Archive for the ‘Bach’ Category

KSS in London Free Press

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Singers give voice to 'points of light'
KSS was featured in an article in the London Free Press today.

“To illuminate a season-opening concert, the Karen Schuessler Singers are revisiting one of their favourites.

“‘The title of the concert itself comes from the last piece on the program – Voices of Light by Paul Halley,’ artistic director Karen Schuessler says of Saturday’s program at Wesley-Knox church. ‘It’s an ecstatic interchange between piano, choir and flute. The last time we performed this piece was at our 10th anniversary concert. The music carries you along, and it builds and builds.’

“UWO Don Wright music faculty professor Fiona Wilkinson guests on flute. She has recorded the Halley work with the Guelph Chamber Choir, directed by her faculty colleague Gerald Neufeld, on its Christmas-themed album Good Cheare.

“‘It does sound like pinpoints of light,’ Wilkinson says of the beautiful, demanding work. ‘It’s so fast, the technique, that it does sound like points of light popping through the upper register.'”

Read the rest of the article, here.

Choristers’ Favorite Pieces from Voices of Light

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Voices of Light dress rehearsal
KSS will be presenting the first concert of our 2010/2011 season – Voices of Light – on Saturday night. Here are some of the choristers’ favorite pieces from the program.

Says one of the singers about Morten Lauridsen’s Magnum Mysterium: “Such a beautiful & moving piece of music.”

Listen for yourself to the University of Utah Singers performing this piece, which uses the beautiful O magnum mysterium text. Says Lauridsen himself: “This affirmation of God’s grace to the meek and the adoration of the Blessed Virgin are celebrated in my setting through a quiet song of profound inner joy.”

Says another singer: “Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium contains rich harmonies that are wonderful to sing. It has an ethereal quality as the melody develops, winding its way from one voice to another. My hope is that the audience will be drawn into our experience and transported to another plane.”

Yet another singer loves singing Lauridsen’s rich harmonies. The same singer also likes Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque because it has “intriguing harmonies and it sounds kind of ethereal.” Learn more about Lux Aurumque here.

Randall Thompson’s Choose Something Like a Star from Frostiana is another favorite. Listen to the Harvard University Choir singing it, below. (This video also features the lyrics.) One signer calls it “up close to heaven!”

Says another singer: “The music of The Magnificat by Pergolesi [actually by Francesco Durante, formerly attributed to Pergolesi] is quite exquisite, featuring the talented string ensemble that is joining us for this concert. It’s also a thrill to hear individual choir members as our soloists, highlighting some of the talent hidden within our ranks.”

Here’s a video of the opening movement – a baroque delight.

Paul Halley’s Voices of Light – the program finale – merits mention as well: “With Fiona Wilkinson’s amazing interpretation, fingers flying over the keys of her flute, Ron Fox on the organ & the choir soaring, it’s a musical experience unto itself.”

One chorister sums up the program this way: “Once again, Karen has woven together yet another interesting program to challenge the choir & entertain our audience.” Check out the entire program, below.

Bach – Break forth, o beauteous heavenly light (German/English)

Mendelssohn – There shall a star come forth (Christus)

Whitacre – Lux Aurumque

Bach (Kuhnau) – Cantata #142 for Christmas Day

Lauridsen – O Magnum Mysterium

Pergolesi (Durante) – Magnificat

Thompson – Choose Something Like a Star

Halley – Voices of Light

Featuring string quintet, two flutes, organ/piano, timpani and percussion instruments.

Karen on Voices of Light

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Karen conducting Voices of Light rehearsal
Karen recently answered some questions about our first concert of the season – Voices of Light – which features a variety of classical choral music that celebrates the seasonal cycle of darkness and the return of the light.

What was the inspiration for programming this particular concert? Did you start with any particular pieces, or with the theme itself?
I started with a vague thought of doing a Christmas type of concert, but then realized that the concert date was too early for that. What’s starting to happen at this time of year, however, is that the days are rapidly getting very short, and we are going into that season when we cocoon or hibernate – that is, winter. So it was the idea of celebrating of exploring light in general – and darkness – that appealed to me. This theme is very ancient. As long as there have been humans, the idea of hoping that the light comes back is part and parcel of our survival.

The other aspect of that that I’m hoping to allude to at some level is the idea that we all have a responsibility to shed our own light in the areas of darkness that we come across. And that we are able to do that because we are – all of us – filled with light. Sometimes we don’t realize our gift in that way, or see ourselves in that way. And certainly our culture does not support that thought. But when we own that thought, there’s much good that we can do and accomplish.

I wasn’t sure how to verbalize that with music – there’s no music I know of that has exactly that theme – but there are metaphors of Christ being “the light”, which is why the winter solstice was chosen for Christmas (Christ’s birth). And there are great teachers, avatars, mentors and spiritual leaders who lead us and guide us by showing us their light. And so we rejoice when we celebrate the coming of the light for our particular culture.

We’re not singing Christmas music, but we are singing a Bach cantata that was written for Christmas day. And we’re singing O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, which is all about the incredible mystery and miracle of the the great light that has come and is born in a feed trough. That’s an incredible image: that in the darkest corner of your barn is the beginning of the light. That’s huge if we let ourselves think about that. So that’s partly what it’s all about.

The title of the concert itself comes from the last piece on the program (Voices of Light by Paul Halley). It’s an ecstatic interchange between piano, choir and flute. The last time we performed this piece was at our tenth anniversary concert. The music carries you along, and it builds and builds.

Do you have a favorite piece in this concert?
I love Voices of Light. It’s just so thrilling. I love the Magnificat (by Francesco Durante, attributed to Pergolesi). It isn’t itself about light, but it’s the song of (Christ’s mother) Mary when she is telling her cousin Elizabeth that she’s going to be having this incredible baby. As the bearer of the light, her song is a social manifesto; in the words of the piece, the rich are “sent empty away” and the low are “brought up and exalted”. It turns society upside down. After Vivaldi’s Gloria, the Magnificat is probably the most popular choral piece of the Italian baroque. It is absolutely delicious, and I’ve wanted to program it for a number of years.

I’ve gotten several comments from the choir that they LOVE the music for this concert. There’s the beauty of the Bach, fantastic vocal lines of the Pergolesi. I can’t hear the Lauridsen or Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque without being moved. Whitacre’s piece will surprise the audience, because his musical language has a lot to do with texture and tuning, and the chords just shimmer. You should FEEL light coming from these chords. That’s the exciting part. When you sing it right, the light shines through the piece, and it’s palpable. It’s not just ABOUT light, it IS light.

The choir is trememdously enjoying making that happen. They can sense it, and they’re working really hard to do that.

Have there been any surprises as you’ve been rehearsing the music?
The surprise would be probably how much the choir is enjoying the music. It’s different, and it’s a lot of tonal colour, and the choir is enjoying so much getting inside that. There’s also a huge contrast and variety between all the pieces – German baroque, romantic Mendelsohn, with all the fabulous, soaring lines coming through…

And then there’s the Frostiana – a musical setting of a long poem by Robert Frost about how, when times get tough and we feel like we’re about to lose our bearing, we should choose something like a star that is fixed “out there” and just hang on. Don’t let yourself get pulled into the darkness. Hang on to that star. Within the poem, the poet talks about the conversation that we’re having with the star, and we say “Say something to us!” and the star says “I burn”. Come up to my level. So we lift ourselves and we make the effort to go there, and by doing that we rise out of our situation.

In a way, we are all voices of light. And the question is, do we raise our voice in the cause of the light, or do we let ourselves hide it?

Voices of Light

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Voices of Light poster
Light into Darkness. People have celebrated this annual cycle for thousands of years.

In the first concert of our 2010/2011 season, we explore the victory of light over darkness with Bach’s joyful Cantata 142 (actually written by his Leipzig predecessor, Kuhnau), the elegant Pergolesi Magnificat (actually written by his teacher, Durante), Eric Whitacre’s haunting Lux Aurumque, and Paul Halley’s ecstatic Voices of Light, which will feature an electrifying flute solo by London virtuoso flutist Fiona Wilkinson.

A truly unique way to welcome the coming season!

Check out the Facebook event for more details, including ticket prices and outlets.