engineers: Eric Arunas, Bill Maylone
Patch Session Director: Carlos Kalmar
Cover: Lurie Garden, looking toward the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Chicago Kristy Lapidus, Ransacked Muse Photography (www.ransackedmuse.com)
Back Cover: photo by Norman Timonera
Recorded: in concert at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, Chicago, June 28 and 30, 2011
Graphic Design: Nancy Bieschke
Betinis: Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures © 2005 Abbie Betinis (abbiebetinis.com). All Rights Reserved
Kesselman: Buzzings © 1977 Lee Kesselman (kesselmanpress.com)
Whitacre: When David Heard © 2000, Sleep © 2002 Walton Music Corporation (waltonmusic.com). International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved
Garrop: Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy © 2004 Stacy Garrop (garrop.com). All Rights Reserved
Del Tredici: Acrostic Song from Final Alice © 1978 Boosey & Hawkes
Rorem Seven Motets for the Church’s Year © 1988 Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. Copyright for All Countries. All Rights Reserved.
© 2012 Cedille Records/Cedille Chicago