Featuring John Rutter’s Gloria, with guest artist Redline Quintet
A Brass Ring
Shape Note Hymns John Yankee
Babylon is Fallen
When Jesus Wept
Will You Go
Franz Schubert - German Mass
Giovanni Gabrielli - Chiar' angioletta
arr. John Yankee
John Rutter – Gloria
Saturday October 20, 2018 4PM
Sunday October 21, 2018 4PM
Simon Center for the Arts,
Falmouth Academy, Falmouth
The mission of the Falmouth Chorale is to share with our
audiences the joy of singing and to communicate with passion the marvelous and varied choral music which has been created over the centuries.
Guest artist Redline Quintet
Kyle Spraker, Nick Rubenstein, Phil Hyman, Chris Moore, Andrew Moreschi
Passionate Voices of the Upper Cape
Programmatic thoughts/reflections from John Yankee
John Yankee: Three Shape Note Hymns
In my early twenties, I became entirely smitten by shape note hymns—i.e., the music and practice in early American churches, introduced from England, in which the shapes of note heads (circles, squares, triangles, diamonds, etc.) help the singer identify pitches and hear intervals accurately. The shape note “singing schools” allowed rural congregations and communities to learn and produce music without instrumental aid or accompaniment. To me, the greatest appeal of this genre was the relationship between language and vocal line, both equally direct and uncomplicated. I was also struck by the hymn lyrics—their poetry, alliterations, text painting, and more—and mesmerized by the vocal writing: all parts, not just the melody, are interesting vocally and highly singable in their own right.
Three Shape Note Hymns demonstrates my zeal for this particular style of music. It was written for and premiered by the University of Pittsburgh Men’s Glee Club, which I was conducting at the time. In the version we will perform, there are minor adjustments to the original score, though I feel that little has been compromised. Women’s voices now double the male vocal lines at the octave; the organ accompaniment, with its demands on pedal technique, is rewritten for two pianists; and the solo trumpet part is now shared between trumpets and horn.
The opening hymn, Babylon, is bold and martial, delivering its dramatic story in powerful fashion. In William Billings’s When Jesus Wept, one can hear influences of the composer Olivier Messiaen in harmonic form and accompaniment textures. Will You Go? is a “wild ride,” marked by a fierce tempo and fervent text, with rhythmic and textural surprises throughout.
Franz Schubert: Deutsche Messe
I have always been challenged by this “People’s Mass” of Schubert’s—challenged in the first place to program a work with such unusual orchestration, but also to do so in a way that conveys the immediacy and appeal this work clearly has for audiences in his native Austria and other German-speaking countries. Comprising hymns that seem inevitable and almost folklike, the Deutsche Messe has a familiarity for Germanic peoples similar to the appeal of the music of Stephen Foster to Americans.
I saw this brass-based concert as a natural match for this work. Some adjustments in orchestration were required to bring out the effective instrumental colors, even without the woodwinds that are in the original score. But Schubert approved of and expected variations in accompaniment; his priority was simply to have the Deutsche Messe sung, played, and heard.
To meet the greater challenge of sharing this piece with our audiences in a way that would be immediate yet authentic, I decided that we would sing both the original German lyrics and the English translations throughout (the exception being “The Lord’s Prayer”). The excellent edition by John Dressler definitely influenced this choice: the translations are near-literal and stay aligned so that emphasized lyrics and expressive markings readily apply in either language.
I hope the end effect is similar to the work’s impact on those who know it from Schubert’s homeland: lyrical, inspiring, immediate, and assuring.
Giovanni Gabrieli: Chiar’ Angioletta
Most brass players (including me, an ex-trumpeter) would probably say that Gabrieli is the quintessential composer of music for brass. He brought out the splendor and potential of the instruments during the early Baroque period—mostly through his sacred, antiphonal (i.e., alternative, echoing statements) compositions to be performed in cathedrals. The selection for our concert, however, unlike most of the composer’s output, is secular. Chiar’ Angioletta is a madrigal, full of human expressions of love and adoration.
I very much enjoyed putting together this arrangement and bringing out some of Gabrieli’s signature effects. We might not have the choir lofts left and right that were standard in the great churches so that players and singers could sing across to each other for the “Glory of God.” Still, the amorous message—reaffirmed in the “echo”—comes across loud and clear.
Drawn from program notes by Loann Scarpato:
John Rutter: Gloria
Rutter’s compositional work was not taken very seriously in his native England in the 1960s and 1970s because his musical language is, as he puts it with some asperity, “rooted in tonality, with now and again an actual tune.” European musical circles at the time were ruled by the advocates of serial and twelve-tone compositional techniques, and they had no time for such outmoded concepts as “keys” and “melodies.” So Rutter was happy to receive a commission from the United States, where he believed his work might receive a more sympathetic hearing.
The commissioning group was The Voices of Mel Olson, a fine amateur concert choir in Omaha, Nebraska. Olson’s requirements were very specific: he requested a concert work for SATB chorus that would be accessible but challenging; that would be about twenty minutes long; that would use a familiar text, preferably a sacred one; that would have an instrumental accompaniment but not require a full orchestra, since there was no budget for that many players; that would require no professional soloists; and that would have “a positive, ‘upfront’ quality so that a non-specialist audience could enjoy it at first hearing.”
Far from being intimidated or constrained by these specifications, Rutter, with typical modesty, claims that the piece was practically written for him. He chose the Latin text of the Greater Doxology because of its familiarity and because the language would make it accessible to choirs all over the world. He chose brass choir, supplemented by organ and timpani, for the accompaniment because he believed that excellent brass players must be numerous in the American Midwest. He’d heard that there was a strong regional tradition of brass playing stemming from the large number of high school and college marching bands in that part of the country. (Indeed, many who grew up in that area remember that, if you wanted to hold your head up socially but couldn’t be a football player or a cheerleader, you had better be in the band.) Besides, Rutter says, alluding to the Nativity story that surrounds the Gloria in excelsis Deo, “The angels might play harps the rest of the year, but on Christmas night I’m sure they’d be playing trumpets.” And just to clinch the deal: “Decibel for decibel, you get best value out of a brass group.”
Rutter conducted the first performance himself. He has directed many choirs and founded one, the Cambridge Singers, who are featured on many recordings of his work. He expresses fondness for the thousands of nonprofessional singers who have performed his compositions through the decades: “The particular thing you get with adult amateur choruses, of course, is that sense of ‘I’ve had a rotten day at the office [but] I’m going to just get rid of it all tonight and go home feeling raised up at the end of my rehearsal.’”
Rutter has said that the three movements of the Gloria roughly correspond to the structure of a traditional symphony, and he describes their moods as “exalted, devotional and jubilant by turns.” He acknowledges the influences of William Walton in the first movement, of Stravinsky in the second, of Poulenc in the third, and of Gregorian chant threading through the whole. He is openly proud of his eclecticism: “It’s not my gift to be an explorer, opening the way to new sound worlds, new kinds of musical expression. I’m more of a magpie. I gather sounds in the air around me and in some sort of way make them my own. I think what I’ve probably been brought into the world to do is to cheer people up. And maybe to bring consolation. And healing [alluding to his Requiem]. [B]ut there’s also a need for joy—which is always there, always waiting to be released into our midst.”