Sweet dreams and nightmares

september 15, 2018


Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) - Billy Joel (b. 1949) , Arr. Philip Lawson (b. 1957)

Billy Joel wrote “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” in 1993, dedicated to and inspired by his daughter, Alexa Ray Joel. The lyrics express the strong bond between a parent and child, as he tries to answer his young daughter’s difficult questions about death. He sings, “I think I know what you’ve been asking me/I think you know what I’ve been trying to say/I promised I would never leave you/and you should always know/wherever you may go, no matter where you are/I never will be far away.” In an interview discussing this song, Joel said, “reassuring children that they are not alone or could be abandoned is very important to their well-being.” Philip Lawson’s 2005 arrangement of this piece captures its sweet and soothing qualities, and has become a classic repertoire choice of the renowned group, The King's SIngers.

Lulajże, Jezuniu - Steven Stucky (1949-2016)

This is one of three lullabies in a set by Steven Stucky, called Cradle Songs, commissioned for Chanticleer. The text comes from a famous Polish Christmas carol that is often sung at the Christmas Eve midnight service.  However, the music is Stucky's own and will sound unfamiliar to those who know the traditional carol.  Stucky passed away from illness within a few years of creating the composition.


Lullaby, Jesus, my pearl.

Lullaby, my beloved darling.

Lullaby, our beautiful little angel,

Lullaby, the world's graceful flower.

Lullaby, fanciest little rose,

Lullaby, sweetest little lily.

Stelle , vostra mercè - Mason Bates (b. 1977)

Bates’ “Stelle, vostra mercè l’eccelse sfere” is excerpted from his larger work Sirens, written for famed vocal ensemble Chanticleer. Sirens is a cycle of songs exploring music of seduction. Although the sirens in mythology are often creatures beckoning seafarers to their demise, this particular text - a 16th century sonnet by Pietro Aretino - is a love poem, wherein the stars each have their own siren, emanating their pure, perfect harmonies.

Stelle, vostra mercè l’eccelse sfere  Stars, thanks to you the lofty spheres,

Dette del Ciel Sirene hanno concesso  known as the heavenly Sirens,

A lei non solo in belle note altere,  not only granted their name itself

Come titol gradito, il nome istesso,  as a lovely title, they even imprinted,

Ma de le lor perfe e armonie vere  the sound of their perfect harmonies

Con suprema dolcezza il suono impresso  with sublime sweetness

Ne le sue chiare e ne e voci: ond’ella  on her clear voices, so that she speaks

Quasi in lingua de gli Angioli favella. almost in the language of angels.

The Runner - Bob Chilcott (b. 1955)

“The Runner” is from Bob Chilcott’s larger work, The Modern Man I Sing. The text for the entire work is pulled from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Chilcott credits “The Runner” as being the piece that spurred his professional career as a composer.

This tuneful and rhythmic setting of poetry speaks of the middle class worker during the Industrial Revolution in America.

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (The Spirit helps us in our weakness) is notable in that unlike J.S. Bach’s other motets, we have a vast amount of primary source evidence regarding the work’s genesis. Der Geist hilft, for double chorus, was written and premiered in October 1729 for the burial ceremonies of Johann Heinrich Ernesti, the rector of St. Thomas’s School and a professor of poetry at Leipzig University. The piece demonstrates Bach’s prolific writing capabilities: Ernesti died on October 16, 1729—the motet was performed at his burial just a week later, on October 24. One might suspect that the public and ceremonial nature of the rector’s burial would be reason for the rather upbeat and joyful nature of the work. The main texts, from Romans 8, were chosen by Ernesti for the funeral sermon, and they reflect a welcome look toward death—one in which all doubt can be dispelled through a trust in the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, 
The spirit comes to help our weakness,
denn wir wissen nicht, 
For we do not know
was wir beten sollen, 
What we should pray,
wie sich's gebühret;
As we ought to pray;
sondern der Geist selbst vertritt 
But the spirit itself pleads
uns aufs beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen.
For us in the best way with inexpressible groans.
Der aber die Herzen forschet, der weiß, 
But he who searches our hearts knows
was des Geistes Sinn sei; 
what the Spirit means
denn er vertritt die Heiligen nach dem, 
since he pleads for the saints
das Gott gefället. 
In the way that pleases God.

Underneath the Stars - Kate Rusby (b. 1973), Arr. Jim Clements (b. 1983)

“Underneath the Stars” was originally composed by English folk musician, Kate Rusby, and was featured on her fourth studio album in 2003. This beautiful vocal adaptation of Rusby’s song was arranged by Jim Clements for the London-based ensemble, VOCES 8, and is featured on their album, ‘Eventide’. It captures the innocence and pain of love gained and lost, as well as the longing and wondering that follows.

Abendlied, Op. 69, No. 3 - Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

“Abendleid”, or “Evening Song”, is one of the few well-known choral works by Rheinberger. Written when the composer was only 16 years, it has since become a miniature choral gem. Rheinberger harkens Luke 24:29, in which a pair of disciples request that a stranger they have met on their travels to stay with them through the night. “Abendlied” shares lyrical similarities with the widely known English hymn, “Abide With Me”.


Bide with us, for evening shadows darken, and the day will soon be over.

Allemande from “Partita” - Caroline Shaw (b. 1982)

The score’s inscription reads: “Partita is a simple piece. Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music, and of our basic desire to draw a line from one point to another.”

Each movement takes a cue from the traditional baroque suite in initial meter and tone, but the familiar historic framework is soon stretched and broken, through “speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies, and novel vocal effects” (Pulitzer jury citation) Allemande opens with the organized chaos of square dance calls overlapping with technical wall drawing directions of the artist Sol LeWitt, suddenly congealing into a bright, angular tune that never keeps its feet on the ground for very long. There are allusions to the movement’s intended simulation of motion and space in the short phrases of text throughout, which are sometimes sung and sometimes embedded as spoken texture. Of the premiere of Partita, New York magazine wrote that I had “discovered a lode of the rarest commodity in contemporary music: joy.” And it is with joy that this piece is meant to be received in years to come.

-Note by the composer, edited by M. Cramer

Idumea - Arr. Richard Bjella (1826-1864)

Idumea, arranged by Richard Bjella, is an early American shape-note tune composed by singing school teacher Ananias Davisson (1780-1857), using the words from a hymn written by English hymnodist Charles Wesley (1707-1788). Idumea was first published in 1816 in Kentucky Harmony, the first Southern shape-note tunebook. Notably, the tune was used in the opening scene of the 2003 Civil War drama Cold Mountain to underscore a depiction of the Battle of the Crater.

Idumea (pronounced id-dzhoo-MEE-uh) is the Latin word for the Biblical region of Edom, which means “red”. It is a hilly area south of the Dead Sea, which is now Jordan. When Moses wanted to enter Caanan by way of Edom, its rulers would not let him in. 

The lyrics deal with thoughts of death, judgment, and the afterlife. Bjella’s arrangement starts with a single voice musing “And am I born to die?” and ends with Judgement Day imagery of “flaming skies”, reflected by text painting in the treble voices, whose melodic lines peak like flames.

Christus Vincit- James MacMillan (b. 1959)

MacMillan’s “Christus Vincit” is a double choir setting of a 12th-century text (Worcester Acclamation) written for St. paul’s Cathedral in London. The piece explores the full range of the human voice and experiments with lingering moments of silence, allowing the voices to reverberate throughout the spaces in which they are singing. MacMillan demonstrates a love for the vocal cadenza with melismatic passages for the ensemble, and glimmering moments of ornamentation given to the soprano soloist.


Christ conquers. Christ is King. Christ is Lord of all.

Beyond the Sea - Lawrence/Trenet, Arr. Alexander L’Estrange (b. 1974)

“Beyond the Sea” (otherwise known as “La Mer”), was originally written by french composer Charles Trenet. Jack Lawrence brought a more romantic setting of text to the tune in 1945, making it a smash hit on the Billboard charts. The song about a sailor, longing for his lover at home was originally sung by Bobby Darin.

British composer Alexander L’Estrange captures both Trenet’s love for the sea and Lawrence’s yearning for love in this arrangement. Scattered throughout the lush jazz harmonies, you’ll also hear some well placed sea chanties and sea songs. We hope you enjoy this clever arrangement as much as we do. (It’s one of our favorites!)