15 November 2011

War & Peace

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir presents:
War and Peace
Friday, November 18, 7:30 pm
Trinity Lutheran Church, 1904 Winnebago St.
Tickets:  $14 advance/$16 door (Students $10) 
Available from Orange Tree Imports, Brown Paper Tickets, or www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org

This fall, as Americans reflect on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir presents a timely concert on the theme “War and Peace.” Featured works include Charles Ives’s monumental Psalm 90, Lee Hoiby’s Last Letter Home, Maurice Ravel’s Trois beaux oiseaux du paradis,  Rudolf Mauersberger’s Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst, Tokuhide Niimi’s Rainbow over Hiroshima, and J. S. Bach’s Dona nobis pacem, the glorious final movement of Bach’s B-minor Mass.

In addition to the musical offerings by the WCC, this event will include an exhibition of “Spirit Boxes” by Madison photographer/artist Andre Ferrella. As part of Ferrella’s ongoing project, The Rise of the Fallen, his Spirit Boxes commemorate those who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ferrella’s work has been praised by critics worldwide for its evocative and timeless qualities. For further information about Ferrella’s project, visit www.theriseofthefallen.org.

Throughout history, artists and composers have confronted the issues of war and peace, conflict and resolution, violence and community. The WCC’s November 18 concert will be structured around five conflicts that have found particular resonance in music: the Thirty Years War in seventeenth-century Europe, The U.S. Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the American war in Iraq.

The program opens with a pair seventeenth-century works: Verleih uns Frieden (“Grant Us Peace”) by Heinrich Schütz, composed amid the devastation of the Thirty Years War in Germany; and Jean Baptiste Lully’s Jubilate Deo, subtitled “La motet pour la paix” (“The Motet for the Peace”), a grand work written in celebration of the Peace of the Pyrenees that marked the end of hostilities between France and Spain in 1680.

Beat, Beat, Drums, by American composer Howard Hanson, sets a passage from Walt Whitman’s famous Civil War poem, Drum Taps. In a contrasting mood, Oh For Such a Dream by Wisconsin native Daron Hagen, brings to life the words of Ann Smith, whose poignant letter to her husband David expresses her longing for him to return from the battlefield, and her foreboding that “now there are to be thousands more dragged from their homes.”

In 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, American composer Charles Ives penned the choral song He is There! in support of the war effort. With its quotations of no fewer than eleven patriotic tunes, this rousing march-like piece shows the folksy side of Ives’s temperament. In a more serious vein, Psalm 90 is Ives’s masterpiece in the choral genre, and his own favorite work. Although not directly related to a specific world event, Psalm 90 portrays a powerful progression from dense cluster chords that depict notions of wrath and destruction, to a serene ending that exudes peace and contentment.

Choral fans are familiar with Herbert Howells’s moving anthem, Like as the Hart, but many may not be aware that this piece, along with three other anthems composed at the same time, represent Howells’s response to the Nazi blitzkrieg against London, during which Howells was bombed out of his house and had to retreat to the countryside. The WCC presents a rare performance of the last anthem of this set, Let God Arise. Near the end of World War II, the German choral conductor Rudolf Mauersberger composed a different sort of response to the war. After the unprecedented firebombing of Dresden on February 13, 1945, in which a number of Mauersberger’s own choir boys perished—along with tens of thousands of additional civilians—Mauersberger was compelled to compose Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst, (“How Desolate Sits the City”) using verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah to bemoan the utter destruction of “Florence on the Elbe,” as Dresden had been known until that day. Halfway around the world the Japanese people experienced an even more gruesome fate in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Contemporary Japanese composer Tokuhide Niimi composed his extended choral work, Inori-no Niji (“Rainbow from God”) as a memorial both to the destruction of Hiroshima and to the city’s rebirth in the decades since the war. The WCC presents the final movement from this compelling work, sung in the original Japanese.  

Last Letter Home, composed by Madison native Lee Hoiby, brings the topic of war up to date. Written in 2006, the work is a setting of a letter by Jesse Givens, Private First Class, to his wife Melissa, son Dakota, and unborn child Carson. Givens was killed in Iraq in 2003 and his letter reached Melissa in the maternity ward. Hoiby’s music captures the warmth and the tragedy of Givens’s incredibly moving words.

J. S. Bach’s uplifting Dona nobis pacem, the final movement of Bach’s Mass in B-minor, follows the Hoiby as a final prayer for peace.

Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of repertoire ranging from Bach oratorios, a cappella masterworks, and world-premieres. Writing in the Isthmus, critic John Barker praised the choir’s 2010 rendition of Bach’s St. John Passion as “a remarkably consistent, coherent, and artistically splendid achievement.” Dr. Robert Gehrenbeck is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s artistic director.

05 August 2011

An Audition Message From Bob

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir is accepting new members in all voice parts for the 2011/12 season. We are especially interested in auditioning new basses and tenors for the choir. We rehearse on Tuesday evenings at First United Methodist Church, downtown Madison. Our season runs from September through May and features three concerts.

The highlight of our coming season will be a performance of Maurice Duruflé’s moving Requiem on March 23rd at First Congregational Church, with organist Ted Reinke. The same program will include Francis Poulenc’s powerful Four Motets for the Time of Penitence. On June 3rd, in a concert entitled “Bernstein and Friends,” we’ll perform Chichester Psalms along with music by composers whom Bernstein championed as a conductor, including Beethoven, Schumann, and Aaron Copland—a mix of serious works and lighter fare.

This coming fall, in observance of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, our first concert (on November 18th) reflects on the theme “War and Peace.” In addition to several pieces written directly in response to 9/11, there will be music by Handel, Howells, Britten, Ravel, and Charles Ives, including Ives’ incredible Psalm 90. Ives’ own favorite work, Psalm 90 progresses from dense cluster chords that depict notions of wrath and destruction, to a serene ending that exudes peace and contentment and which sounds a bit like Aaron Copland (but composed long before Copland sounded like this).

Auditions will be held on three Tuesdays in August: August 9, 16, and 23, 2011 at First United Methodist Church. For further information, and to schedule an audition, visit http://www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org/auditions.html.

Best regards,

Bob Gehrenbeck

Artistic Director, Wisconsin Chamber Choir


03 August 2011

Looking for a Few Good Tenors (and Basses and more!)

Are you interested in singing with the Wisconsin Chamber Choir? 

We are accepting new members in all voice parts for the 2011-2012 season. We seek capable singers with excellent sight-reading skills who are willing to commit to all rehearsals and concerts. Auditions will take place on August 9, 16, and 23, 2011, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, downtown Madison. For information or to schedule an audition date/time, please email our director, Robert Gehrenbeck 
To find out more information click HERE

We hope you'll lend your voice to ours!

30 July 2011

A Quick Look Back at Music & the Natural World

Last season put us in touch with our natural side.  We found the beauty and the danges of losing our world around us through music.  We learned that music can show us so much about nature that our eyes cannot.  Let's touch back on last season's exploration of Music & the Natural World.

Our first concert of the season was "O Voluptuous Earth" on November 19th, 2010.  Pieces sung at this concert were both sacred & secular in nature (and about nature.)  Some songs, like "The World is Too Much" & "Nature's Cry" (which was the world premiere for this piece) reminded us that this world is too precious to squander.  We sang the hauntingly beautiful "Smile, O Voluptuous Cool Breathed Earth" and the calming tones of "Waldesnacht du Wunderkuhle."

The finale of the concert was Jean Belmont Ford's "Sand County" based on the work of Aldo Leopold.  This challenging 3 movement piece stretched us as a choir and then won us over with its harmonies and inspired us with Leopold's words.  It is easy to say that "Sand County" grew to be one of the choir's favorite pieces.  We were honored to sing it again on the 5th of March, 2011 at the Madison Sings Leopold event at the UW Arboretum Visitor's Center Auditorium.

On April 2nd, 2011, we joined with the Stoughton Chamber Singers and a professional orchestra to sing Haydn's masterpiece "The Creation" at the Madison Masonic Center.  We enjoyed lifting our voices in this historic building to sing this piece.  We would be remiss if we didn't mention our fabulous soloists on that fantastic night: Deanna Horjus-Lang, Brian Leeper, and J. Adam Shelton singing the angel's parts and Michael Roemer as Adam, and WCC member Madeline Olson as Eve.

The final concert of the season paid tribute to native cultures and their love for nature and music.  On May 20th, 2011 we performed the music of many native american tribes, maori songs, five movements of Dvorak's "In Nature," and as title piece of the night and also the title of our concert "She is One of Us" by Brent Micheal Davids.  We were honored to have Mr. Davids perform his piece with us.  Other notable guest performers were Karl Levine principle cellist with the Madison Symphony and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra who honored us as we sang "Sky Loom" another of Jean Belmont Ford's beautiful works, and Tim Fish, a Muscogee Creek dancer who regularly appears in leading roles at Native American events in Wisconsin and beyond.  Mr. Fish performed a 10 minute music and dance interlude at the concert that everyone enjoyed.  It was a fun and educational night for all of us.

It is safe to say that we all had a wonderful season and learned so much, musically and about the world around us.  We hope you were able to share this experience with us & will share your thoughts about the season in the comment section.  If you like to relive the season a little, videos can be found on our facebook page.  Or check out our website.

We are now looking ahead to another amazing season with the WCC and hope that you will come along with us on another musical journey!

*A short apology from our choir blogger.  I caught strep throat on the week of our final concert and was unable to finish the blogging for that week.  Our new season will be starting in Sept. and then we'll be back better than ever!

16 May 2011

She is One of Us Spotlight: Maori Songs & Jenny McLeod

Its concert week! All this week we'll be spotlighting different aspects of the concert that you will enjoy on Friday. Don't forget to purchase your tickets by clicking the Brown Paper Ticket link on the left.
Three Maori Songs, composed and arranged by Jenny McLeod
notes by Miranda Johnson
 As part of the ‘She is One of Us’ concert, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir will be singing three songs in the Maori language, composed or arranged by the New Zealand composer Jenny McLeod. ‘E Te Ariki’ (‘O Lord’) is an arrangement of a well-known Maori hymn, in this version with a descant. McLeod has arranged many Maori hymns for the tribe of which she is a member, Ngati Rangi. The tribe is Catholic and often performs at the annual ‘Hui Aranga’, an annual event that fosters a Maori Catholic community throughout New Zealand through dance and choral competitions. ‘Kia Hora te Marino’ is based on a traditional Maori proverb. It has been attributed to Rangawhenua, a late nineteenth-century prophet who peacefully opposed the land dispossession of Maori people in New Zealand. ‘Nau te Hau’ is McLeod’s own composition and lyrics. She explained to me recently that it is a vocal arrangement of the end them of the 1985 film, ‘The Silent One’, for which she composed the music. As she puts it, the music is accompanied in this version, ‘with some simple Maori words relating directly to the natural world, more or less along the lines of a hymn.’
McLeod is one of New Zealand’s leading composers and, although Pakeha (a descendant of white settlers), has long been involved in composing music around Maori themes and with Maori lyrics. Since becoming a member of Ngati Rangi, she has arranged many Maori hyms and is currently involved in the staging of an opera based on nineteenth-century historical events concerning Ngati Rangi leaders and others. She studied in Paris with Messaien in the late 1960s and was a Professor of Music at Victoria University of Wellington in the 1970s before giving that up to focus on composition and, later, writing about music theory.

Read more HERE

03 May 2011

She is One of Us - Press Release

Wisconsin Chamber Choir presents:
She Is One of Us—Native American Composers, Poets, and Dancers
Friday, May 20, 7:30 pm
Trinity Lutheran Church
1904 Winnebago St.
Tickets: $12 advance/$15 door (Students $10/$12)
Available from Orange Tree Imports, Brown Paper Tickets, or www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org

Featured guest artists:
Brent Michael Davids, composer and crystal flute
Timothy Fish, dancer
Karl Lavine, cello

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s spring concert celebrates Native American composers, poets, and dancers, including music by Brent Michael Davids, Louis Ballard, Jean Belmont Ford, Jenny McLeod, and Antonín Dvořák, and a special appearance by Timothy Fish, a dancer from the Muscogee Creek nation. The concert, part of the WCC’s year-long exploration of “Music and the Natural World,” will emphasize humanity’s interconnection with nature through the powerful music and words of the WCC’s Native American guest artists.

The centerpiece of the May 20th concert program is the choral work, She Is One of Us by Mohican composer Brent Michael Davids, on a text by Muscogee poet Joy Harjo. Davids is a renowned composer of symphonic, choral, and film music who was born in Madison, and grew up on the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican reservation in north-central Wisconsin. His music has been commissioned and performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, the Joffrey Ballet, Chanticleer, and The Dale Warland Singers.

Davids will appear with the WCC as a performer on crystal flute, a unique instrument featured in many of Davids’s choral works. According to Davids, She Is One of Us celebrates “the Earth and her resiliency despite human negligence. Sometimes sparse, sometimes rich, sometimes harsh, sometimes gorgeous, She Is One of Us uses many vocal techniques including whisper singing, speaking, and specific Native American vocal sounds.” As part of his residency with the WCC, Davids will also visit area schools.

Timothy Fish is a Muscogee Creek dancer who regularly appears in leading roles at Native American events in Wisconsin and beyond. His performance at the WCC’s May 20 concert will introduce the audience to the fascinating world of traditional Native American ritual and dance.

Alongside the performances by Brent Michael Davids and Timothy Fish, the WCC’s program includes other choral works inspired by Native American music and poetry, as well as music by aboriginal composers from around the world.

A prayer of the Tewa people inspired Sky Loom, a moving choral work by Kansas City composer Jean Belmont Ford. Sky Loom is scored for choir and a cellist “who walks with the singers like a companion, or a spirit that supports and illuminates.” Our performance will feature Karl Lavine, principal cellist with the Madison Symphony and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. The text of Sky Loom interweaves the words of the Tewa with excerpts from treaties recorded between Native Americans and European settlers. The composer writes, “There is an irony in the lack of correspondence between the treaty text and actual historical practice. Nevertheless, the words remain as a constant reminder of aspiration and responsibility.”

Widening the focus to include music from other aboriginal cultures, the WCC’s May 20 concert features a set of Maori songs by New Zealand composer Jenny McLeod. A former student of Olivier Messiaen and currently one of New Zealand’s leading composers, McLeod has become closely associated with the Maori people, whose texts and melodies she utilizes in the selections performed by the WCC.

In a bow to traditional choral repertoire, the WCC presents a rare, complete performance of Antonín Dvoák’s choral song cycle, In Nature. During an extended visit to the US in the 1890s, Dvoák championed Native American music and musicians, and repeatedly asserted that his own compositions were influenced by Native American music, including the New World Symphony.

Two shorter works round out the program: Now I Walk in Beauty, a round based on a Navaho prayer, and Hanacpachap, the first piece of polyphonic music published in the Western Hemisphere. Printed in Peru in 1631, this short prayer is composed in the style of a Latin motet, with words in Quechua, the language spoken by the ancient Incas and by millions of people today. The composer of Hanacpachap is unknown, but was likely a Quechua-speaking Native American student working at a church in Andahuaylas, Peru.

The WCC’s May 2011 concert is the capstone of our 2010/11 season which also included choral music about nature from the Romantic era, and a critically acclaimed performance of Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation. At our May 20 concert, together with our Native American guest artists, the WCC will present a rare, culturally significant opportunity to appreciate and participate in the rich traditions of our Native American fellow travelers on the road to an environmentally sustainable future.  

25 April 2011

Getting to Know Us: Natalie H.

Getting to know us is a chance for our audience to get to know the person behind to face, behind the voice that brings them beautiful music when they attend our concerts.  We'd love for everyone to "make friends" with us!

Today we'd like to introduce you to Natalie H., one of our fabulous altos.  If you have been to our first two concerts of the year, you might recognize Natalie.  She performed a Charles Ives solo, Yellow Leaves, at our November concert, O Voluptuous Earth, and she also sang the alto solo in the final movement of Haydn's The Creation.  

Natalie joined the WCC this year after moving to Wisconsin last year.  The WCC was one of the first singing groups she found, and she's glad she found us because of the fun repertoire this year and how super friendly we are.

Natalie has loved the caliber of music that we sing. She told me that the pieces are challenging in either the harmonies, rhythm, language, or all of the above, and she's never bored when singing with WCC. "Also, everyone in the group is very welcoming. It's like sitting down to sing with your family, except that everyone in it is great at sight reading."Natalie also mentioned that this year's focus on nature really appeals to her, too, since she has always loved the outdoors and preserving it.

Natalie's parents always encouraged her singing and her love of performing.  Her mom sang a lot in her youth and her dad was involved with the performing arts in high school.  She started singing in church choir when she was a little kid and always enjoyed singing and acting. The first thing she ever wanted to be when she grew up was an actress. 

In her own words, Natalie shared some more about her musical experiences: "I learned how to read music playing the flute in band class in middle school and took choir classes at the same time. I switched to just choir when I got to high school because of schedule conflicts. I started taking voice lessons at 14 years old and competing in local competitions. I performed mostly main roles in plays and musicals throughout high school and joined the school's advanced choir.

When it came time for college, I decided to go into opera instead of my original plan of paleontology (I'm secretly a big nerd). I decided I just couldn't live without music being a huge part of my life. I earned my Bachelors in Classical Voice from Roosevelt University. I started performing in operas and choirs my sophomore year of college and I have continued to do so ever since. Some of the groups I have performed with are Da Corneto Opera Company, Music by the Lake, Grant Park Apprentice Chorale, Heartland Voices, and Kane Community Opera. I'm currently singing with the Madison Festival Choir as well as the Wisconsin Chamber Choir. I'm also performing in Music by the Lake's "Brigadoon" this summer."  

It is very impressive & the WCC is grateful to have Natalie in our ranks!

Like Jennifer (and many of us in the choir) Natalie's favorite piece we've sung was Jean Belmont Ford's Sand County.  She says, "I really fell in love with Belmont's Sand County. It speaks of everything that I learned about and valued in my childhood on the nature walks with my dad. The harmonies are absolutely gorgeous and I've always held back tears at the very end of every time we've performed it."

What does Natalie do when she's not sharing her beautiful voice?  Well, during the day she is an Assistant Director of an after-school tutoring program for elementary students. For her it's really rewarding to change a little bit of the world during the day through education and change it through song at night.
In her few quiet moments Natalie is currently writing a medieval fantasy novel in my spare time. She also enjoy drawing and painting when she find the inspiration, and she have an active art gallery online. She sometimes volunteer at Blackhawk Farms racetrack with her boyfriend. He stewards for the race course and she help out taking calls from the corners in the main control tower. She is also addicted to the outdoors and will go fishing whenever she get the chance.

And now, the Lightening Round!

Color: any shade of blue
Food: macaroni and cheese
period in history: Renaissance Era or Pioneer Age
time of year: Summer
Famous dead person you'd like to meet: Jim Morrison
Composer you'd like to meet: Schubert or Whitacre
Book: anything by Neil Gaiman
Movie: Gladiator
Come hear Natalie & the rest of the WCC, She is One of Us, Friday, May 20th at 7:30pm at Trinity Lutheran.