October 5, 2019

Written by Paul and Roxanne Curtis

Did someone say that there would be an end,
An end, Oh, an end, to love and mourning?
Such voices speak when sleep and waking blend,
The cold bleak voices of the early morning
When all the birds are dumb in dark November—
Remember and forget, forget, remember.

After the false night, warm true voices, wake!
Voice of the dead that touches the cold living,
Through the pale sunlight once more gravely speak.
Tell me again, while the last leaves are falling:
“Dear child, what has been once so interwoven
Cannot be raveled, nor the gift ungiven.”

Now the dead move through all of us still glowing,
Mother and child, lover and lover mated,
Are wound and bound together and enflowing.
What has been plaited cannot be unplaited—
Only the strands grow richer with each loss
And memory makes kings and queens of us.

Dark into light, light into darkness, spin.
When all the birds have flown to some real haven,
We who find shelter in the warmth within,
Listen, and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven,
As the lost human voices speak through us and blend
Our complex love, our mourning without end.

All Souls by May Sarton

Till Minne (In Memoriam), Nils Lindberg (b.1933)

Swedish born composer and pianist Nils Lindberg draws inspiration from the folksongs of his native Dalarna in his presentation of Till Minne. Lindberg’s elegy begins in monophonic octaves void of the constraints of text.  Imagine a gathering of old friends assembled to pay tribute to one that passed on before them. Each individual shares the common thread of basic memories or a thematic tune of the departed.  The piece builds in harmonious polyphonic warmth as deeper introspection reveals the variations of the individual memories. The basic melodic thematic memory persists while the gathered friends support it, weaving a harmonious tapestry of memory. Lindberg wrote arrangements for Duke Ellington and collaborated with other artists such as Josephine Baker, Mel Tormé and Judy Garland.  His choral, orchestral and jazz compositions have received international recognition.

Come. Sweet Death, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)/Conceived by Edwin London/Arr. Rhonda Sandberg

Originally written for basso continuo and solo voice, Komm, süßer Tod  (Come Sweet Death) was published in 1736 along with 69 Lutheran chorales and nearly 900 hymns by Georg Christian Schemelli (c.1676–1762).  The Musikalisches Gesangbuch (or Musical Songbook), consisted mainly of music that predated Bach, but this piece is believed to have been composed from scratch by Bach himself. Since it’s original composition, Komm, süßer Tod  has been lushly orchestrated as well as presented in this modernized setting by London and Sandberg.  The moving lyrics invite death to quickly and peacefully deliver the singers to heaven. 

Come, sweet death!

Come, soothing rest.

Come and lead me homeward.

I am weary of life and longing.

Come, I am waiting for thee,

Come now and set me free, 

My eyes at last are gently closing now.

Come blessed rest!

Sfogava con le Stelle, SV 78, Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

Monteverdi is accredited to stitching the seam between the styles of the Renaissance and the Baroque.  Sfogava con le Stelle ca. 1603, is from the fourth of nine published books of 5 voiced madrigals composed by the Italian born Monteverdi. The text, attributed to a poem by Ottavio Rinuccini uses a speech within a narrative empathetically extolling the plea of a lovesick man crying out to the evening stars for assistance in the reciprocation of his undying love. 

A lovesick man was                 

venting to the stars         

his grief, under the night sky.          

And staring at them he said:         

O beautiful images           

of my idol whom I adore,      

just as you are showing me

her rare beauty

while you sparkle so well,

so also demonstrate to her

my living ardour:

by your golden appearance you'd make her

compassionate, just as you make me loving."

Mother of God, Here I Stand, John Tavener (1944-2013)

Raised and musically nurtured in a London Presbyterian family, John Tavener began composition at an early age, although he initially aspired and studied to be a concert pianist at the Royal Academy of Music.  His compositional skill was first noticed upon the premier of his cantata The Whale in 1968, which was noticed by The Beatles who issued a recording of his works on their Apple label. He converted to Orthodox Christianity in 1977 under the influence of an Orthodox nun who consoled him upon the death of his mother. Following this conversion, much of Tavener’s work was centered around liturgical pieces. Tavener envisioned his music as prayer. 

"I want to go back to the primordial roots of art, as the Orthodox icon-painters do, back to worship." "Music and art can replace the gap that organized ritual has left us."

 Mother of God, Here I Stand is part of a 7 hour work, The Veil of the Temple, which presents aspects of world religions “like a gigantic prayer wheel.”  His work has been described as austere and transcendent, reflecting the mystical nature of his faith. 

Mother of God, here I stand now praying,

Before this icon of your radiant brightness,

Not praying to be saved from a battlefield,

Not giving thanks, nor seeking forgiveness

For the sins of my soul, nor for all the souls.

Numb, joyless and desolate on earth,

But for her alone, whom I wholly give you.

Rest, Text by Christine Rossetti (1830-1894), Ralph Vaughan Willams (1872-1958)

Ralph Vaughan Williams (pronounced Rafe, any other pronunciation used to drive him mad according to his wife), was an imposing bearlike man, who dressed “as though he was stalking the folk song to its’ lair.”  Vaughan Williams learned to play several instruments as a boy, but favored the violin. He studied at the Royal College of Music; where the instructors encouraged and reinforced his love of the English folk song and choral tradition.  After additional schooling at Cambridge, Vaughan Williams received his Doctor of Music degree in 1901. Soon after, he joined the English Folk Song Society, which proved to be the significant turning point in his life: he and his close friend Gustav Holst were inspired to “go out into the field” and collect native music in it’s purest form.  Vaughan Williams saturated himself in this idiom, and as a result, his compositions remained free of foreign musical influence. Vaughan Williams wrote music that was a perfect combination of his inner reflections as a man and his outward observations of his country’s musical culture.

By composing this music for the evocative poetry of Christina Rossetti, Vaughan Williams has created a masterful depiction of the soul’s journey from physical death to immortal paradise.  Vivid text painting and lush harmonies demonstrate the artistry, passion, and spirit of this truly original musician.

O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;

Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;

Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth

With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.

She hath no questions, she hath no replies,

Hushed in and curtained with a blessed dearth

Of all that irked her from the hour of birth;

With stillness that is almost Paradise.

Darkness more clear than noonday holdeth her,

Silence more musical than any song;

Even her very heart has ceased to stir:

Until the morning of Eternity

Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be:

And when she wakes she will not think it long.

Oh, You Wide Steppe, Arr. Alexander Levine (b. 1955)

The natural beauty of the countryside was commonly used as the subject in Russian folksong.  Songs often paid tribute to great Russian rivers such as the Dnieper and “Mother” Volga and to the sweeping open fields of the Eurasian steppe, a vast grassland stretching one fifth of the way around the Earth.  For thousands of years, this expansive flat, dry, grassy plain has served as one of the most important routes for travel and trade between Europe and Asia. The most famous trade route across the Eurasian steppe is the Silk Road established around 200 BC.  Considering the importance of this land feature to the peasant farmers and Russian villagers who originally voiced these songs, it is not surprising that they would choose to include it in their expressive music, marking the course of their daily lives.

Moscow born, Levine utilizes typical Russian Folksong style- a leader introduces the main theme, upon which the singers build a unique modulating complex contrapuntal embellishment to embody the boundless misty steppe.  The piece concludes with an echoed recapitulation of the original theme.

Oh you wide steppe,

Steppe wide,

Widely you, my mother-steppe,

Stretched out.

Oh, not the steppe eagle


Oh, that a Don Cossack


Oh, do not fly you, eagle,

Low to the group,

Oh, do not walk, Cossack,

Close to the beach!

MLK, Words and Music by U2, Arr. Bob Chilcott (b. 1955) 

Written for the 1984 release of the Irish band U2’s album “The unforgettable Fire”, the album’s final track MLK, is a tribute to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.  The bands leader Bono stated: “MLK” has been written “as sort of a lullaby for an idea that was dying in our country: the idea of non-violence…All inspired by a reverend from Atlanta who refused to hate because he thought love would do a better job.” 

Bob Chilcott, a twelve year member of the King’s Singers arranged this haunting and lovely lullaby augmenting Bono’s Irish style melody with rich gospel choral tones. 

Sleep, sleep tonight, 

and may your dreams be realized.

If the thundercloud passes rain

So let it rain, rain down on him.

So let it be.

Surrexit Christus, Andrew Smith (b. 1970)

Andrew Smith was born in Liverpool.  His compositions combine the two distinctive choral traditions of Great Britain and Norway.  Smith grew up surrounded by music: his father was an organist and his mother a cellist. Smith moved to Norway with his parents and siblings at the age of 14 where he would eventually study music and English at the University of Oslo.  Because he was a poor sight-reader, Smith focused more on music theory and composition which allowed him to put his musical ideas on paper. He draws much of his inspiration from Anglican Church music, and is particularly drawn to music representing human suffering, as he believes that physical and emotional pain are universally experienced, regardless of your religious views.  Surrexit Christus makes extensive use of plain chant juxtaposed against dissonant cluster chords providing an unusual poignant experience for the listener by linking traditional techniques with a contemporary idiom.

Christ is risen today,

He who became human to redeem us.

I grieve his death now two days past,

which he died for humankind.

Christ is risen,

Christ is risen,

Christ is risen today.

The women went to the tomb

to administer spices,

and angel in white

announced the joyful news.

Hurry, frightened women,

to Galilee

and tell the disciples

that the King of Glory is risen.

Christ is risen…

And they made haste

and told the disciples what the angel had said.

He is blessed today,

he who saved us by his blood.

Therefore let us praise the Lord

with joyful songs.

Praise to the Holy Trinity

and thanks be to God.

Christ is risen…

O Radiant Dawn, James MacMillan (b.1959)

James MacMillan is one of Scotland’s most well known composers. He grew up in a musical family and enjoyed playing in a local rock band as a teenager.  MacMillan has additionally maintained a deep love of Scottish music and still performs intermittently with a Scottish folk group known as the ‘Whistleblinkies.’ MacMillan grew up as a devout Catholic. As director of the amateur choir at St Columbia’s Church, Maryhill, in Glasgow and the Chamber choir of nearby Strathclyde University, MacMillan has composed a series of Strathclyde Motets to be sung during feast days and Advent communion Sundays.  The motets vary in complexity and tone. O Radiant Dawn is one of the simplest in composition, but darkest in mood.  The harmonies are stark, employing numerous suspensions and dissonance, which serve to heighten the listener’s desire for the dawn and crescendo to reflect the anticipation of Christ’s birth.

O Radiant Dawn, Splendor of eternal Light, Sun of Justice:

come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah had prophesied,

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone’

O Radiant Dawn…


Alleluia. Ascendit Deus. Dominus in Sina, William Byrd (1540-1623)

William Byrd was an English composer who excelled in almost every musical genre of his time.  As a boy, it is believed that Byrd was a student of Thomas Tallis; both composers enjoyed an unusual monopoly grant for the printing of music in England until Tallis’ death in 1585, where-upon the grant became the sole property of Byrd. 

Byrd was a staunch Catholic during a time when Protestants held extreme hostility towards Catholics:  so much so that Byrd’s views prevented him from holding important positions in the Anglican Church or providing compositions for its services.  Even so Byrd felt secure enough in his beliefs to publish music for the Catholic liturgy. This piece is a splendid example reflecting Byrd’s preoccupation with contrapuntal techniques often with the Soprano and Bass voices amplifying the underlying structure of the piece. 


God is ascended in jubilation:

and our Lord in the voice of trumpet.


Our Lord is in them, in Sina, in the holy place.

Thou art ascended on high,

thou has taken captivity captive.


They Are at Rest, Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Edward Elgar, possibly England’s most famous composer was a self- taught musician.  His father was a middle class owner of a music store in Worchester and aside from a few violin lessons, being middle class he could not afford a conservatory education for his son. Elgar played self- composed wind ensembles with his family on a bassoon, which he taught himself to play.  He also played violin in local orchestras and conducted the band at the lunatic asylum, playing dances, which he composed. He additionally was a church organist. He entered the work force at the age of fifteen to help support his family working as an assistant in a solicitor’s office, but resigned one year later to support himself as a freelance musician, never to hold a full time job again in his life. 

In American culture, Sir Edward Elgar is more popularly known as the father of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches played across the country at most High School commencement ceremonies.  He additionally composed concertos for violin and cello and two symphonies, oratorios, chamber music and approximately one hundred songs.  The anthem They are at Rest was a commissioned piece to be sung on the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death at the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore (Windsor) in 1910. The text is from stanzas 1 & 3 of a poem entitled REST  by Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890).  Elgar was knighted in 1904, received several honorary doctorates internationally and ironically asked to assume a music professorship despite never attending a university in his youth.

They are at rest;

We may not stir the heaven of their repose

By rude invoking voice, or prayer addrest in waywardness to those

Who in the mountain grots of Eden lie,

And hear the fourfold river as it murmurs by.

And soothing sounds

Blend with the neighbouring waters as they glide;

Posted along the haunted garden’s bounds, Angelic forms abide,

Echoing, as words of watch, o’er lawn and grove

The verses of that hymn which Seraphs chant above.

They are at rest.

The Seal Lullaby, Text by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)

The evolution of Eric Whitacre’s “Seal Lullaby” is unusually complex.  Whitacre had recently presented his show “Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings,” at a musical theatre workshop initiated by the legendary composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked).  Soon after, prompted by an enthusiastic recommendation from Schwartz, Whitacre was contacted by a major film studio to write the music for an animated feature based on Rudyard Kiplings “The White Seal”.  Whitacre was thrilled and based the text of his composition on the opening poem of Kipling’s classic story. The first draft was written and Whitacre sent it off, waiting anxiously for a reply……Weeks passed.  Whitacre finally contacted the studio begging to be told why his song had been rejected; they had decided to make “Kung Fu Panda” instead.  

Whitacre did nothing else with the piece other than sing it to his baby son every night.   Then a few years later a choral arrangement of the piece was commissioned by Stephen Schwartz and The Towne Singers, resulting in the piece you are hearing this evening.  

As you listen, enjoy the melodic rise and fall of the ocean waves and allow a sense of security and peace to settle upon your heart.

Oh! Hush thee, by baby, the night is behind us,

And black are the waters that sparkled so green.

The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us,

At rest in the hollows that rustle between

Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,

Oh weary wee flipperling, curl at they ease!

The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,

Asleep in the arms of the slow swinging seas!

Now Shall My Inward Joys Arise, William Billings (1746-1800), Text: Isaac Watts (1674-1748, Edited/Arranged by Dr. Brad Holmes

The hymn tune Africa was originally written without words by the Father of early American choral music, William Billings in 1770. Written in iambic quatrain (in couplets of eight and six syllables) the tune was readily adaptable to a variety of lyrics of the time. Billings later revised the hymn in 1778 and 1779 incorporating the lyrics written by the noted English hymnodist Isaac Watts.  Billings, a tanner by trade and self taught musician, was a friend of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere who engraved the printing plates of Billing’s New England Psalm-Singer, the first published collection of music by an American composer.

Isaac Watts who predated Billings is considered to be “The Father of English Hymnody”.  Prior to his influence, the text of English church singing was confined to biblical texts such as the Psalms.  Watts the son of Non-conformist broke from this tradition writing new poetry. His goal was to encourage the congregation to take an active role in worship, writing the well known hymns Joy to the World, O God, Our Help in Ages Past, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

Brad Holmes, has arranged Now Shall My Inward Joys Arise following the practice of the Sacred Harp recommended by Billings with some male singers on the treble, singing an octave down, and some female singers on the tenor part, singing an octave higher.  Holmes is currently the Director of Choral Programs at Millikin University in Decatur, IL, where he also conducts the University Choir known for their practice of advancing the ‘tonal diversity movement in choral singing.  Under his direction, the choir explores vocal approaches rooted in historical precedence and natural custom. Dr. Holmes received the M.M. degree in conducting from the University of New Mexico and the D.M.A. degree in choral music from Arizona State University. Prior to his appointment at Millikin, he was Associate Director of Choirs at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Now shall my inward joys arise

and burst into a song,

Almighty love inspires my heart,

and pleasure tunes my tongue.

God on His thirsty sion hill

some mercy drops has thrown,

And solemn oaths have bound His love

to shower salvation down.

Can a kind woman e’er forget

the infant of her womb,

among a thousand tender thoughts

her suckling have no room?

Yet, saith the Lord, “should nature change

and mothers monsters prove,

Sion still dwells upon the heart

of everlasting love.”

Why do we then indulge our fears,

suspicions and complaints?

Is He a God, and shall His grace

grow weary of His saints.

Ite missa est, Gabriel Jackson (b.1962)

Gabriel Jackson wrote Ite miss est for the New York Polyphony who first performed the piece at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, MO in 2012.  Bermuda born Jackson was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral who subsequently studied composition at the Royal College of Music where he won numerous awards.  Although especially well known for his choral works, particularly his liturgical pieces, Jackson has composed a number of instrumental pieces as well. 

Ite missa est are the concluding Latin words addressed to the people in the Mass of the Roman Rite or communion service and the Lutheran Devine Service. The tenor’s heraldic opening versicle ‘The Mass is ended- Go, you are dismissed’ is followed by a highly rhythmic celebratory responsive Deo Gratias section, ‘Thanks be to God.’

Go, the Mass is ended.

Thanks be to God!

Abide with Me, William  H. Monk (1823-1889), Text:  Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847), Arr. Moses Hogan (1957-2003)

Henry Lyte was born in Scotland, educated at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and was a member of the Church of England throughout his life.  He is fondly remembered as an English pastor who was frail in body, but strong in spirit. The last twenty-three years of his life, he was a minister to a poor parish among fishing people at Lower Brixham, Devonshire, England.  His health declining, Lyte wrote this hymn text accompanied by his own tune, shortly before delivering his final message to his congregation on September 4, 1847. It is reported that Lyte nearly crawled to the pulpit as a dying man and his congregation was deeply moved.

Lyte’s text was later discovered by William Monk, the well-known music editor of the Anglican hymnal and choir director-organist at King’s College London.  Monk was so inspired by Lyte’s text that he composed a new melody in less than thirty minutes, naming it Eventide.  

Incorporating Monk’s tune, this arrangement by Moses Hogan embellishes the original harmonies of the hymn with cadential suspensions that serve to highlight the ends of each stanza of text.  Verses one and three serve as the primary text: Hogan’s arrangement provides subtle rhythmic variety between these verses. He then creates a dramatic closing coda using the last verses of stanzas two and four, complete with sforzandos and a brilliant climax occurring on the word “death”, leading to a solitary note on “me” as the piece comes to a reassuring and peaceful close.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;

What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?

Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.