Archive for the ‘Eric Whitacre’ Category

Karen talks about Going to the Rock! program

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Fishing boat
Karen recently answered some questions about Going to the Rock!

What is the theme for this concert?
The theme is the exploration and celebration of the music and culture of Newfoundland. In addition, it’s the preparation for the choir’s participation in Festival 500 in St. John’s, Newfoundland in July.

How did you choose the theme?
We needed a public performance of our concert set that we are performing for the Festival, and so we decided to expand on the Newfoundland theme all the way around.

How did you choose the guest artists?
Our choristers, Kevin and Daphne Bice—true lovers of all things Newfoundland—have a daughter who is a professional Celtic fiddler out west who is a fabulous entertainer and who has jammed with the best of them in Newfoundland. Bringing her back to London was a natural choice. Her friend, guitarist Greig Cairns, and she have worked together several times over the years, so it made sense to bring him on the concert too.

Kevin and Daphne were also the contacts for Newfoundland storyteller Don Ford, who is a friend of theirs.

Are any of the pieces special favorites?
Favorites of mine include Feller from Fortune, a Canadian choral favorite which is a cracking arrangement of a well-known Newfoundland folksong. It’s crazy and funny and smart and surprising and satisfying all at once—really a great piece.

I also love The Banks of Loch Erin, which is a wistful, haunting melody brought from Scotland and made Newfoundland’s own. It’s exquisite.

Then I like Drunken Sailor. The timing keeps changing which reminds one of a tipsy sailor stumbling on a ship deck in the roll of the sea—lots of whooping, and just delightful.

A piece that is a stunner from our Festival 500 concert set is I Thank You God by Gwyneth Walker. She set the well-known poem by e. e. cummings and created a resounding affirmation of life and creation—the cosmic Yes. It’s thrilling.

We are also doing Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold) by Eric Whitacre, which has become famous as the Virtual Choir piece. We sang it on our last concert and it got a tremendous response. You can actually hear the “light” shimmering.

We’re also performing a splendid arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, his most famous song, that is an original interpretation of a great solo with a lot of room for emotional expression.

Back to the Newfoundland songs, there are three (Sarah, The Moocher and Me, The Landfall of Cabot) which are just hilarious, full of antics and gossip and back-chat and Newfoundlandese (terms known only there). As we sing them, Jennie Bice will weave her Kitchen Party fiddle throughout, pick up the theme, and get everyone wanting to dance in the aisles!

It’s going to be a great night and I can’t wait!

Click here for more information.
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Voices of Light Review – The Beat Magazine

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Voices of Light review in The Beat
The Beat reviewer Cheryl Cashman was in the audience at Saturday night’s concert, and here’s her review of the concert:

“In the performing arts there is a saying: ‘When prose will no longer suffice we must turn to poetry. When movement will no longer suffice, we must dance. When words will no longer suffice, then we must sing.’

“The Voices of Light that we heard Saturday night from the Karen Scheussler Singers had an urgency of soul that lifted them to the highest reaches of artistic expression.

“As always, the choir’s director spoke to us before each piece, giving us just enough informative guidance to ensure our fullest experience of the song to follow. How Scheussler is able to strike that fine balance between historical, technical and aesthetic information conveyed is extraordinary. She weaves contexts of the oldest and newest music together with a passion and purity of intention that place us in a tapestry of time and timelessness. We are in the here and now, and are as humankind has ever been.

“The 37-strong choir took us through the centuries of spirit-inspired music from Bach and Mendelssohn to contemporaries Eric Whitacre, Morten Lauridson and Paul Halley. And, as was the aim of the concert, from darkness to light. And as the consciousness and mandate of the ensemble dictated, through immediate and political darkness also.”

Read the rest of the review, here.

Voices of Light Afterglow

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

KSS singing Paul Halley's Voices of Light with flutist Fiona Wilkinson
Above: The Karen Schuessler Singers perform Paul Halley’s Voices of Light with flutist Fiona Wilkinson.

Some comments from concert-goers after last night’s season opening concert, Voices of Light:

“You just can’t go home after an experience like that. You been to some place, and you have to take time to come back.”

From a musician with perfect pitch: “My favourite piece was the Lux Aurumque. The chord clusters were exquisite. The choir never dropped in pitch. It was a really fine concert, really fine!”

“This concert was right up there with my other favourite concert of this choir, ‘Strawberry Fields’.”

If you attended the concert, we’d love to hear your feedback! Add your comments, below.

Added November 27:

One of the choristers relayed this comment from a patron: “Thank you for making me aware of the concert and encouraging me to go. It was wonderful!!! What a way to enter the Christmas season. It inspired me for my Christmas card which I just finished. On my way to the printer. Thanks for sharing your gifts and talents so generously to bring joy to others. A lot of very hard work goes into a night like that and it was very moving. I had a wonderful seat up in the balcony in the middle and the sound was magnificent.”

And more comments:

“It was a great time. Thanks!”

“Keep up the good work!”

“Very high quality music and appropriate professionalism.”

“This concert is spectacular – absolutely beautiful. Thank you.”

“Lovely concert! Ron Fox is a fantastic organist. Beautiful ensemble blend!”

“Thank you all!!!”

“Love it.”

“Your concert was terrific. I loved the variety and the range of the music. There were times of incredibly quiet beauty and other times when the complex harmonies and chordal “crunches” reached deep into my soul. The orchestra was wonderful and that flute player absolutely blew me away!”

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.

Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir
I first came across Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque when I was researching the music for one of last season’s concerts (Love is in the Air – March 27, 2010). We were performing Whitacre’s This Marriage, and after I watched a YouTube video of Whitacre conducting the piece, I clicked through to some of the related YouTube links in the sidebar. Lux Aurumque was one of those links.

Whitacre (b. 1970) is perhaps the best-known American choral composer of his generation, and has been reaching new audiences through his Virtual Choir – a collaboration of independent singers from around the world who record and submit their individual performances to Whitacre via YouTube. Whitacre and his team then combine the dozens and dozens of recordings into one master “performance.”

Lux Aurumque was originally commissioned by the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, and published in 2001. The text is a short poem by Edward Esch:

warm and heavy as pure gold
and the angels sing softly
to the new-born baby.

Whitacre says he was “immediately struck by its genuine, elegant simplicity.” He had the poem translated into Latin for his composition. The work is filled with a number of second intervals – notes that sit right beside each other on the scale – and when it’s sung well the chords will shimmer and glow like light. You can watch Whitacre’s Virtual Choir “performing” the piece, below.

If you’re curious about the Virtual Choir, Whitacre explains in the following video how the whole idea came about.

You can also still find many of the individual singers’ audition videos on YouTube. Below is the beautiful blonde soprano who performs the solo near the beginning of the piece.

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.

Love is in the Air – Feedback

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Karen talking to audience
After our Love is in the Air concert I heard a lot of positive feedback from concert-goers, and so I asked the choristers if they had any favorite moments or memories from the concert that they wanted to share.

“I had a blast singing in the concert. I had two friends come to the concert from Mississagua and they both have sung in a concert choir – Belle Arte – for many years. They loved the tone quality of our choir, especially the men! Go guys!”

“For me, my favourite memory was the combination of splendid narration of the sonnets (with a touch of humour thrown in), the teasing, saucy piano accompaniment of Shearing and the tight chords within the choir. Specifically, It Was a Lover and His Lass epitomizes this for me. One patron said to me that he so enjoyed the music, because the jazz standards were what he grew up on and hearing them live was very special.”

(Curious? Hear the JMU University Chorus sing It Was a Lover and His Lass, below.)

“I had fun movin and groovin!”

“A friend dropped in and said she couldn’t go past my house without stopping to tell me how much she enjoyed the concert (she has been to almost all of our concerts for several years). Here are her comments:

Choir – beautiful sound and blend; Loved the way the choir was moving with the music – looked to be really enjoying themselves; All three groups were really in sync with one another; Quartet (After Four) had beautiful sound; Didn’t want the performance to end – could have listened to 24 encores.”

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is KSS’ Director of Communications.

Love is in the Air – Looking Back

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Audience #2
I showed up early for the KSS Love is in the Air concert to take some behind-the-scenes photos, and make sure I remembered how to work the video camera that KSS uses to create archive recordings of its concerts. The audience always shows up early, and the anticipation in the room was high as patrons waited for the concert to begin.
Rehearsing before show #3
I slipped backstage to check on the singers. They were assembling to warm up before the show.
Return music here
Meanwhile the choir’s librarian was sorting extra music that singers had already turned in.
Sorting music
Rehearsing before show #1
Karen warmed up the singers, and then began the pre-concert routine of reminding everyone which aspects of each song to focus on.
Rehearsing before show #2
Instead of their usual formal concert dress, the choir wore casual black, with red ties or scarves, for their evening of jazz.
David Burghardt
Back in the church sanctuary, announcer David Burghardt warmed up the audience.
And the concert began.
After Four #1
Each half of the program opened with a set of Shakesperean songs and sonnets set by jazz legend George Shearing. Before each piece was sung, local theatrical talents David Wasse and Bronwyn Powell read the poem aloud. This married couple’s interpretations of Shakespeare’s words had the audience enthralled and entertained.
After Four #2
Special guests After Four (left to right: Jenny Nauta, Dave Williams, Theresa Wallis and Ron Nauta) got toes tapping with their swinging, scat-filled versions of jazz standards and popular songs arranged by the talented Ron Nauta.
KSS and After Four
After Four even joined KSS for a few numbers, including the energetic Blue Skies, which closed the first half of the program.
Blue Skies sheet music
This Marriage sheet music
I was eagerly anticipating the only non-jazz piece on the program – Eric Whitacre’s This Marriage. Karen had chosen it months ago, before she settled on the jazz format for the concert, and couldn’t bear to cut it from the program. I’m glad she left it in; I’d heard the song ahead of time on YouTube, and was deeply touched by the lyrics and harmonies. Set to poetry by the Sufi mystic Rumi, it brought tears to my eyes when I finally heard it performed by KSS.

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

I was especially awestruck by how Whitacre finished the song with sung ahhs and ooo’s – an interesting interpretation of the final line. See Whitacre himself conducting another performance of the piece (sung by the Ole Miss Concert Singers), below.

Sing, Sing, Sing
One of the highlights of the evening for some of our patrons, I’m sure, was when the audience got to participate in the final song (Sing, Sing, Sing) by snapping along in rhythm, conducted by Karen.
Love is in the Air bows
Our next concert, River! (Saturday, May 29, 2010), celebrates the Thames, and will feature the world premiere of a new song commissioned by KSS, composed by Londoner Jeff Smallman.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is the KSS Director of Communications